Nevada homeowners have an obligation to keep their homes reasonably safe for guests. When a guest is seriously injured, the homeowner’s liability will usually come down to whether the homeowner took reasonable steps to prevent the injury. Although this standard sounds straightforward, in practice it can raise challenging legal questions, especially in the case of serious injury.
A homeowner’s duty of care toward guests
Homeowner premises liability is a question of negligence. This is true whether the injury is being evaluated for coverage under the homeowner’s insurance policy or litigated before a jury. The first step in a negligence analysis is to determine if the homeowner owed the injured guest a duty of care, and what that duty was.
In Nevada, a homeowner owes guests a general duty of reasonable care. Whether a homeowner acted reasonably to protect a guest from harm depends on the circumstances. Cf. Moody v. Manny’s Auto Repair, 110 Nev. 320, 333 (1994). A homeowner who knows about a dangerous condition owes guests a special duty to warn them of the danger. This is especially true of hidden dangers, like a loose stair that can easily slip. Cf. Galloway v. McDonalds Restaurants, 102 Nev. 534, 537 (1986).
Breaching the homeowner’s duty of care
A homeowner may be liable for negligence if he or she has breached the duty of care. Generally speaking, leaving a dangerous condition unresolved can constitute a breach. The central question is whether the homeowner behaved reasonably. If the homeowner spilled water on a floor, creating a slippery condition, the homeowner has an obligation to make the condition safe.
But circumstances matter. It might be reasonable for a homeowner to leave a puddle of water if her baby is crying in the next room and no one is expected to cross the wet floor for the few minutes it takes to comfort the child. On the other hand, a homeowner who doesn’t take steps to address a patch of ice on his front porch, like salting it or putting down an anti-slip mat, might not be acting reasonably if there’s good reason to think that a guest might step on the ice.
The breached duty of care must be the legal cause of the injury
For liability to stick, it isn’t enough that a homeowner hasn’t addressed a dangerous condition. The guest must show that the injury would not have occurred but for the homeowner’s negligence. This is a legal question that is often the focus of an attorney’s analysis of the facts.
A negligent homeowner is responsible for the foreseeable injuries created by his or her negligence, provided there aren’t intervening causes. Cf. Taylor v. Silva, 96 Nev. 738, 741 (1980). To go back to our earlier example, a slip is a foreseeable result of a wet floor. But if the guest who slipped on the floor was drunk, the homeowner’s attorney might argue that the drunkenness was the real cause of the injury.
Always talk to an attorney after a serious injury
People who are injured while visiting friends or family are sometimes reluctant to explore their legal options for fear of offending the homeowner. But in cases of serious injury, leaving legal questions unaddressed can be a serious mistake. This is especially true when an insurer is involved.
For over 45 years, the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped personal injury clients in Las Vegas get compensation. We know how to handle insurance adjusters and can work with you to get the coverage you need. For a no-cost attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.