Slip and Fall Accidents in Private Homes: Can I Really Sue My Host?
The holiday season is here, making social gatherings more common. But if you slip and fall while at someone else’s home and suffer injuries, can you still recover damages — even from your holiday host?
Before you brush off the incident, thinking a lawsuit would negatively your relationship with the homeowner, you should carefully consider the consequences of not filing a claim, which could be paying the costs of your injury yourself.
Slip and Fall Accident at a Private Residence
If you slip and fall at a private residence and suffer injuries, you might be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy. Private homeowners can be held responsible for the condition that caused your accident, which might include:
- Slippery driveway
- Uncleared sidewalk
- Snowy or icy stairs
- Wet puddles on the floor from tracked-in snow
- Entryway cluttered with shoes, boots, coats, hats, and gloves
- Crowded conditions around the home, such as chairs placed in unexpected locations to accommodate a large group
Suing a neighbor, relative, or friend over a slip and fall injury in his home might seem difficult for personal reasons. But the reality is that most homeowners have homeowners insurance, so when you sue them you are actually suing the insurance company for compensation, and unless their insurance is inadequate or your injury is very serious, your host will not have to pay for your injuries out of his or her pocket.
Premises Liability Law
Premises liability law will help determine whether or not a homeowner is legally responsible for a hazardous condition. These laws consider the relationship between the owner of the home and the injured victim in order to determine whether the homeowner was negligent and responsible for the accident on his property.
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident in someone else’s home, more than likely you were there as an invited guest, meaning the homeowner is required to warn you about any known dangers. Failure to do so might make him negligent and entitle you to compensation.
But if you are a trespasser in the home, the homeowner does not owe you a duty to keep you safe. The only duty homeowners owe adult trespassers is to avoid creating dangerous conditions that could result in injury.
Someone guilty of negligence either took an unreasonable action that caused someone to suffer an injury or failed to take a reasonable action that would have prevented someone from coming to harm.
So if somebody invited you over to their house and getting into their home required that you climb a stairway with no railings, uneven stairs, or a slippery surface and you fell and were injured, a jury might find your host negligent.
But if you visited a home with a safe staircase that any reasonable person would recognize as being safe, and you ran up and down the stairway recklessly until you fell and injured yourself, it would likely not be the homeowner’s fault. In that situation, you would have been the individual taking the unreasonably dangerous action, not your host.