Posted in Premises Liability on April 16, 2019
Georgia has an act in place that protects many owners of recreational properties from liability for accidents. The Recreational Property Act, § 51-3-20 of the Georgia Code, limits landowners’ liability for injuries when visitors enter the property for recreational reasons. This statute includes playground and park facilities accessible to the general public in the state. Unfortunately, this rule can bar many victims from having claims against the landowner – even if the owner was negligent.
According to the Recreational Property Act, the owner of land used for recreational purposes owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe, nor to give any warning of a dangerous condition. Anyone who directly or indirectly allows someone to use a property for recreational purposes does not have to offer any assurance that the premises is safe for any type of use; nor does the landowner take on the responsibilities an owner would owe to invitees or licensees. These duties would normally include checking the property for defects, repairing known hazards, and warning of potential risks.
The act also removes any responsibility or liability for any injury to people or property that may occur in the recreational area – even if the owner’s acts or omissions caused the injury. Even if a landowner negligently fails to maintain the property, he or she will not be legally responsible for injuries a dangerous defect causes to visitors. Georgia’s Recreational Property Act goes against most premises liability laws, which allow visitors to file injury claims against negligent property owners. The act can make it difficult for injured property visitors to recover for their damages.
The purpose of the act is to encourage people to open their properties to recreational use for the general public without worrying about liability for accidents. The Recreational Property Act has two main exceptions. The recreational property owner may not escape liability if he or she is guilty of a willful or malicious failure to warn of the dangers of a condition, structure, activity, or use. The owner also may be liable for damages if he or she charged the visitor to enter or use the property.
Georgia’s Recreational Property Act can apply to any property offered for use for recreational purposes, for which the owner does not charge admission fees. This can include roadways, land, rivers, structures, machinery, or equipment. Any property on which visitors can swim, boat, camp, hunt, fish, hike, picnic, study nature, play sports or watersports, study scientific sites, or otherwise engage in recreational activities can fall under the stipulations of the Recreational Property Act. As a visitor on one of these properties, the law can severely limit your right to file a premises liability claim against the landowner after an accident.
If you suffered a premises-related accident or injury somewhere other than on recreational property, you may still have grounds to file a claim against the owner for negligence. A slip and fall in a shopping center, for example, could result in owner liability. To prove a premises liability claim, you or your attorney would have to demonstrate that the owner owed you a duty of care, breached this duty, and caused your accident. Owners of non-recreational properties owe certain standards of care to visitors. Breaching these standards can result in liability for visitor injuries.
Unfortunately, unless an exception to the Recreational Property Act applies to your premises accident case, you may not have the right to seek monetary damages from the property owner. The owner will evade liability even if his or her negligence contributed to your accident. Even a school can escape liability for a playground accident, if the school opens the playground to public use. It is important to work with an attorney after an accident on a property you were using recreationally. An attorney can examine the facts of your case and help you understand whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.