After any kind of slip and fall on someone else's property in Georgia, it makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses, especially if it's fairly clear that the property owner's negligence led to the accident.
Whether you decide to file an insurance claim, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of Georgia laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect your case. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit, and "shared fault" rules that can affect your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in the state's civil court system. The key thing to know here is that if you try to file your slip and fall lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the person you’re trying to sue will bring that fact to the court’s attention, and the court will almost certainly dismiss your case. (Note: In some rare situations the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your case started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in Georgia.)
As in most states, the statute of limitations that will affect a slip and fall injury claim in Georgia is the same as the larger one that applies to most personal injury cases filed in the state's civil court system. Specifically, Georgia Code section 9-3-33 says: "Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues." That’s just a fancy (or confusing) way of saying that after an accident like a slip and fall, an injury lawsuit must be filed against the property owner within two years.
if you want to file a lawsuit over property damage caused by the slip and fall accident -- maybe you were unharmed but you broke an expensive watch when you fell -- the statute of limitations for injuries to "personalty" (that's Georgia Code section 9-3-31) gives you four years to get the case started.
Whether the lawsuit is over injuries or property damage, the clock starts running on the date of the incident that caused the injury. (Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall.)
Even if you're confident that your injury claim will settle, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit. Having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.
If you’re thinking about making a claim for injury after a slip and fall, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened.
This tactic is a common one because of the impact it can have on your case if the property owner is successful in pinning some of the legal blame on you. If that happens, any settlement or court award you receive could be lower than it might have been, and it might even be wiped out completely.
If your Georgia slip and fall lawsuit makes it to trial, and the jury finds that you were negligent in connection with the accident, the state’s "modified comparative negligence rule" will determine how much you can recover from the property owner. Any damages award you receive will be reduced according to the percentage of your fault. And if your share of blame happens to be 50 percent or more, you’ll be barred from recovering any compensation at all from the property owner or any other potentially liable parties.
So, let’s say the jury finds you were 40 percent responsible for your slip and fall, since witnesses saw you staring at your phone at the time you fell. The jury also finds that your damages (including your medical bills, lost income, and “pain and suffering”) total $30,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $18,000 (the original $30,000 minus $12,000, which represents your 40-percent share of fault). Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.