The questions on this page were answered by our team of Virginia Beach & Norfolk personal injury attorneys. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.

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  • I got injured at my neighbor’s holiday party and had to go to the emergency room. Can I sue?

    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.

    EJL

  • If I slip on my neighbor’s icy sidewalk, can I file an insurance claim against them?

    This is a tough question to answer definitively because, on the one hand, city ordinances and common courtesy require homeowners to clear and sand or salt their driveways, sidewalks and stoops. Not complying is negligent and puts other people at risk. At the same time, pedestrians have a duty to take care when they know or suspect that pavement may by icy. Neighborhood sidewalks often go uncleared, so walkers should exercise caution.

    A much stronger case can typically be made against a business that fails to secure the approach and entrance to its front door. Customers have an expectation that they will not slip and fall while patronizing a business. Failing to fulfill that expectation can be cited as negligence in a personal injury insurance claim or civil lawsuit.

    Another key issue in ice or snow slip or fall cases is whether a business owner had a reasonable opportunity to clear walkways after a complete or temporary cessation of stormy or snowy conditions. Did a day pass, or only 30 minutes? Consult with a skilled personal injury attorney with our firm if you have a question. 

    EJL

  • What types of accidents provide grounds for filing insurance claims against homeowners?

    Any type of accident that injures or kills a visitor and which the homeowner could have prevented provides legal grounds for filing an insurance claim or civil lawsuit. A brief list of successful personal injury and wrongful death claims against Virginia homeowners includes

    • Trips on loose stairs
    • Falls from unsecured or unrepaired balconies
    • Dog bites and animal attacks
    • ATV crashes when young children were allowed to ride or operate the vehicles without adult supervision
    • Falling dead tree limbs and uprooted dying trees that should have been removed due to safety concerns
    • Electric shocks and electrocutions from exposed wiring or faulty outlets
    • Drownings and near-drownings in unfenced pools

    Note, however, that adults and children older than 8-12 years old cannot receive insurance settlements or win civil lawsuits if they were trespassing, intentionally putting themselves in danger or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Homeowners and their insurance company representatives will often try to argue that one type of disqualifying action or another occurred, so partnering with a Virginia plaintiff’s attorney who has experience handling claims against homeowners may be necessary.

    EJL

  • Do homeowners in Virginia have to protect guests from injury?

    The common law principle of premises liability gives homeowners an enforceable legal duty to act to prevent injuries to and deaths of other people if the homeowner is aware or should be aware of a dangerous condition. In practical terms, this means homeowners must keep their residences in good repair, keep their properties free from hazards and exercise adequate supervision over vulnerable visitors like young children.

    To give just one common example of a homeowner’s premises liability, a barbecue attendee who trips on a loose porch step and breaks her leg would have strong grounds for filing an insurance claim against the homeowner who neglected to repair the porch stairs.

    Dog bites also fall under the broader umbrella of premises liability because a pet owner has a responsibility for ensuring that all the animals they keep are well-trained and properly fenced or controlled.

    EJL

  • My child got badly hurt while visiting her friend’s house. Should I file an insurance claim against my neighbor?

    This is a personal decision that depends on the severity of your daughter’s injury, the cost of her medical care, the available insurance coverage, and the type of accident that caused the injury. You may even want to take your relationship with the other family into consideration, but you should keep in mind that you will be dealing with the insurance company rather than with your friend or acquaintance directly if the friend has homeowners insurance. Speaking with a caring Virginia personal injury attorney will help you weigh your options.

    Strictly from a legal standpoint, you have the right to file an insurance claim if the homeowner or occupant caused the accident, allowed it happen, or failed to warn of the danger. A legal principle called premises liability makes homeowners, renters and, in some circumstances, landlords responsible for protecting the health and safety of guests. This duty extends to supervising children at play, keep the yard and residence in good repair, controlling pets and minimizing access to dangerous items, including uncovered pools.

    EJL

  • My child got badly hurt while visiting her friend’s house. Should I file an insurance claim against my neighbor?

    This is a personal decision that depends on the severity of your daughter’s injury, the cost of her medical care, the available insurance coverage, and the type of accident that caused the injury. You may even want to take your relationship with the other family into consideration, but you should keep in mind that you will be dealing with the insurance company rather than with your friend or acquaintance directly if the friend has homeowners insurance. Speaking with a caring Virginia personal injury attorney will help you weigh your options.

    Strictly from a legal standpoint, you have the right to file an insurance claim if the homeowner or occupant caused the accident, allowed it happen, or failed to warn of the danger. A legal principle called premises liability makes homeowners, renters and, in some circumstances, landlords responsible for protecting the health and safety of guests. This duty extends to supervising children at play, keep the yard and residence in good repair, controlling pets and minimizing access to dangerous items, including uncovered pools.

    EJL

  • What is premises liability?

    Premises liability is one of the oldest concepts in civil law. In its shortest version, the theory is that property owners and occupants have enforceable legal duties to protect the life and safety of visitors. What this means in practical terms is that a customer who suffers an injury at a business, a person who gets hurt while attending a house party, or an amusement park visitor who suffers an injury may have grounds for filing a premises liability insurance claim or lawsuit. Succeeding with a premises liability claim requires the injured person to show that the property owner or occupant knew or should have known that a danger existed and did not take appropriate actions to remove or minimize that danger.

  • How do I know who has responsibility for my injury at a business or residence?

    Discovering which insurance policies apply when you suffer an injury at a business, home or amusement park can be difficult. Often, more than one organization or individual will have legal liability for maintaining an unsafe premises or for failing to take appropriate actions to protect visitors from harm. For instance, a burn suffered at a restaurant could be due to insufficient oversight of staff by management or due to improper work done by the contractor who installed gas lines or electrical wiring. Similarly, a near-drowning in a rental property’s pool could be due to the property owner’s decision to ignore building codes or due to a resort lifeguard’s inattention. Figuring this out often requires partnering with a personal injury who has extensive experience handling premises liability cases to do the research necessary to identify the responsible party and hold them accountable.

    Notee, too, that in Virginia, the injured person must also be free from what is called contributory negligence or contributing fault. If an insurer, judge, or jury finds that injured person materially contributed to causing harm to him or herself, no settlement or monetary award will be granted. Hiring a Virginia personal injury lawyer will give you a legal ally who will argue against accusations of contributory negligence.

  • Why are premises liability cases often called slip & fall cases?

    Most people call premises liability cases “slips and falls” because the classic example of a premises liability claim involves a plaintiff who fell on a wet floor in a store or slipped on an icy sidewalk in front of a business. The category actually covers any type of injury that can be caused by a property owner or occupant’s negligence. A short list of premises liability cases includes

     

    • Dog bites and animal attacks
    • Falls down stairs and from balconies
    • Assaults by staff, customers or other visitors
    • Injuries from falling objects
    • Electric shocks and electrocutions
    • Drownings
    • Recreational vehicle crashes (e.g., ATVs)
    • Injuries on rides and attractions

     

    The liability for compensating the injured person arises from the property owner or occupant’s legal duties to protect customers and visitors from injuries by keeping premises and equipment in proper repair, controlling the behavior of other people on the premises to the extent that is reasonable and complying with all applicable safety laws and regulations. 

    A final consideration is that Virginia bars premises liability claims from individuals who materially contribute in any way to causing the harm they suffered. Virginia and its neighbor North Carolina are among the only four states that still enforce this strict interpretation of contributory negligence.

  • Why are premises liability cases tough in Virginia?

    In order to win a premises liability (slip and fall) case in Virginia (VA), a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney must prove that the premises owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition that caused your fall, and that you as the injured person could not have seen or appreciated the slip, trip or fall risk before you fell.  This creates a narrow set of circumstances under which a person can expect to have a successful case, but an experienced attorney can help you understand if your case fits the right criteria.

  • How do we establish that the owner of the property is liable for my slip and fall injury?

    In a premises liability case, we need to prove that the owner or operator of the premises knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed at the time of your fall.  This can be proven in many ways. Failure to do adequate safety checks, failure to put out necessary signage and warnings, and failure to comply with state and federal building codes are all ways to prove the property owner was negligent.