If you have been injured on someone else's property, you may be able to recover financial compensation (or "damages") for your injuries through filing a premises liability lawsuit.
Depending on the specifics of your case, different amounts and types of damages may be available. Georgia also has specific timelines that must be followed when filing a premises liability lawsuit.
Types of Damages Available to an Injured Person
When an injured person successfully demonstrates that another party was responsible for their injuries, Georgia law allows for several different categories of damages to be awarded in premises liability lawsuits. Special, general and (in some cases) punitive damages may be awarded to the injured person.
Special damages are those that can be assigned a specific dollar amount.
This typically includes things like current and future medical expenses and lost wages resulting from the injury. The injured person will need to prove that a specific amount of money was lost in order to be awarded special damages. If the injury resulted in ongoing or permanent disability, the injured person will need to calculate future costs of the injury as well.
General damages are those that cannot be assigned a specific monetary value. Factors that are often considered when calculating general damages for injuries include:
- Severity of the injury
- Whether the injury interferes with normal living, quality of life or enjoyment of life
- The impact of the injury on a person's future employment
- The pain suffered as a result of the injury
- Shock or fear associated with the injury
Things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, grief, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life are hard to quantify. Therefore, general damages will vary based on the injured person's particular experience and circumstances.
Consider the difference between an accident that resulted in a broken limb and one that resulted in permanent paralysis. Both likely caused pain and suffering, interfered with the person's quality of life, and caused fear, shock, and anguish. However, a court is likely to find that the long-term consequences and level of anguish associated with paralysis is greater than that associated with a broken limb. Consequently, general damages are likely to be higher in the paralysis example.
This is a special category of damages reserved for injuries that result from someone's willful, wanton or malicious misconduct. Punitive damages are designed to punish the person who was responsible for an injury and to deter them from doing it again.
In Georgia, punitive damages can only be awarded if:
"it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences."
Georgia does not generally limit or cap the special or general damages that can be awarded to an injured person.
One major exception is premises liability lawsuits against the government. Georgia law may limit the amount of damages that can be recovered in these cases. For example, the most any individual can recover for a single incident when suing the state of Georgia via the Georgia Tort Claims Act is $1 million.
Unlike general and special damages, Georgia law does place caps on punitive damages in many cases. In many premises liability lawsuits, the cap on punitive damages is $250,000. In the rare situation where it is proven that the injury resulted from the defendant's "specific intent to cause harm" or the defendant was impaired due to alcohol or drug use at the time of their negligent act, there is no cap on punitive damages.
Punitive damages also generally cannot be awarded in cases against state or local government.
Comparative Negligence in Georgia
Even if the injured person was partly responsible for an injury that occurred on someone else's property, they may still be able to recover damages. However, recovery of damages may be limited by Georgia's comparative negligence laws.
In Georgia, if the injured person's own negligence contributed to their injury, the damages they receive will be reduced or eliminated based on their percentage of fault. For example, if the court determines that an injured person should receive $100,000 in damages, but they were 20% at fault for the injury, their damages would be reduced based on their percentage of fault. In this example, they would receive $80,000.
If the court determines that the injured person was 50% or more at fault for their injury, they are barred from recovering damages.
Determining fault in an injury case can be challenging. An experienced premises liability attorney can help hold a property owner, business owner or landlord responsible for injuries that occurred on their property.
Time Limits for Filing Georgia Premises Liability Lawsuits
Georgia sets specific time limits on when a lawsuit can be filed. This is called the statute of limitations.
If you file a personal injury case after the statute of limitations expires, it is almost certain that your case will be dismissed. Therefore, it is critically important that you are aware of these dates and file your claim in a timely fashion.
In most cases, the injured person has two years after the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia. However, the statute of limitations may be longer in some cases. For example, if the injured person is under 18, the statute of limitations is extended until they reach the age of 18, although that person's parents will only have two years from the injury to pursue the claim for medical expenses. If the injured person is legally incompetent due to intellectual disability or mental illness, the statute of limitations is extended until the disability is resolved.
Special Requirements for Cases Against the Government
There are additional requirements for cases against state or local governments. While the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against the government is generally the same (two years), you must also provide advance notice of the intention to file a lawsuit.
In general, notice must be provided within 12 months after the injury for cases against the Georgia state government and within 6 months of the injury for cases against city or town governments.
What to Do if You Were Injured On Someone Else's Property
An experienced premises liability lawyer can review all the facts and evidence to help ensure that you recover the just and fair damages you are due for your injuries. Because an injury lawsuit is usually barred after the statute of limitations has passed, it is critically important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your injury.
Contact the Hadden Law Firm to get started today.