Tag Archives: homeowner liability

Latest Posts

Archives

Categories

Tags Cloud

A Homeowner’s Liability Toward “Odd-Jobs” Workers

Every homeowner can use a helping hand from time to time on projects around the house. Mowing lawns, fixing a leaky faucet, or patching a hole in a wall are all examples of work that the so-called gig economy has started to fill in. A homeowner can save time and potentially save a lot of money by hiring people on an impromptu, cash basis to do this sort of work. But whenever someone does work for pay there’s an added element of risk that homeowners need to think about. Although a homeowner may be justified in concluding that a risk is worth taking, it’s still worth understanding what the risks are so they can be minimized. There are several types of risk associated with hiring casual laborers to do work around the house:
  • Premises liability. In Nevada homeowner have a general duty of care to ensure that their homes and properties are in safe condition for lawful visitors. The homeowner’s obligation extends to keeping the home in reasonably safe condition and warning visitors of known hazards. If a visitor is injured by an unsafe condition they may have the option of suing the homeowner to recover compensation for the injury.
  • The posture of homeowner’s insurance. One of the key questions a homeowner should ask is whether his or her insurance will cover injuries to laborers who do work around the home. The answer is usually something like “Yes, but . . .” The limits of coverage provided by a policy can help the homeowner evaluate the scope of personal risk for a given type of job. For example, a policy may disclaim responsibility for injuries caused by unlicensed work on the home’s electrical system. Or it may limit damages that are available for individuals who are paid for their work, who the insurer assumes (rightly or wrongly) are providing their own insurance coverage.
  • The facts of the job. Hiring someone to paint a wall is probably less risky than asking someone to repair a roof or fix a gas-fired appliance. Measuring the potential harm that can come from a given project—fire, electric shock, falls—is always a good idea. If the risks are substantial it may be worth the cost to hire a contractor that carries its own insurance. Bear in mind, though, that even simple jobs can result in accidents and injuries: painting a wall can be enough to throw out a back or sprain an elbow.
  • Licensing and permitting requirements. One reason a homeowner will hire out work on a casual basis is to avoid the hassle and cost of getting permits and licenses that are required for certain kinds of work. If work is completed without legally required approvals it can create headaches when the home is sold, expose the homeowner to fees, and may invalidate insurance coverage in some cases. A licensed contractor helps homeowners comply with their legal obligations.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation about your case, call us today at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

DIY Home Improvement and Injury Liability

Homeowners know that labor is typically a big part of the cost of home improvement projects. For many it’s enough that doing the work themselves is the better choice. Although doing your own construction work can be rewarding, it can also create potential legal liability.

Liability for hazards

In Nevada a homeowner has a general duty to take reasonable care to maintain the home in a condition that is safe for guests. If the homeowner is aware of a potentially dangerous condition, such as a broken bannister, the law requires that the homeowner notify guests of the hazard. For a project with clearly understood dangers notifying guests about them may be straightforward. For example, a homeowner who digs a big trench in the front yard can place warning signs around it to caution passersby about the hole. But doing major work on a home can create hazards that aren’t known to the homeowner until they become serious problems. Fixtures that aren’t properly installed can fall and injure guests. Unsafe electrical practices could lead to fire. Removing structural components could make the entire home unsafe. If someone is hurt by conditions like these, they will have good cause for suing the homeowner.

Insurance may not pay for DIY mistakes

A homeowner’s liability insurance will often cover risks for routine things like trip-and-fall accidents caused by the upturned edge of a rug. Where insurance might refuse to pay is if the homeowner has undertaken a do-it-yourself project that was not compliant with local rules, such as permitting requirements. Failing to use a licensed contractor for certain types of projects can also give an insurance company an excuse to not pay. This extends to significant parts of a home, including gas lines, plumbing, and electrical. If a homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover injuries caused by the homeowner’s negligence the homeowner may be faced with significant unmitigated costs. In practice this means that a homeowner needs to be cautious about taking on projects that involve high degrees of risk. It may be significantly cheaper to hire a professional than to attempt doing dangerous work yourself. Key questions the homeowner should ask before tackling a project are:
  • Does the work involve anything that could cause a fire?
  • Does the work involve tearing down structural components that may have a nonobvious role in the home’s engineering?
  • Can the project be finished in a reasonable period of time so that hazards don’t pose a risk for longer than necessary?
  • Does the homeowner anticipate vulnerable guests, like small children or people with health problems, being present during construction?

GGRM is a Las Vegas injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured in a home or if you have questions about how home projects may affect your liability, please contact is today for a free attorney consultation. Call 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Challenges to Suing a Homeowner’s Insurance Policy for Personal Injury

Someone who suffers an injury at a private home may be entitled to coverage under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Insurers are experts at denying claims and will frequently look for reasons why an injury did not qualify under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Policies are written to provide insurers with numerous ways of escaping liability. As a consequence the insurer may need to be sued, often along with the homeowner. In doing so the injured plaintiff can face a number of challenges. Here are two examples.

Coverage limits may not fully compensate the plaintiff

The first challenge can simply be the coverage limits built into the policy. It should be no surprise that a homeowner’s policy is deliberately designed to limit the financial exposure of the insurer to risk. Policies do this in part by placing strict caps on how much the insurer will pay out for different events. The details of these caps can draw fine distinctions between who qualifies for coverage, how much coverage will be given to specific types of injuries, and so on. A policy will always specify how much the insurer will pay for a given injury (normally some factor of $100,000). Many policies include “umbrella” provisions that add an extra catch-all value on top of the itemized coverage. The insurer will not pay more than the maximum amount of coverage. The first challenge for plaintiffs is often that the amount available under the homeowner’s policy is simply not enough to cover all the costs associated with an injury. A policy with a coverage limit of $100,000 per incident and a $500,000 umbrella provision will not make a plaintiff whole if the plaintiff is facing $1 million in damages.

Plaintiffs may not be covered in some situations

A second challenge can arise if the plaintiff is not within the scope of coverage. Some policies may distinguish between full-time residents, guests, and contractors. It may also disclaim responsibility for specific types of injury. As a hypothetical example, a policy might specify that the insurer does not cover accidental electrocution of someone who is working on electrical systems without the appropriate professional license. One area where this “category” problem can be important is cases where the injured person was performing services for the homeowner at the time of the injury. Many homeowners’ insurance policies disclaim responsibility for injuries to contractors, with the idea being that the contractors will already have their own insurance. If a neighbor is injured while helping a landowner clear brush, the insurer may look for ways to characterize the neighbor as a contractor. One way it might succeed in doing that is if the neighbor was being compensated in some way for the work. For example, if the neighbor is helping out as a way to repay the landowner for lending the neighbor a tractor, that might be enough to place the neighbor outside the coverage scope.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

Being injured at another person’s home raises a lot of difficult questions, not least of which can be how to preserve the relationship with the homeowner despite being in a legal dispute. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. We work with clients to examine the complete picture of each case to ensure that the client’s personal and financial interests are protected. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Homeowner Liability for AirBNB Guest Injuries

Online hospitality marketplaces like AirBNB and VRBO have radically disrupted the hotel business. Property owners love the chance to offset the cost of ownership of homes and vacation getaways, all within the scope of a well-established rental system. At the same time, owners need to be careful to take stock of how having paying guests may affect their legal liability in the event that a guest is injured during their stay.

Homeowner liability for guest injuries, in general

When someone is injured at someone else’s home the usual question is whether the homeowner committed an act of negligence that caused the guest’s injury. For negligence to apply, the homeowner must have owed the guest a duty of care and breached that duty. Ordinarily a homeowner owes a guest fairly limited duty of care. Specifically, homeowners are not required to continuously ensure that their homes are free of dangerous conditions that might lead to an injury. For example, a homeowner who lives in a place with freezing conditions doesn’t need to constantly look out for buildup of ice on a walkway. On the other hand, once a homeowner knows about a dangerous condition there is a duty to warn guests about the problem and to make reasonable efforts to resolve it. The character of a homeowner’s legal duty can change if a guest is paying the homeowner for the privilege of using the property. When someone pays for lodging the legal duty can be more strict than would otherwise be the case. A homeowner who does not take care to inspect the property for risky conditions takes a chance that a visitor will be injured and sue.

Insurance considerations

The heightened risk means that homeowners should take care to analyze their insurance policies to ensure that they are covered against liability. AirBNB covers homeowners with a Host Protection Insurance policy. The AirBNB policy provides up to $1 million per incident. But there are some important limitations that the homeowner may still be responsible for paying. For example, the policy does not cover loss of earnings. It also does not cover things like a guest’s car, loss of electronic data, or injuries that the host should have expected to happen (such as by ignoring unsafe ice buildup on the front porch). A guest who suffers an excluded injury likely will sue the homeowner to recover whatever cannot be recovered from the AirBNB insurance policy. As such, the homeowner should not rely solely on the coverage provided by the online marketplace. Hosts should also verify that they are adequately protected by their homeowner’s insurance policy. Some policies may not cover rentals, and some may also carve out exclusions that are similar to those carved out by the rental site’s policy. If there are gaps left over, the homeowner must decide if bearing the excluded risks is worth it. Homeowners should also bear in mind that in many jurisdictions short-term rentals are prohibited by law or subject to specific licensing, zoning, or other rules. An insurer may be quick to deny coverage for a rental that violates local laws. In addition, breaking such laws could expose the host to fines and even criminal prosecution.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured during a stay at a short-term rental or if you are a host with questions about your potential liability, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Childproofing a Home to Protect Little Ones and Prevent Liability

When a small child will be present in a home it’s vitally important that the homeowner take stock of potential hazards and, to the extent possible, remedy them. Many childproofing steps are simple—outlet covers, for example—and can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury to a child. Failing to address hazards could lead to a child’s serious injury or even death. Such tragedies can also create legal liability for an adult who hasn’t taken proper care.

Childproofing recommendations

The National Safety Council is one of many organizations focused on providing helpful guidance for people looking for ways to improve the safety of their homes. They identify a range of important issues to consider when evaluating a home’s potential hazards for children. Some examples include:
  • Keeping firearms out of reach of children.
  • Examining places of high risk for ways to limit a child’s access to them. Such places include areas with water (pools, spas, kitchens, bathrooms), heat (fireplaces and stoves), toxic materials (cleaners and medicines), and places with fall risks (stairs).
  • Securing heavy furniture to the wall or other stable feature, especially tippy furniture like tall dressers (such as the popular Ikea “MALM” dresser, which the company has repeatedly recalled following the deaths of several toddlers) or televisions.
  • Covering wall outlets and ensuring that electrical plugs are well-seated.
The steps a homeowner takes to childproof a home will vary depending on how frequently children will be present, how practical it is to address each hazard, and other personal factors. Someone who is only occasionally visited by their small grandchild may see little utility in securing every kitchen cabinet, while the parent of a small child probably should take the steps to secure as much as possible.

Childproofing and the law

There are no particular laws requiring individuals to childproof their homes. As a practical matter such laws aren’t necessary. Parents and other caregivers have plenty of incentive to keep their little ones safe without needing the state’s intervention. The absence of specific laws places childproofing into the broad category of negligence. The key question in a typical negligence case is whether the person responsible for a child’s injury breached a duty of care owed to the child. Such duties include things like ensuring that a backyard pool can’t be accessed by children passing by the property. Whether an individual is committing negligence for failing to add locks to medicine cabinets or cover wall outlets will depend on the facts of the situation: the relationship of the homeowner to the child, the foreseeability of the child’s injury, and other factors.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has provided personal, caring service to clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have questions about an injury to a child caused by inadequate childproofing of a home call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Legal Options When Injured Helping Friends or Family

Legal Options When Injured Helping Friends or Family
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.

Homeowner Obligations Toward Utility and Mail Workers

Homeowner Obligations Toward Utility and Mail Workers
Everyone has heard stories about dogs going after postal workers. Sometimes the stories are funny, but more often they end with the worker suffering a serious bite. Nevada law imposes some basic requirements on homeowners to keep their properties safe for people who might visit while the homeowner is away: postal workers or inspectors from the local gas or electrical utility being just two examples.

Delivery and utility workers usually aren’t trespassing

In Nevada, homeowners have a general duty of care to keep their properties reasonably safe for lawful visitors. Nevada law provides that homeowners do not owe a duty of care to trespassers other than children in some situations, or where the trespasser is known to be in a dangerous location. It is also unlawful for homeowners to intentionally create dangerous conditions designed to hurt a trespasser. NRS 41.515. Generally speaking, people delivering packages and mail to a home and people who come to a home in connection with utility work are not trespassing. The specific reason why varies. Absent a “No Trespassing” sign any visitor has an implied license to approach the front door of a home to speak to the occupant or leave a package there. U.S. Post Office rules specifically allow mail carriers to cross private property as part of their delivery duties. Utility workers, who often need to access to side or back of a home to check meters or repair equipment, typically receive express permission to enter through local laws or service agreements. There can be exceptions to these general rules. For example, a utility worker might not be allowed to jump over a locked fence or break a chain just to check a meter. A mail carrier’s implied license probably doesn’t allow for packages to be carried around the side of a home or through a closed gate, whether or not it’s locked, unless they have a reasonable purpose for doing so. For example, a deliverer might want to leave a package safely out of sight so it doesn’t get stolen.

Ways a homeowner can keep a home “reasonably safe”

Because a homeowner won’t necessarily be at home when a delivery is made or a utility inspection is made, it’s important to take steps to make the property safe. Here are a few examples:
  • Ensure that the approach to the front door is free of hazards. Although a homeowner doesn’t need to constantly inspect for new dangers, care should be taken to address known risks. If a front step is dangerously loose, repairing it or at least putting out a warning sign might be necessary. If the front walk is icy, it might be necessary to shovel or salt it.
  • Warn about unleashed dogs. A homeowner is allowed to keep a dog off leash provided the dog is otherwise contained, such as with a fence. By posting “Beware of Dog” signs, the owner places visitors on notice that a dog is present and may pose a danger. Many utility inspectors carry mace to protect themselves from surprise dog attacks, so warning the worker also protects the dog.
  • Make sure dangerous conditions are easy to see. A homeowner who has created an unusually dangerous condition, such as a deep trench or exposed electrical work, needs to be especially mindful of the potential risks it poses to visitors. Posting warning signs, using yellow “caution” tape, or ensuring that the dangerous condition is well covered can be ways to reduce the risk to visitors.

GGRM can answer your questions

For over 45 years the lawyers at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have served the Las Vegas community. We understand the legal risks homeowners face and are here to answer questions about how those risks can be managed. For a free attorney consultation call us at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Do Outdoor Pools and Spas Need to be Covered?

Do Outdoor Pools and Spas Need to be Covered?
Homeowners often leave their pools uncovered and their spas unlocked. But leaving a pool or spa accessible and unattended can in some circumstances create a dangerous situation., especially for children. When a child sneaks onto a property to use a pool or spa and drowns or suffers other serious injury, a homeowner may be liable for the resulting damages under a legal theory called attractive nuisance.

The elements of attractive nuisance in Nevada

Landowners owe a general duty of care to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for guests. This rule doesn’t apply to most trespassers, on the grounds that the trespasser is acting unlawfully and the landowner cannot take steps to protect someone who is on the property without the landowner’s knowledge. The doctrine of attractive nuisance is an exception to the trespasser rule. Attractive nuisance applies in situations where a dangerous feature of a property is the sort of thing that a child could reasonably be expected to take an interest in. Even though a child may be trespassing to gain access to the feature, the doctrine makes the landowner liable for a child trespasser’s injuries because the landowner did not anticipate that a child might be attracted to the feature and did not take steps to secure it.

Secure your pool or spa

Pools and spas are textbook examples of attractive nuisance. They offer fun and relief from the Nevada heat. But they also present a serious danger of drowning. As such, a homeowner needs to take steps to ensure that a pool or spa is inaccessible to potential child trespassers. This might include surrounding them with a fence with a locking gate or using locking covers. Homeowners should be wary about fences that a child could easily climb over; bear in mind that children are resourceful and likely to take a few risks to get access to a pool.

Consequences for creating attractive nuisance

The consequences of not making an attractive nuisance secure can be substantial. When a child has an accident in a pool and dies or suffers serious injury like brain damage, the homeowner can be responsible for medical bills and the suffering of the child and his or her family. Most homeowner insurance policies require pools and spas to be made inaccessible in order to take the insurer off the hook in attractive nuisance cases. In other words, the homeowner likely will be personally responsible for paying the hurt child’s damages. For over 45 years, the lawyers at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area protect their legal rights and get the compensation they deserve. If you have questions about how an uncovered pool or spa may expose you to risk, or if your child has been hurt in a neighbor’s pool and you’re wondering what your legal options are, our attorneys are happy to provide a no-cost consultation. Reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Who Is Responsible for Unsafe Conditions Created by Contractors Working on a Home?

Who Is Responsible for Unsafe Conditions Created by Contractor Working on a Home?
Contractors working on a home often create dangerous conditions as an ordinary part of their work. A deep trench, exposed live electrical wire, or unsupervised ladder can cause serious injuries to third parties who come onto the property. In a lawsuit arising from an injury caused by these kinds of dangerous conditions, the homeowner and the contractor both may face litigation.

Nevada contractor liability

Most types of personal injury claims against a residential contractor will rest on a theory of negligence. A negligence claim argues that the contractor failed to take reasonable care to prevent the plaintiff’s injuries. The standard of reasonable care for professionals often is drawn from applicable standards. Safety standards may come from industry groups or may be imposed by federal, state, or local law. A contractor who fails to comply with statutory or regulatory safety rules can be held strictly liable for injuries that result, regardless of whether the rules violation was due to negligence. Nevada requires all contractors who work on residential projects to be licensed and bonded. A contractor license bond provides one potential source of financial compensation for someone who is injured by a contractor’s wrongful or negligent actions. Ideally, a contractor should also have liability insurance above and beyond the bond amount.

Homeowner premises liability

A Nevada homeowner owes guests a general duty of reasonable care. A homeowner owes guests a special duty to warn them of known unsafe conditions. A guest who is injured at the home can sue the homeowner, even if a contractor was responsible for the injuries. The homeowner, in turn, may bring the contractor into the lawsuit. The reasonableness of a homeowner’s actions to protect guests from harm will depend on the circumstances. Moody v. Manny’s Auto Repair, 110 Nev. 320, 333 (1994). In the case of work done by a contractor, it may not be reasonable to expect a homeowner to take steps beyond what the contractor has done to make a project site safe. After all, a homeowner usually lacks the knowledge and skill of a licensed contractor. On the other hand, a homeowner may be liable for actions taken independently of the contractor. For example, a homeowner who removes a safety warning sign may be responsible for injuries that result.

Nevada’s Residential Recovery Fund offers a source of recovery for homeowners

Licensed contractors are required to pay into the state’s Residential Recovery Fund. A homeowner who suffers damages resulting from an act or omission of a residential contractor can apply to the fund to recover up to $35,000. The amount of a homeowner’s recovery from the fund will vary depending on whether the homeowner has also recovered compensation from other sources, such as a lawsuit, settlement, or the contractor’s insurance. Making a claim to the fund also requires the homeowner to allow the Nevada State Contractors Board to pursue a claim against the contractor in lieu of the homeowner (so-called subrogation of rights). NRS 624.510.

We are here for the Las Vegas community

GGRM has represented personal injury plaintiffs in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured as a consequence of a contractor’s actions, or you are a homeowner facing litigation, we can help you sort through your legal options. For a free attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.