Atlanta property owners have a legal duty of care to people who lawfully enter their premises. Visitors who enter a property legally are referred to as invitees or licensees. The law stipulates that property owners are liable for injuries that these individuals suffer while on the owner’s premises if the owner was negligent.
Trespassers are not legally on the premises. Owners are generally not liable if you are injured on private property while trespassing.
However, there are exceptions to this rule and landowners may still be responsible for damages in certain situations. Each case is unique, so injured parties should seek counsel from a premises liability attorney to determine liability.
Property Owners’ Responsibilities
O.C.G.A 51-3-1 provides that a property owner is “liable in damages to [invitees] for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In other words, owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their property is reasonably safe (or warn people of any known present dangers) so as not to allow harm to anybody that legally enters.
Because trespassers, by definition, do not legally enter an owner’s property, the owner is exempt from having to pay for any damages if you are injured on private property while trespassing.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are numerous exceptions to the rule, though. For instance, mail persons and delivery persons are not trespassers because they have an “implied invitation” to enter the property. If such a person is injured, such as in a dog attack incident, the owner may be liable for damages.
If the property owner is aware of trespassers, he or she may have a legal duty to avoid creating hazards. Further, property owners should warn of hazards like an electric fence and cannot intentionally take actions that could cause harm to a trespasser.
Children trespassers are another exception. Young children who enter a property may not be considered trespassers, even if they were not invited. This rule is referred to as the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.
Because children are not fully capable of recognizing dangers, the property owners have a responsibility to ensure there are no serious hazards that children can come across should they enter the property, such as unguarded swimming pools. This still applies even if the children have no legal right to be on the property.
There are several other exceptions to the rule, as well. If you or your child were injured while trespassing on another person’s private property, speak to a lawyer to determine whether or not you can recover damages, and how to best go about pursuing your claim.
Proving a Premises Liability Claim if Injured on Private Property
In order to successfully bring a premises liability claim, it must first be established that you or your child do not fit the definition of a trespasser as per Georgia state law. After that’s been accomplished, the following elements must exist in order to win your claim.
- Neglect: The property owner allowed a dangerous condition to exist and failed to exercise care to amend or eliminate the hazard, or to warn the about the dangers. If the property owner was not aware of the hazard, you must prove he reasonably should have been aware of it.
- Lack of knowledge: The injured party must not have been fully aware of the dangerous condition.
- Actual injury: There must be actual, verifiable injuries sustained.
Were you injured on private property? Call a Premises Liability Lawyer
If you or your child were injured on another person’s property and you didn’t have an explicit invitation to be there, you might still be able to file a claim for compensation, depending upon the circumstances.
To discuss your case with a lawyer in Atlanta, call Jason Schultz for a consultation. Contact us today at 404-474-0804 to schedule your free case evaluation and learn about what options you may have.