When we hear the term “premises liability”, we often think of slip-and-fall injuries, a swimming pool accident, or a dog bite attack. But as crime has been soaring around the country in large metropolitan cities such as Atlanta, many victims are seeking ways to hold accountable those property owners whose inattention or lax security has created conditions on their property that have led to criminal activity.
The legal theory behind premises liability holds that the property owner is responsible for events that cause harm or damage to others while on their property. Proving such a claim can be challenging, however, as landowners sometimes have protections under the law. Before beginning a lawsuit, it can help to get a legal perspective on the merits of the claim to determine which parties are liable and what steps are necessary for the claim to be successful.
A property owner’s duty of care
Property owners owe a duty of care to protect a visitor from injury, whether the guest is on the property legally or is trespassing. This responsibility extends not only to retailers and restaurant owners, commercial or residential landlords, but even to homeowners, to make sure that the environment is safe when visitors are there. When injuries occur on the property, claims usually focus on one of several conditions of negligence:
- A slip-and-fall injury due to an oil slick on the driveway.
- A fall that results from a rotting stair.
- A smoke alarm that does not operate during a fire.
- A crime that takes place at an ATM or in a parking garage due to poor lighting, absent security cameras, or other inadequate security.
In Georgia, the property owner owes a different standard of care to each of three types of visitors, ranked from the highest to the lowest:
Making the case for inadequate security
Inadequate security refers to either poor or nonexistent security on the premises. The injury to a visitor that results could be due to the owner’s inability to maintain proper security, but it can also be a condition of negligence, if the business lacks:
- security cameras
- proper lighting
- security alarms
- proper safety protocols
While not every situation is clear-cut, a successful claim will seek to recover damages to personal property if the plaintiff can prove that the owner was negligent in their failure to provide adequate security to protect visitors.