If you were injured while on someone’s private property, you might be facing steep medical bills, income or employment loss and significant daily pain. Most people know they are able to sue business owners and hospitals for causing injuries, but you might be worried about seeking compensation when you were injured on the property of a friend, co-worker or family member.
However, personal injury lawsuits for injuries that occur on personal property can help you get the financial support you need during this difficult time. There are some things you will need to determine about the nature of your accident and the conditions of the property in order to know if the property owner is liable for your injuries.
Here are some things to consider before seeking damages.
Homeowners are responsible for their property and they assume responsibility for the safety of guests who are invited to the property. However, just because you are injured while you are at someone else’s home does not automatically make them responsible for your injuries.
You must be able to show that the owner of the home did not fulfill their responsibility to reasonably care for guests and for the property, and their failure do so directly caused your injury. In order to prove this, you should show that one or more of the following is true.
For example, if you fell through a porch landing because the porch was weakened by dry rot, and the owner knew about the rot and had not repaired it, they may be liable for your injuries.
The court assumes that homeowners should have a basic assessment of the condition of their property. For example, if the porch was rotten but the owner did not know, the court may still find the owner ought to have known because he or she walks on it daily.
If you fell through the porch because you slipped on ice that had formed on a step, the owner should have realized the steps would be slippery in current weather conditions, even if he or she had not gone outside.
If none of the above situations apply, you may find it more difficult to seek damages. For example, if you fell from the porch because you were startled by a passing wild animal, like a raccoon, you may suffer injury, but not because the owner of the home was negligent.
Homeowners also need to realize the increased risk of certain structures and property additions. In general, the inclusion of any of the following on the property increases their liability for injuries you might sustain as a result.
Swimming pools are one of the biggest causes of visitor injury or even death, especially for younger children and teens. Homeowners must provide basic safety precautions like fencing, non-slip decking, toy storage and pool coverings to fulfill their responsibility for guest safety.
Property owners who keep several dogs, small animals — like goats or chickens — or horses on the property will also increase the risk of injury. Warning signs should be posted to warn of dog behavior, and fencing, kennels and enclosures should be properly maintained.
These structures provide great fun for children, but they can also be a fall hazard. Upper levels should have only small openings for windows and high railings on balconies.
Trampolines are another common yard addition that result in thousands of injuries annually. Poor installation, a lack of safety features, allowing too many children to jump at once and allowing access in poor weather can all lead to injury.
Homeowners have increased liability for injuries when they have additional buildings, play structures and yard space. They are responsible for caring for these additions proactively in order to prevent injuries.
You might be concerned about who will pay for the damages. Many injuries occur at homes of people you know well, and you might not want to make waves or rob them of their financial security, even if they are at fault for your injury.
Most homeowners insurance policies fund liability lawsuits. If the property owners have a pool, farm or several animals, they likely have additional liability coverage. If the cost of your injury exceeds their liability coverage, you may be able to work out payments or compensation through other means.
Work with your personal injury lawyer to learn how you can handle this situation in way where you get the financial help you need for your injury without causing too much grief.
For more information, contact Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC.