Can I Sue If I Fell Down the Stairs?

If you fell down the stairs on someone else’s property and sustained an injury, you need to know if you can collect compensation to pay for your losses and the pain and suffering you experienced. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to sue the property owner. Sometimes third parties can face legal responsibility.

When a Landowner is Liable in Georgia

Having legal responsibility for people who sustain injuries on property you own is premises liability. A landowner has to pay for losses people suffer if all three of these elements are present:

1. There was a dangerous condition on the property.

2. The landowner knew or should have known about the hazard.

3. However, the owner did not post adequate warnings or take corrective action to repair the situation.

How Careful the Owner Must Be Depends on Why You Were on the Property

Georgia law imposes a different duty on landowners based on the status of the injured person.

 Trespassers Are Nearly On Their Own

Landowners cannot “booby trap” their property to intentionally harm people who trespass. For example, if a trespasser loses his footing and falls down the stairs, the landowner is not liable. On the other hand, if the property owner sets a trap to push trespassers down the stairs, the owner is responsible for the injuries.

Licensees Have More Protection Than Trespassers

If you came onto the property solely for your benefit or as a social guest, you are a licensee. An example of a licensee is someone who walks into a grocery store to use the bathroom, but not to shop for groceries. 

In terms of legal protections, a licensee is sort of a hybrid between an invitee and a trespasser. The landowner does not have to safeguard licensees as much as invitees. The law does not allow property owners to commit willful or wanton injury to licensees.

Let’s say the grocery store’s bathroom for customers to use was on the first floor. The store manager was angry about non-customers using the facilities, so he told employees to direct them to the basement bathroom, and he poured slippery oil on the stairs. The owner will be responsible for any injuries resulting from these willful and wanton actions.

Invitees Have the Highest Level of Protection

If you enter the premises for any lawful purpose at the express or implied invitation of the landowner, you are an invitee. For example, a shopper in a store is an invitee. Also, an employee of the electric company who comes on the property to read the meter is an invitee.

Georgia law requires the property owner to use ordinary care to keep the premises and approaches safe. The owner of a two-story restaurant, for example, must use ordinary care to make sure the stairs are safe for customers.

To satisfy this duty, the owner must monitor the stairs regularly for hazards like spills or objects which could trip patrons. When an employee discovers a problem, the restaurant should warn people, prevent them from using the stairs, and promptly wipe up the spill or remove the object.

What Happens if a Third Party Created a Hazard Which Caused Your Fall

The property owner is the most likely party to have to pay compensation for your injuries, but if someone else contributed to your fall through negligence or an intentional act, you might be able to get some damages from them as well. Here are but a few examples of the many ways a third party can be responsible for your injuries:

  • Someone pushed or bumped into you (intentionally or accidentally).
  • Someone made the stairs slippery (for example, spilled a drink).
  • Someone installed carpet or another surface on the stairs incorrectly.

Whether Your Negligence Affects Your Compensation

When someone gets hurt, often more than one person is at fault. Let’s say you had some wine at dinner before you fell on the restaurant stairs. If your blood alcohol level was high enough to contribute to your falling, the judge might assign a portion of the negligence to you. This rule is comparative fault.

You can still collect damages for your losses, but the law will reduce them in proportion to your fault. For example, if your damages were $100,000, and you were responsible for 10 percent of the total negligence, the rule of comparative fault will cut $10,000 from your recovery.

How to Get Legal Help for Falling Down the Stairs

Premises liability involves multiple parties—landowners, employees, and third parties. Evaluating these cases can become complicated. You do not have to navigate your premises liability claim on your own. Call S. Burke Law at 404-842-7838, to line up your free consultation with a premises liability lawyer. We will sort out the issues at no cost to you and with no obligation.