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Recovery for Slip and Fall Accidents

WHAT IS REASONABLE?

In our November 17 blog, we discussed the prediction by the Farmers’ Almanac for a wetter than usual winter for Georgia. Extra precipitation—either in the form of sleet, ice or snow—means extra attention to property maintenance. Owners of both commercial and residential property have a duty to exercise “reasonable care” in areas where the public is expected to be. This duty includes: (1) the inspection of the property; and (2) the removal of snow/ice and remediation of the property within a reasonable time of the sleet/ice/snow event. “Reasonable time” is not defined; the City of Atlanta’s Code of Ordinances Section 138-14 simply states that “occupants and owners of homes and other establishments adjacent to sidewalks must remove ice and snow within a reasonable time after the snow event.”

FACTORS AFFECTING RECOVERY OF DAMAGES

Even if a property owner has not removed or remediated his/her property within a reasonable amount of time after a weather event, the claimant’s own actions can affect their ability to recover damages. For example, many jurisdictions have contributory or comparative negligence rules in place which limit or in some cases wholly preclude recovery if a claimant fails to mitigate their damages. If snow or ice on a sidewalk is open and obvious and alternative pathways are available, but a claimant still uses the pathway that has the snow or ice, the property owner might not be liable for the claimant’s injuries, or might have reduced liability.

Another rule affecting a property owner’s liability is the “natural accumulation rule.” This rule relieves a property owner of liability if the owner has not interfered with or disturbed the natural accumulation of snow or ice.

WHAT IS RECOVERABLE

In order to prevail in a slip and fall case, a claimant must prove that the property owner had knowledge of the hazardous condition that caused the injury. If the property owner had notice of the condition, and a duty of care for the property on which the condition existed, then causation for and harm from the injury are the other two elements of a slip and fall claim.

Compensatory damages for injuries sustained can include: (1) the cost of medical treatments; (2) lost wages if applicable; and (3) pain and suffering incurred.

To help prove that a hazardous condition existed and was the cause of a claimant’s injuries, photos of the site at the time of the injury are extremely important. Snow, sleet and ice melt; therefore, preserving the dangerous nature of the property at the time of the accident is crucial to showing a breach of the property owner’s duty of care. To that end, obtaining the names and contact information of witnesses who can provide statements or testimony is helpful to a claimant’s case.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries from a slip and fall accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

Phone: (678) 264-8348.
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