Personal injury lawsuits shouldn’t be on our minds when we’re lending a hand to a friend or family member. But some kinds of help involve real risk of injury. Whether an accident happens while cutting down a tree, repairing a roof, or clearing brush, it can result in massive medical bills and substantial lost earnings. When helping out leads to a serious injury, sometimes a lawsuit is necessary to recover benefits under an insurance policy. In these situations, understanding how the law treats injuries suffered while doing voluntary work.
Negligence and the homeowner’s duty of care
Whether a guest is a friend or family member, a homeowner or renter has a general duty to take reasonable care that his or her property is safe. Although a homeowner is not expected to actively watch out for new hazards that might develop on a property, there is an obligation to warn guests about known dangers. For example, not warning a guest about an ankle-breaking gopher hole wouldn’t necessarily breach this duty, but leaving a deep ditch unmarked probably would.
Personal injury lawsuits usually focus on two questions: whether the defendant was negligent, and whether the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury. To make a successful negligence claim, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care, such as the one owed by homeowners to guests, the homeowner breached the duty, and the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
In the case of injuries like the ones we’re discussing, chances are that the injured person will feel reluctant to sue a family member or close friend for negligence. But these cases often involve an insurer that is on the hook for injuries to a homeowner’s or renter’s guests. Even when a case involves other issues, like breach of (insurance) contract, the merits of the negligence question will probably play an important part in determining who is financially responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Negligence cases focus on facts
The merits of each case come down to the specific facts surrounding the plaintiff’s injury. Whether the homeowner acted with reasonable care and whether the lack of care caused the injury are tricky, legally technical questions. A host of factors may be involved. For example:
- Were tools involved? A badly maintained chainsaw or mower can be significantly hazardous.
- Was anyone involved a professional in the activity, or was everyone an amateur?
- What did the defendant know about the hazard, and what steps were taken to make it safe?
- Did contributing factors, like alcohol use or inclement weather, influence the events leading up to the injury?
- Could other parties be responsible? For example, if a tool caused the injury, perhaps the tool manufacturer is at least partly responsible under a products liability theory.
Don’t hesitate to talk to a lawyer
Even if you think that suing your friend or family member may be more trouble than it’s worth, exploring your legal options is always a good idea after an accident. After a serious injury costs may continue to accumulate for months or even years. For over 45 years the attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have helped clients in the Las Vegas area work through difficult legal challenges. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.