Experienced Deck Collapse Lawyers
We are hearing more and more about deck collapses in Virginia and neighboring states as structures built 40 years or longer ago give way. The injuries sustained when a deck collapses can be severe. While these accidents often occur in coastal communities like Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks where salt can corrode structures, they are being reported across the country.
If you have been hurt in a deck collapse accident, a building owner, manager, construction company, or another entity may be to blame. Our experienced deck collapse accident lawyers can advise you if you have a case.
When Virginia Deck Collapses Occur
Many Virginia deck collapses occur when a crowd of people is standing on a wooden structure.
In 2017, more than 20 people were injured when a second story deck collapsed at a house in Richmond’s Fan district during a party. Most of the injured were VCU students attending a party. They sustained broken legs and ankles and sprains.
In the same year, seven people were reported injured in Virginia Beach when a second story deck on a house gave way.
Decks deteriorate if they are not maintained, posing dangers to those who gather on them. Recently, 24 people were injured, two of them critically, when a deck collapsed in Emerald Island, North Carolina.
The deck was constructed in the 1980s. Local officials found nails that were nearly three decades old could not cope with the weight of the people standing on the deck.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Deck Collapses?
Several parties can potentially be held liable for deck collapses. They include:
1 The Homeowner
A homeowner has a duty to ensure that the premises is safe before inviting visitors by eliminating obvious hazards. Part of this duty includes making sure that the deck was not in a state of disrepair, or was sturdy enough to handle all the people that were going to be on it.
2 A Builder
A builder can be held liable for injuries if the deck did not comply with building codes or it was incorrectly constructed.
3 A Property Management Association
The managing company of an apartment complex or another building may be held liable for lapses in maintenance that caused a deck to collapse.
4 A Local Authority
If decks at a public housing complex or a civic building collapse, a local authority could bear the responsibility.
Lawsuits Over Deck Collapses in Virginia
In June 2018, Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported on a case in Halifax Circuit Court, Virginia that involved the total collapse of a deck.
A tenant invited a friend to a rented home. The friend and the tenant were on the deck when it collapsed. The friend suffered severe leg injuries and was signed off work on disability.
The injured friend later learned the tenant requested the landlord, who was also a contractor, to inspect and repair the deck following concerns it was sagging away from the house. The report stated the landlord walked to the rear of the house, looked at the deck and told the tenant there was nothing to worry about. The plaintiff sued both the landlord and the landlord’s construction company based on the conversation.
The case was resolved for $300,000, at a mandatory settlement conference. The figure was the limit of the available coverage.
Limitations on a Landlord’s Liability in a Virginia Deck Collapse Case
There are limitations on the liability of homeowners and landlords for injuries caused by deck collapses in Virginia. A homeowner must either have had actual knowledge of a defect, or the problem must have existed for a sufficient length of time for the homeowner to notice it while exercising ordinary care.
There are further obstacles when a tenant sues a landlord. Under Virginia law, the landlord is not liable to a tenant for failing to make a repair to premises that is leased and is under the exclusive possession and control of the tenant. This restriction on landlord liability was outlined in the 2007 case of Isbell v. Commercial Inv. Assoc.
In other words, a landlord merely has a duty to maintain parts of a leased property that are reserved for the common use of tenants in a reasonable condition. The landlord only has a duty to use reasonable care if the property is entered to make repairs.
A tenant who is injured by a deck collapse likely will have little success in making a claim against his landlord if the deck is within the part of the property in his exclusive possession and control. There is an exception to the rule if the collapse was caused by a latent defect that the landlord was aware of when he leased the premises.
Hire a Virginia Deck Collapse Lawyer
Virginia and other states are seeing more and more cases of deck collapses that end up in the courts. These accidents can be sudden, unexpected and devastating. If you have been hurt in a deck collapse, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. The Smith Law Center has secured results of up to $60 million. To speak directly with Stephen M. Smith, please call 757-650-9818 or visit the contact us page.