As you fine-tune your home maintenance list, eliminate trip hazards. Addressing such hazards will improve your home's aesthetic value and protect you from liability. Under the law, we owe responsibilities to protect others from danger. In the context of premises liability, the law insists that a person, who controls property, protect guests from dangerous conditions on that property, including trip hazards. If a homeowner fails to exercise the required care to protect guests, he may be liable for any resultant injury.
During winter, most recognize the need to clear snow from sidewalks to prevent someone from slipping and falling. But as we enjoy longer days, other potential liability issues arise. This article offers tips to reduce homeowner liability during warmer months and steps to take if someone is injured at your home.
First, assess your home's lighting. Poor lighting may lead visitors to trip and fall. Especially outdoors, where warm evenings encourage guests to stay past sunset, insufficient lighting may cause a guest not to see a trip hazard. Thus, assure a well-lit yard. And before guests arrive, pick up toys, hang rakes, and roll the garden hose.
Second, keep stairs and flooring problem free. Liability may arise if a friend visits, falls on a broken step, and fractures an ankle. Accordingly, assure that outdoor steps are not broken or cracked. In addition, fix or replace loose boards on the deck. Also, assure that outdoor rugs are well anchored and not curling at the edges. Indoors, too, keep stairs in good repair, do not allow carpets to buckle, and affix backing to rugs to avoid fall hazards.
Third, if you have a pool, install non-slip surfaces around it and light the area well.
If a visitor to your home is injured, arrange for medical care immediately. Once your guest's health and comfort are provided for, consider your legal position. If you anticipate a claim for an injury, advise your homeowner's insurance carrier and seek legal advice. You may want to photograph the area where the injury occurred. If a security camera recorded an injury incident, preserve that photographic evidence. If you destroy such evidence, the law allows your injured guest an evidentiary presumption that whatever was depicted would have been more favorable to his case than yours.
Ultimately, injuries sustained by guests present case-by-case questions. As one court wrote, "falling and injuring one's self proves nothing. Such happenings are common place . . . ." Wright Corp. v. Quack, 526 N.E.2d 216, 218 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Both the homeowner and guest must exercise reasonable care to avoid injury. See Hunsberger v. Wyman, 216 N.E.2d 345, 348 (Ind. 1965). Thus, assure that your defenses are identified and preserved with an early investigation by an attorney.
Finally, confine discussions about the incident to your insurance company representative and your attorney. Do not post information about it to Facebook or Twitter for all to read and possibly question you about later on the witness stand.
If you have questions regarding the contents of this article, or other similar issues, please contact your HWE relationship attorney or visit us at http://www.hwelaw.com.