Premises liability cases don't just involve a slip and fall, but any injury that could have been avoided with reasonable actions from property owners.
Slip and falls, one of the most common types of premises liability claims can result in frighteningly high numbers:
Attorney Enrique Ramos describes multiple cases of premises liability and the importance of providing an environment free of potential hazards and threats.
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Intro/outro music: "Fresh Start" by Joakim Karud
Thanks for tuning into For Justices Sake, a personal injury podcast hosted by the Dixon Firm in Atlanta, Georgia. My name is Renee Cooper, and I'm the Marketing Director at the Dixon Firm. In today's episode, I'll be joined by Attorney Enrique Ramos, who will help us understand more about premises liability. Thanks for being with us today, Enrique.Enrique Ramos:
Thank you for having me.Renee Cooper:
Today's 15-second shout-out actually goes to a place that we have been before, but they recently were in the news. It's Chops Lobster Bar in Atlanta, Georgia in Buckhead. And unfortunately, they just had a fire. So it looks like there were no casualties, very few casualties, people were able to get out. But we just want to let them know, because it's one of Rod's favorite places, and we were able to go recently, that our thoughts are with them, and the people who work there who run the restaurant. And we hope for a speedy recovery and get you back when the doors open soon.First, a little bit of backstory:
Usually when people talk about premises liability, the first thing that comes to mind is slip and fall. But there are a lot of facets to what premises liability actually is. But here are just some general numbers from my research on what slip and fall are sometimes called trip and fall or general, premises liability can actually occur within a year. So according to some research, there are about 9 million slip and falls per year, which breaks down to 25,000 falls in a day, which seems kind of like a lot! But unfortunately, only about 5% of those even go to trial. So that actually adds up to about 95 million days of work that people can potentially miss and $3.5 million loss in revenue per hour. So there is a lot that could possibly happen when a person has a premises liability case or slip and fall case that takes them out of work or makes it hard for them to function in their day to day. So Enrique that's what you're here to help us understand and to talk with us about today. My first question is can you give a definition of what premises liability is?Enrique Ramos:
Sure. So, premises liability is a legal concept that typically comes into play in personal injury cases where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone's property. Now, premises liability is based on negligence so the person injured must show the property owner was in fact negligent, meaning that the at fault party had a duty to the injured party, breached that duty. And that breach resulted in an injury. Now, just because you were injured on someone's property, does not necessarily mean that the owner was negligent. You have to show the property owner knew or should reasonably have known that the premises were unsafe, and still fail to take proper steps to remedy this situation.Renee Cooper:
What are some examples outside of slip and fall of things that could happen on scene of a liability case like this?Enrique Ramos:
Well, as you mentioned before, the boom falls are the most common type of premises liability. And slip and falls occur for a number of reasons being poor building maintenance, badly installed staircase or walking surface, leaky roof, and more recently, snow or ice. But besides that premises liability is not limited to slip and falls. For example, if inadequate building security leads to injury or assault, you may have a premises liability plane. Or if there were hazardous conditions on the property like disrepair, you may have a claim. But each case is unique and may require you to overcome certain defenses or prove certain factors, which is why it is important to speak with an attorney.Renee Cooper:
So just want to touch on, you said ice and snow are a big thing. So even in Atlanta if it snows the one day a year but ice is somehow five or six times a year, if you were, to say be walking on private property and slip because it wasn't salted. This could be something that can be looked at as premises liability?Enrique Ramos:
It could be. Especially since it was all over the news that it was going to be ice and snow and black ice. So you know, especially for business owners, is it's important to clean that up and get ahead of it and salt the driveway or wherever it is customers are going to be walking to make sure that you protect yourself from any premises liability claims and protect your customers from being injured.Renee Cooper:
So what are examples of places most often the scene of premises liability, maybe outside of retail stores?Enrique Ramos:
Well, in reality premises liability can occur at anywhere. For example, an amusement park. Improper ride operation. The most common that people are aware of are height requirements. So operators should know the requirements to prevent children and others who don't meet those requirements from harm. This is why you see your height requirement warnings before you ride your favorite roller coaster. Carnival employees the same, you know, they have to be trained on these warnings and make sure that someone doesn't ride the ride if they don't meet the requirements. So there are certain rules and regulations that, you know carnivals or amusement parks have to abide by to make sure that they're keeping their rides and their customers safe. So in a nutshell, when it comes to amusement parks, you know, any kind of premises liability claim can arise out of for maintenance, management, training, improper ride operation, just like any other premises liability case, there are factors that have to be evaluated to determine liability. But besides that, you know, premises liability cases can really happen anywhere, you know, businesses homes.Renee Cooper:
Can I claim if I got hurt of my own house, that it was actual premises liability, who would I sue in a situation like that?Enrique Ramos:
So if you're, it's your own house, and it's owned by you, and you're living in it, you probably would have known of any, you know, property defect that would have caused you injury. So you may not have a claim there. But if you invited someone over to your house, and let's say you invited a friend over and it snowed, and there was ice on your driveway, and you didn't shovel, and you did salt, and your friend gets injured coming to your house after you invited him, then you know your friend would definitely have a claim. So it just it really depends on the on the status you know, you can be an invitee, you can be a licensee, maybe someone that's coming for business, maybe the FedEx driver, you're expecting a package, and a FedEx drivers coming to your property to deliver a package and you didn't salt your driveway and he slips and falls, you know, there may be a claim there. So, and in a number of ways and a number of things, you just have to be careful when you're inviting someone over. Just, you know, make sure you're maintaining your property. And most important, make sure you have insurance.Renee Cooper:
Wow. Yeah, that is a whole different perspective of somebody who is delivering packages or food or something coming to my house gets hurt outside. I need to be careful. So I'm going to go out and probably like check was going on outside my house. So what if somebody is injured or has an accident at a private park? I've heard that that is a little bit different than a privately owned company or location.Enrique Ramos:
Yeah, so private parks are different, specifically, because Georgia's legislature wants it that way. So there's special laws to protect areas set aside for recreational purposes, including those that are private property. And as a result of these rules, owners of parks and other recreational areas may claim that they are immune from liability for these injuries. Essentially, is just Georgia legislature's way to encourage landowners to make their land and water areas available for public recreational purposes. And in exchange for that, they're going to limit your liability to certain premises liability claims. Now, it doesn't mean that they're completely immune from all claims, but it's definitely tougher. And you'd have to look for things like, you know, a willful failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition that the owner knew about. Or if you're charging people to be on that property, and then that kind of changes, changes things up a bit. But either way, you know, whether or not private park owner has immunity, you know, there's a bunch of factors and determinations that go into that. So, in those cases, particularly, it's especially important to contact an attorney and figure out if you have a case there.Renee Cooper:
I was asking about private parks, but I meant public parks. With that, does that change the question a little bit, or the answer, like something like Piedmont Park,Enrique Ramos:
It's the same, you know, with state parks or things like that you kind of run into that same immunity. Georgia legislature just kind of, you know, wants people to be able to enjoy parks.Renee Cooper:
What kind of case do people have if something happens on public transit?Enrique Ramos:
So when we speak on public transit, premises liability usually refer to injuries that occur on bus stops and train stations rather than on trains or in traffic accidents. So in Georgia, we have MARTA, we also have a bunch of other public transit systems in different parts of town. And victims may be attacked on MARTA property or suffer injury in a number of different ways. And, you know, if you would have suffered injury on the property of the public transit system, well then they may be held liable for that. Specifically and MARTA's case they have a duty to maintain the conditions of its facilities and ensure that they keep it reasonably safe. They also have a duty to keep the area secure, so that individuals will not have to worry about being attacked or physically assaulted on their property. So there are certain duties there that when it comes to, you know, being at the train station, or being at a bus stop, and things like that, that they have to abide by, and that, you know, you may have a premises liability claim if you were attacked at the MATA train station, or something of that sort.Renee Cooper:
So you mentioned earlier about having insurance. How important is it to have either personal insurance or for a company to be insured for a liability case like this?Enrique Ramos:
Well, insurance is a great way to safeguard your personal finances from liability. If someone has hurt on your property, you don't want to have to come out of pocket for their injuries. So not only is important to have insurance if you are the owner of a property, but it's important to have sufficient insurance. If you're underinsured, you can end up running into the same problem and having to come out of pocket for someone's injuries.Renee Cooper:
So if somebody has insurance, it doesn't mean that they can't possibly be sued. It's just that they are protected for certain amounts of medical and suffering from the victim if they do have insurance?Enrique Ramos:
Correct. So if I have a million dollar insurance policy, it is not likely that any claim is going to exceed that unless you know someone died or something like that. But if I have a $10,000 insurance policy, well, then I may be in some trouble.Renee Cooper:
Let's use an example. Hopefully, this doesn't happen to anybody. But as we saw and heard from the stats, it can happen, and it does happen quite often, daily. Let's say you are unfortunately someone who was unfortunately hurt in an accident on private property. What's the first thing that they should do?Enrique Ramos:
Well, depending on how hurt you are, call 911. Because if you're injured, you need to be treated. But also at the same time, you know, if police arrived at the scene and you were injured there, they'll make a report, which can be referenced later. So that's important. It's for two reasons, one for your safety, two for the report that will be made by a police officer if they would arrive at the scene after you call 911. Now, whether you have any kind of claim for premises liability is facts specific. So if you want to determine whether or not your injury was a result of someone's negligence, there's certain things you have to investigate: Who owns the property? What was the condition? Why you were injured on that property? And an attorney can definitely help you sort through all those facts in determining who was the party that's at fault.Renee Cooper:
And how sometimes, do you know who's at fault? From a standpoint, it can be a lot of different spaces. Does the attorney look at a lot of different angles?Enrique Ramos:
Yeah, so you know, pretty much investigation. So we, if it happened at a building to figure out who's the owner of the building. Is there any camera footage of the accident? Are there any witnesses? Whose responsibility was that area that you were injured in? So there's just a bunch of different factors that have to be analyzed. Definitely figuring out who owns the property is extremely important, which can be done with some investigation and some of the tools that we use to figure out who the owner is of certain properties. And we just pretty much go from there.Renee Cooper:
Is there something that specifically determines if a liability case like this will settle or go to trial?Enrique Ramos:
So there's a bunch of factors, most important of which is, how bad were you injured? So how bad were you injured? You know, I probably say next, where did the injury occur? What was the standard of care for that area? Was it you know, some kind of extreme negligence? Like I said, is a bunch of different factors to kind of sort through and put together. Like a puzzle, essentially, you put all these puzzle pieces together, and once you've put all the puzzle pieces together, you have a determination on what kind of case you have, how much it's worth, and anything else moving on from there.Renee Cooper:
Lastly, are there any other aspects of premises liability that I may have missed or that you want people to know, going forward to really look out for?Enrique Ramos:
I probably say another area that we see often is injuries at rental properties. So, you know, we talked about being in your own home? Well, what if you're living in someone else's home, you know what if you're renting out a property from someone, you're renting out a property from a landlord? You know, in that particular case, Georgia, landlords have a legal responsibility to keep their tenants safe. They're required by law to maintain their rental properties to keep them safe from certain types of hazards. Which is why oftentimes, if you live in an apartment complex, you notice they do regular inspections, you know, they're doing these regular inspections, so that way they can make sure the property is safe. And at the same time, you know, if you are injured on the property, and you notice that these regular inspections were not being conducted, when and that may show your landlord may have been negligent in some way, by not inspecting. Or if they did inspect and ignored any potential hazardous situation or defect, then again, they could bring up some kind of negligence claim if you are injured as a result of that hazardous defect. At the same time, they can't be expected to know every single hazard in the entire property. So you know, that standard is, you know, you knew or you should have known, which is why those inspections come into place and it's important to keep track of that stuff.Renee Cooper:
Rod had kind of talked about this on a previous podcast dealing with structural collapse, it was right around the time that the Champlain Towers fell. And there were a lot of people who I think owned and rented in that building who were hurt missing--it was a huge tragedy. So if you are a homeowner, do you still have the ability to look for a justice from, say, a property manager or even like a homeowner's association, or those people who also hold some responsibility? If you are owning, let's say, a piece of a larger building or complex?Enrique Ramos:
I would say that question is extremely fact specific and will be difficult to answer. Just kind of broadly, and generally, I think it would depend on a lot of different factors.Renee Cooper:
Okay, that's a good question. It means if specific for somebody that may be listening, or someone who's had that question, they should just call us so that we can get the information and help them see if they have a case or not.Enrique Ramos:
Well, thank you so much, Enrique for taking the time to give us this information. It was incredibly thorough, and I know I learned something and I'm sure our listeners and those who will find information throughout our website or throughout social will find it incredibly impactful and helpful. So thanks for taking the time to do this.Enrique Ramos:
No problem.Renee Cooper:
Continue the conversation with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok at @dixonfirm. And for case referral or consultation requests, click the link in our description or visit dixonfirm.com or you can call our not so new but still shiny phone number 888-DIXON-11 which is 888-349-6611. Thanks again for listening. Stay safe, For Justice's Sake and we will talk with you next time.