Injured at a Neighbor's House Party From Neglected, Broken Down Stairs – Do I Have a Viable Personal Injury Claim?

Premises liability is the potential legal liability of a property owner or operator for injuries sustained by a visitor due to hazardous conditions on the premises. If you are injured at a party at your neighbor's home due to hazardous, neglected stairs, you may be entitled to claim damages for your injury. 

Types of Premises Liability Claims

Slip and Fall Cases

Slip and fall accidents typically occur in supermarkets, restaurants, and similar places. The facts of the case include the duration that the hazardous condition was present. For instance, if there was a liquid spill at a grocery store, the factual issues of the case will include how long the spill existed and whether it was there long enough for an employee to notice it and rectify the situation or warn patrons about its presence.

Property owners sometimes use the concept of contributory negligence, involving issues such as whether the property visit was lawful and if the visitor was adequately aware of their surroundings and reasonably cautious during their visit.

Injuries due to Poor Maintenance and Property Defects

Damaged structures on the property, such as broken stairways, unstable decks, and compromised railings, may cause injuries to a visitor on the property.

What the Plaintiff (Injured Party) will Need to Prove

Premises liability cases differ between states. Therefore, it is vital to review the legislation of your jurisdiction. In general, the plaintiff will need to prove the following:

  • that the individual allegedly responsible for the injury (defendant) occupied, owned, or rented the premises
  • that the defendant was careless in the use of the property
  • that the plaintiff sustained injuries
  • that the negligence of the defendant played a crucial role in causing the damage

Let us review each element in more detail.

Defendant Occupied, Owned or Rented the Property

The first element that the plaintiff must prove is that the defendant occupied, owned, or rented the premises. It will be evident in a concrete premises liability case whether the occupier, owner or tenant had a responsibility to oversee the property and to ensure that the premises remained in a reasonably decent state, depending on its intended usage.

Negligent Property-Use by the Defendant

The next step involves proving that the defendant displayed negligence in the use of their property. The legal concept of negligence holds individuals responsible in civil court for causing unintentional harm to others. To prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant did not take standard measures of care as necessitated by specific circumstances.

You Sustained Injuries

The plaintiff, through their testimony and the testimony of any treating medical professionals, must prove that they were injured. They can also submit medical bills, expert testimony on their injuries, the duration of the medical treatment, and whether the injuries and continuing medical care will impact various facets of their life.

Defendant Negligence a Significant Factor in the Accident

Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that negligence on the part of the defendant was a significant reason for their injuries. The damage you experienced must be reasonably attributable to the action (or inaction) on the defendant's part. Negligence by the defendant may not be the only reason for your injury, but it must be a contributory factor.

Premises Liability Claims: Role of Insurance

Liability insurance offers coverage for injuries to third-parties sustained on the insured premises. Property or casualty insurance only pays for harm to the insured property, such as water or fire damage, and not for third-party injuries occurring on the premises.

Homeowner's liability insurance is applicable in the context of personal residential property, while a commercial general liability plan applies in the context of business.

If you get injured on someone else’s property due to negligence, the property owner’s existing liability or premises insurance plan (as differentiated from a solely property or casualty insurance policy) may be applicable. 

Even in cases where the landowner is not negligent, but a visitor is injured due to an unavoidable accident, the owner's liability policy may feature "no-fault" coverage for medical bills up to a specified amount. This is commonly known as "med pay" coverage.

Therefore, if you got injured when visiting someone's property, an essential initial step is to inform the property owner or their representative and understand if their policy can offer any potential coverage. In premises liability cases, this is one of the most beneficial services that an experienced attorney can provide.

Final Remarks

In North Carolina, if a property owner does not exercise reasonable caution, which leads to a visitor getting injured, it may be grounds for a premises liability claim. It is best to consult a qualified attorney to understand more about your potential claim.

Working with a committed, skilled lawyer will ensure that the rights of both the property owner and victim are upheld. They can also help navigate potential issues regarding insurance coverage. 

Legal Help from a Dedicated Premises Liability Attorney

If you have been seriously injured when visiting someone’s property, you should hire a premises liability attorney promptly. A knowledgeable attorney at the law offices of Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can help you handle any issues that arise in your premises liability claim in North Carolina. For more information and in-depth consultation, contact today at 800-752-0042.

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Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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