When it is a 90 degree day is Augusta, Georgia, the thought of diving into a cool, clear pool is probably all that gets you through the work week. Then on the weekend, you head over to your friend’s house to enjoy his swimming pool and large deck. However, this weekend your visit did not go as smoothly as all the others before. This time you were walking on the deck and you slipped, fell, and hit your head on the edge of the pool suffering a concussion and neck strain.
You went to the ER, had an MRI and other tests performed, and had to take a week off work to recover. Now you have a large medical bill to pay and you lost a week’s worth of wages. Depending on the specific facts of the situation, the liability for your injuries may fall on your friend, the pool owner, and you might have a personal injury claim.
The Basics of Premises Liability
Under the law, property owners have a duty of reasonable care to keep their homes safe for guests and to protect guests from any unreasonable risk of harm. This means it is up to the home or pool owner to maintain their property and to inspect it for any dangerous issues such as a broken stair bannister or broken windows with sharp glass. It also extends to keeping pools and their surrounding areas safe.
This does not mean the premises have to be perfect at all times. Hazards can arise for a variety of reasons, but it is up to the owner to notice them within a reasonable amount of time and then fix them within a reasonable amount of time. If the owner cannot get something fixed before he has guests over, then he has a duty to warn guests of the danger.
Was Your Friend Negligent?
In order for your friend to be liable for your injuries, you would need to be able to show that he was negligent. Considering your friend has a pool with a surrounding deck, it is up to your friend to ensure these areas are safe for guests. This means that there are not any hidden dangers.
If a hazard is clearly visible and a reasonable person would know to be careful or avoid it, then an injury sustained because of that hazard is unlikely to be considered a result of your friend’s negligence. However, if you fell because it was unclear that the paint your friend used on his or her deck made it particularly slippery and you were not warned about this, then your friend may be found negligent as a host.
Your friend may also be liable if they failed to reasonably inspect the pool and the surrounding deck for unsafe conditions. It is the pool owner’s responsibility to routinely inspect the premises and warn about and fix any hazards they find within a reasonable amount of time. If you can show that your friend had not inspected the pool deck for over a month and should have reasonably known about the danger, then you may be able to show he was negligent.
Guest or Trespasser?
Your friend’s liability depends greatly on whether or not he gave you permission to be there. Your friend is responsible for the safety of his or her guests, but not as responsible for someone who used the pool and deck without permission. In general, a pool owner is not responsible for the safety of trespassers.
However, if your friend extended an open invitation for you and others to use the pool and knows that people regularly come over to enjoy it, then you might not be considered a trespasser at all. Even if you were not given specific permission the time you came to the pool and slipped on the deck, you could still be a guest.
How an Attorney Can Help
When you hurt yourself at another person’s home, you should consult an attorney about a personal injury claim right away. The attorney can advise you on your rights and how to proceed, such as whether you have a claim you can make against the person’s homeowners insurance or whether you have the right to sue the homeowner directly.
Filing a Claim with Homeowners’ Insurance
If you were hurt at a friend’s home, your first question should be whether or not they have homeowners’ insurance. If you believe your friend was negligent and should be responsible for paying for your injuries, then you will want to file a third-party claim with their insurer. This is the exact same process as if you were injured in a car accident and made a claim against the other driver’s auto insurance provider.
If you want to make a claim against a person’s homeowners’ insurance, you will need to do so as soon as possible. This is why you should speak to attorney right away. An experienced lawyer can help you make your claim with the insurer and guide you through the process, which may include giving an insurance adjuster a statement and providing records of your injury and treatment.
If your friend does not have homeowners insurance or refuses to provide you with their insurance information, you may have no alternative other than to file a lawsuit against the pool owner directly.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
No one wants to sue their own friend, but if you were badly hurt from slipping and falling on their property, you likely need help paying for the medical pills and lost wages. Your friend might not feel like it was their fault, but he is responsible for keeping the home safe. Your injuries may be proof that he did not do that.
Speak with your lawyer about filing a lawsuit and discuss the worst and best case scenarios. This may be a good time to sit down with your friend, both with legal representation, and hash out a settlement. You may even choose to go through mediation with an objective third party guiding the conversation.
But if these scenarios are not an option, an experienced personal injury attorney in Augusta like those at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. will guide you through the legal process and help you prove your case in court.
Contact Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. to learn more.