Georgia Balcony and Railing Accidents Injury and Death Lawsuits
Landlords and building owners have an obligation to make certain that the balconies, porches, and railings are safe for use by tenants and guests of the tenants. Railings and balconies that are in disrepair create hazardous conditions for those who use them. Older homes or apartments that are not in good condition may have weak railings or balconies in addition to apartment buildings that landlords allow to fall apart.
Tenants and their guests may bring a lawsuit against a landlord or building owner seeking compensation for injuries or wrongful death for a fall caused by a weak railing or falling balcony in Georgia. Under Georgia law, building owners are not considered “insurers” of tenants and their guests. In other words, a landlord in Georgia is not automatically liable for injuries caused by a collapsing railing.
Under Georgia law, a property owner is liable when he or she fails to use ordinary care in making sure that the premises and the approaches to the premises are safe. The landlord will be liable for those dangerous conditions if he or she knew of or should have known that there was a problem that might cause an injury but did not take the necessary steps to fix the defect. If the landlord does get actual or “constructive” notice, then Georgia law imposes a duty on the landlord to inspect the problem and fix it before someone gets hurt. The rule covers residents of the home as well as invited guests of the tenants.
Claims regarding collapsing balconies have reached the highest levels of Georgia’s courts. In those cases, the courts have ruled that the plaintiffs must present evidence of knowledge on behalf of the landlord before the plaintiff can collect damages. Similarly, a landlord is not liable for damages when the landlord relies on the expert knowledge of building inspector who declares the structure safe.
This rule seems to favor absentee landlords who do not live on or near the premises. They can ignore conditions because they are not there on a daily basis. This seems unfair. Tenants may take matters into their own hands to put their landlord on notice that the railings or balcony in their building is unsafe. Sending letters, e-mails, placing and documenting telephone calls, or contacting the local office of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs are examples of ways to ask for an inspection of your premises. These methods of placing your landlord on notice of a dangerous condition could help you avoid a situation in which your landlord might claim that he or she had no notice of the offending condition in an attempt to avoid civil liability.
What Should You Look For in Defective Railings and Balconies?
A tenant in Georgia who is concerned about the structural integrity of a railing or balcony could pay attention to several details that might indicate the railing or porch might need repairs, including:
- Railings or posts that are wobbly, loose, detached or missing. Railings in this condition will not hold the weight of a person who applies any pressure to it.
- Any part of a balcony that is sagging must be addressed. This could mean that the supports holding the balcony have rotted or weakened.
- Flooring of the balcony that bows or loosens. Balconies and railings should not sag and should be repaired immediately.
- Rotting wood. Rotting flooring, railings, or stairs are in indication that water is getting into the wood and causing it to rot from the inside out.
- Puddling or collecting water can be signs of rotting and sagging wood.
- Weak joints or points that appear to be pulling away from the main structure.
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If you have been injured in any type of accident caused by someone else’s negligence, call Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation today. Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over 38 years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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Aldredge v. Byrd, 799 SE 2d 263 - Ga: Court of Appeals 2017
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