The sudden and tragic alligator attack that occurred at a Walt Disney World hotel and killed a visiting two-year-old boy has raised many questions: How safe are people around these large reptiles? How many alligators are there? And when an attack occurs, who is responsible? Alligators are just one type of wild animal that could potentially attack a resident or visitor to Georgia. Potentially dangerous animals include coyotes, venomous snakes, bobcats, and bears. Ultimately, an animal attack in the state is rare. But if you were hurt by a dangerous animal on a business’s property or private land, contact the experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. to learn about your rights.
Alligators in Georgia: The Facts
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there are about 200,000 alligators in the state and they typically live south of Columbus, Macon, and Augusta. Alligators found north of the fall line may have been relocated there by humans or travelled inordinately far to find suitable waters. These reptiles live in marshes and swamps, but it is not uncommon to find them in lakes, ponds, drainage ditches, or pools. That is why people may spot alligators on golf courses, in neighborhoods, or at resorts.
Alligators can live up to 50 years in the wild and reach more than 14 feet in length. Large males can weigh more than 800 pounds. Females tend to be smaller though, reaching about 10 feet long.
The Rarity of Alligator Attacks in Georgia
Between 1980 and May 2007, there were only nine reports of alligators attacking humans. Six of the attacks occurred because the human made contact with the reptile, like stepping on it. Three were because the alligator mistook a human for prey. One fatality occurred in 2007.
Alligator attacks and deaths are rare. That does not mean that people should not be prepared and understand their rights in the case of an accident.
A Previous Alligator Attack Lawsuit
The current situation following the alligator attack on Disney property begs the question of whether a business is liable for the injuries or fatalities caused by a wild animal on its property. A similar issue was raised following the death of a woman in 2007 from an alligator attack in Georgia. However, instead of the land being owned by a resort, it was a gated living community known as The Landings Association. The family of the woman sued the community, claiming it should have done more to warn and protect residents. While The Landings Association had a policy of removing large alligators, it did not patrol the ponds or post warning signs. The Georgia Supreme Court decided the community was not responsible for the death because the victim understood the dangers of alligator, having seen one on the property, and assumed the risk of an attack by walking so close to the water.
However, not every case will have this same outcome because every situation is unique. There may be a situation in which the court would find a person or business liable for a victim’s injuries because of that person or entity’s duty of care to its guests.
Under Georgia law, the owners or occupiers of land are liable for any injuries suffered by any person who they invited onto the land if those injuries were caused by the owner’s or occupier’s failure to exercise ordinary care in maintaining the premises. This might sound complicated, but it means that a person must keep their home, land, or business safe for guests. If a guest is hurt because the owner failed to maintain the property or fix a hazard, then the owner is responsible for the guest’s injuries.
Many premise liability cases are based on slips and falls or other common hazards that could be easily noticed and fixed by an owner. For instance, a common premise liability case arises when there is a spilled substance in an aisle of a business that no one cleans up for hours and someone slips and hurts themselves on. The spill was a hazard the business had time to discover and fix – but it did not – making the business liable to the hurt guest.
However, there are hazards that a business or person may not be responsible for because the dangers were not reasonable to discover or fix. In the case of an alligator or other wild animal attack, there is a unique premise liability question: Were the alligators a hazard the owners knew about? Did the guests know about the alligators? Did the owners try and remove the hazard? Did the owners do nothing?
It is possible that if a guest was attacked by an alligator on a person or business’s property, and it turns out the owners knew alligators were a hazard, but the guests did not – the owner may be responsible for the attack.
Call an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If you were attacked and injured by an alligator, you already have a lot on your plate. You are dealing with receiving medical care, healing from your injuries, and figuring out how you will pay these unexpected expenses. If you are now permanently disabled, you may be wondering how you will return to work and your normal life. This type of attack can change everything, and you might also be wondering in the owners of the land are responsible for what is happening to you.
Unlike the previous case in which the Georgia Supreme Court determined the victim had knowledge of the presence of alligators and knew the risks of walking by water, there may be a situation in which the victim is unaware that dangerous wild animals may be nearby. If you were unaware that there could be alligators where you were attacked and the owners of the land made no attempt to warn you of them, you may have the right to bring a case against the owners for failing to uphold their duty of care.
This is a unique and potentially difficult type of case to prove, but you should speak with the skilled Atlanta, Georgia personal injury attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A.. They will sit down with you and learn about your situation. They will discuss your rights under the law and help you determine if filing a lawsuit is the right course of action for you.