Connor-Mulholland - MSM&C

Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Practice Areas: Motor Vehicle Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury

AirBnB has more than 200 million bookings a year, and reports less than 0.1% of visits result in a reported safety problem. Although renting out a property through AirBnB is a convenient way for many hosts to earn additional income, guests are potentially at risk for injury. Whether renting your home for the Fourth of July weekend or offering a spare bedroom to friends passing through town, what rights and responsibilities do property owners have when it comes to their guests’ injuries? 

Legal Obligations of Property Owners

When it comes to owning property, there are several legal obligations at play, especially concerning the safety of guests. In the realm of premises liability, property owners are generally expected to maintain a safe environment. This means fixing known hazards like broken steps or uneven flooring and taking reasonable measures to prevent accidents. For instance, a wet floor should be dried or marked with a warning sign to alert guests. Failure to address such issues could result in the property owner being held liable for any injuries. It’s not just about indoor spaces; outdoor areas like driveways and lawns also fall under the same guidelines. 

Common Types of Guest Injuries: From Slips to Animal Attacks

Accidents on a property can take many forms, and it’s important for property owners to be aware of the most frequent types of guest injuries. Slips and falls often top the list, usually occurring due to wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poorly lit areas. Another common issue is tripping over objects left in walkways. Additionally, animal attacks, particularly from dogs, can also lead to serious injuries. Electrical issues or malfunctioning equipment can pose hazards as well. Even swimming pools and trampolines, meant for leisure, can become sites of unfortunate incidents if not properly maintained. 

Elements of a Premises Liability Case: Four Key Factors

In premises liability cases, four main factors often come into focus to determine if a property owner is liable for a guest’s injury. First, ownership of the property in question must be established. Second, it must be proven the property owner was negligent in maintaining a safe environment. This could mean failing to repair a broken step or not putting up a warning sign for a wet floor. Third, negligence must have directly led to the injury. Simply having a hazardous condition on the property is not enough; it must be the cause of the accident. Lastly, actual harm must have occurred, whether it’s physical injury or emotional distress. 

How to Document an Incident: Essential Steps for Property Owners

When an accident occurs on a property, proper documentation serves as a valuable tool for all parties involved. Property owners should start by gathering as much information as possible. Taking photographs of the area where the incident happened can provide a visual record of conditions at the time. It’s also beneficial to collect statements from any witnesses, as these accounts can offer additional perspectives on what transpired. Keeping a written record of events, including the date, time, and nature of the injury, can be helpful for future reference. If there are any security cameras on the property, saving the footage from the time of the incident is advisable. By meticulously documenting incidents, property owners can create a factual basis that may be referenced in any subsequent discussions or proceedings.

Insurance Coverage: Understanding Policies and Payouts

Insurance plays a significant role in premises liability cases, offering a financial safety net for property owners. Various types of insurance policies can come into play, such as homeowners or commercial property insurance. These policies often include liability coverage, which can help offset costs related to guest injuries. It’s important for property owners to read their policies carefully to understand what is and isn’t covered. For example, some policies might cover medical expenses for injured guests but may not cover legal fees if a lawsuit arises. Additionally, policy limits will dictate the maximum amount insurance companies will pay out for a single incident. By having a clear understanding of insurance coverage, property owners can better prepare for unforeseen events and manage potential financial risks.

Comparative Negligence: How Guest Actions Affect Liability

In premises liability cases, the concept of comparative negligence often comes into play. This legal principle examines the actions of both the property owner and the injured guest to determine the degree of fault for each party. For example, if a guest ignores a clearly marked warning sign and gets injured, their actions could reduce the property owner’s liability. In some states, the injured party’s compensation may be reduced by the percentage of their own fault. So, if a court finds the injured guest 30% at fault, any awarded damages might be reduced by percentage. Understanding comparative negligence can help property owners see how guest behavior can influence the outcome of a liability case, thereby adding another layer of complexity to these legal matters.

Statute of Limitations: Time Constraints for Filing a Claim

One aspect of premises liability property owners should be aware of is the statute of limitations. This legal rule sets a deadline for filing a claim, which varies from state to state. Generally, once an injury occurs, there is a limited time frame within which legal action can be initiated. Missing this deadline often means injured parties lose the right to file a claim, regardless of the merits of their case. For property owners, understanding the statute of limitations can offer some peace of mind, as it limits the time one could potentially face a lawsuit. However, it’s also a reminder to act promptly in addressing any incidents, as delays could have legal repercussions.

Settlements and Litigation: Pathways to Resolution

Premises Liability Law

When a premises liability case arises, there are generally two routes to resolution: settlements and litigation. A settlement involves both parties coming to an agreement outside of court, often involving a financial payout to the injured party. Settlements can be quicker and less costly than going to trial, but require both parties to agree on terms. On the other hand, litigation involves taking the case to court, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome. While this process can be lengthy and expensive, it offers a formal venue for resolving disputes and can provide a more definitive conclusion. Property owners should be aware of these options as potential pathways for resolving any premises liability issues, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Understanding the nuances of each resolution pathway is crucial for those involved in a premises liability case. The process of an insurance settlement negotiation can be intricate, with a need for strategic communication and understanding of insurance law to ensure a fair settlement. This underscores the importance of having comprehensive legal information and resources, such as those found in the personal injury category of expert legal sites, to navigate the complexities of premises liability.

If you have been dealing with a premises liability case, contact or call us at 515-444-4000 as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Providing Unmatched EXPERIENCE On Your Case When you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been treated unfairly or you’re in the middle of a legal disagreement, it can be difficult to know what your rights are and how to proceed.

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