The last thing you want in the aftermath of a house fire is to be sued by a nosy neighbor who got injured in your burned home.
That’s why you need to make sure the burned structure is secure. You don’t want someone wondering onto the site and getting hurt.
You also don’t want scavengers stealing property that you may not be able to be reimbursed for due to you not securing the property in a timely manner.
Here are some tips to follow when securing your property:
- Don’t try to turn off any utilities yourself. The fire department should make sure that all utilities (gas, water, electric) are safe and/or disconnected before they leave the scene.
- Notify local police that your home will be vacant to help prevent looting and break-ins.
- You may also need to hire a board-up/mitigation company to pump out water, board-up openings and otherwise ensure that your property does not suffer additional damage. Depending on the level of damage, you may be able to handle this yourself – you could cover a damaged area with a tarp or board up an opening.
- It can also be a good idea to rope off the area – like you see the police do at crime scenes.
- You may also want to post No Trespassing signs that prohibit individuals from entering the site and state they will be liable for their injuries if they disregard the warning signs.
What happens if someone slips and falls and gets injured on the fire-damaged house site?
When an injury is sustained from a slip and fall and there is deemed to be negligence on the part of the property owner a premise liability lawsuit is the normal legal option.
More about slip and fall injury lawsuits at fire-damaged houses
Every property owner from homeowners and landlords to business owners (even corporations) have a responsibility to ensure that anyone who comes onto their property is protected from any dangerous conditions that could cause a slip and fall injury.
That is to say they are responsible to take the time to ensure that any part of the property is safe.
There are a number of things that can cause a slip and fall injury, here are some examples:
- Spilled liquids that make a floor surface slippery
- Water and soap on the floor when cleaning without adequate warning signs
- Ice and snow that hasn’t been properly removed or treated
- Broken or defective pavement or steps
- A cord, rug, or debris that can be tripped over in a walkway or path
When a defect or danger is out in the open and easily detectable in normal circumstances it may not be necessary for the owner to post warnings.
To be sure what constitutes a negligent act on the part of a property owner, you may want to contact an attorney following a house fire to see what, if anything, you need to do.
Determining slip and fall liability
There are legal definitions of what makes a property owner responsible for the injuries sustained by someone during a slip and fall accident. For legal responsibility to be in effect, one of the following must be true:
- The obstruction or dangerous surface must have been caused by the property owner or one of their employees.
- The owner of the property or one of their employees must have had knowledge of the danger and neglected to take any action.
- Either the owner of the property or one of their employees could be reasonably expected to have known about the defect or danger and either repaired or removed it.
While the third scenario is the most common, it is also the most difficult to prove in a slip and fall injury lawsuit. This is because of the subjective phrase “could be reasonably expected to have known.”
In such a scenario, the liability of the property owner is determined by common sense, which can be a subjective measure. In cases such as these, judges and juries determine liability by deciding if the property owner was careful in taking steps to ensure that their property was safe for visitors.
How “reasonable” is defined legally
From a legal standpoint, the reasonable safety of the property is determined by concentrating on whether or not the property owner makes a regular effort to keep the property in repair and safe for visitors.
The following are some simple questions that will help determine if a property owner might be liable for a slip and fall injury:
- If a fall was caused by tripping over a broken area of pavement or steps, a loose area, a wet and slippery area, or a piece of carpet that is bulging, broken or torn, was the defect present sufficiently long enough that the property owner should have known about it?
- Does the property owner make regular inspections of the property to note and repair defects? If so, do they have any proof of these regular inspections and repairs?
- If you slipped or tripped over something that was intentionally placed on the ground, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be in that location?
- Does the original reason for the object being placed in a location still exist or could the object have been removed to make the area safe?
- Is there another location the object could have been placed that would have presented less risk to visitors?
- Could a warning or barrier have been placed to deter people from walking in the area?
- Was the incident partially caused by poor or broken lighting fixtures?
If the answer to even one of these questions is yes, then a person may have a good claim for a lawsuit.
Evaluating a person’s carelessness
In any slip and fall injury case there will be questions of whether the injured person’s carelessness contributed to the slip and fall.
Rules known as “comparative negligence” are used to determine how reasonable your actions were at the time of the accident.
That means injured people need to consider the answers to the following questions before considering a lawsuit. Plus, an insurance adjuster is likely to ask and answer these questions as well when determining if any compensation should be awarded.
- Was there a legitimate reason that the owner could have anticipated for a person to be in the location where the slip and fall injury occurred?
- If the person had been more careful would there have been a way to avoid the danger, or walk more carefully and avoid slipping?
- Were any warnings posted about the dangerous area?
- Was the person running, jumping, fooling around, or distracted when you fell?
Sell your fire-damaged house as-is
ant to get rid of a fire-damaged house and the headaches it can present? We Buy Fire Damaged Houses buys burned homes for cash, and buys them in as-is condition, so you can sell fast and move on with your life.
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