I got injured at my neighbor’s holiday party and had to go to the emergency room. Can I sue? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Party hosts have legal duties to prevent injuries to their guests, but those duties are not absolute. When a guest causes harm to themselves, a party host has no responsibility for settling insurance claims.

Two situations illustrate when a personal injury case will be and will not be justified following an accident at a party.

When a wooden porch stair that has long needed replacement due to rot gives way, causing a guest to fall and badly injure her leg, the party guest likely has grounds for filing an insurance claim against the homeowner. Failing to keep the porch in good repair put the party guest at an unreasonable risk for injury.

But say the same wooden stair was solid and the guest simply stepped wrong while looking elsewhere. The party host cannot be held responsible for the woman’s inattention to where she was placing her feet.

Of course, a party host faced with an insurance claim over a rotted porch stair will almost always argue, in more legal language, that the woman with the leg injury simply should have watched where she walked. In such circumstances, it is worth consulting with a Virginia personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs in what most people call slip and fall lawsuits.