Catastrophic Injury Claims Involving Vacation Rentals in North Carolina: Here’s What You Should Know

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Catastrophic injuries can easily occur at vacation rentals while enjoying a relaxing time with loved ones. These are often properties the visitor is unfamiliar with or that contain hidden or concealed dangers. In a matter of seconds, you can be facing a serious, life-changing, or life-threatening injury. Unfortunately, most incidents are preventable, but the vacation rental owner failed to take steps to ensure the rental was safe for its visitors and to protect them from the risk of harm, including serious injury and even death.

Recently, a North Carolina child tragically died from a trap door in a residential elevator that contained no warnings of its dangers, especially to small children who can get crushed in the entrance.  

Additional examples of catastrophic events and injuries may include:

  • A deck that collapses and injures visitors causing a debilitating injury with multiple broken bones
  • Hazardous and substandard construction on the premises severely injures visitors and causes a spinal cord injury
  • A visitor drowning from a swimming pool accident due to the improper maintenance of the swimming pool area or inadequate safety measures such as child-proof locks or gates
  • Building code violations to result in falls

If you or a loved one have been in an unfortunate catastrophic vacation rental accident in North Carolina and are suffering from injuries, or you have suffered the loss of a family member, here are some important things you should know:

1. The Vacation Rental Owner or Property Management Company can be Held Liable for a Catastrophic Accident on their premises:

In North Carolina, the vacation rental law serves to protect renters from vacation rental unsafety or improper maintenance. Specifically, North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act applies to short-term rentals where the tenant rents the vacation property for less than 90 days. By enacting the Vacation Rental Act, the North Carolina legislature specifically recognized the potential harm that can be caused when short term rentals, often for a week or less, occurs where the tenant is understandably unfamiliar with the property. This law regulates vacation rentals and requires the owner to ensure the premises are safe as a means to protect you.

For example, owners must ensure the following on their premises:

  • The condition of the property is in a fit and habitable condition
  • Existence of functioning smoke detectors 
  • Placement of carbon monoxide alarms on each floor 
  • Adherence to housing regulations and other safety regulations
  • A signed rental agreement outlining the owner and tenant’s responsibilities, including payment and fees

In cases where the owner, or property manager, is found to have failed to meet their duty to maintain safe premises to protect visitors, they can be held liable for damages caused by catastrophic accidents. 

2. The Owner or Property Manager May Try to blame you for the Catastrophic Accident but that is not how it works under the Vacation Rental Act:

Under North Carolina’s laws on attributing fault, an injured party is barred from recovering on any financial compensation if they contributed to the cause of the accident or shared any responsibility for the accident. This approach is called pure contributory negligence and Defendants often argue it applies to vacation rental cases and injuries in North Carolina. 

A defendant will likely try to shift the blame of the accident and injury to you because a determination of any fault on your part, even if it is as minimal as 1%, would result in zero compensation for damages. Essentially, the defendant owner would be off the hook and leave you without any financial recourse. 

The stakes are high when you may be to blame for the catastrophic accident even in the slightest. For this reason, it is essential to have an injury attorney with catastrophic accident experience by your side. Such an experienced attorney well-versed in North Carolina injury law will best advise you on whether contributory negligence applies under your circumstances and ensure you maximize your chances to obtain the fair and just compensation you deserve. 

Despite attempts by the potential defendants to shift blame, there is a very strong argument that the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act results in strict liability when there is a violation of the act. The Act mandates that owners and property managers “shall” comply with the Act. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42A-31(1). As a result, they are strictly liable for damages that result from their violations. In other words, if you are injured at a vacation rental in North Carolina, there is a very strong argument that you will be entitled to recover monetary damages. Don’t believe the owner and property manager when they tell you that you are responsible for your injuries and they cannot be held liable.

In addition, do not believe or think that because you or someone else signed a rental agreement that contains lots of fine print that you will not be able to recover. The duties required by owners and property managers are not waivable. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42A-31. Put another way, no matter how strong a waiver they made you or someone with your group sign in order to rent the property, they cannot hide behind a bunch of fine print in their defense.

3. You Should Contact a North Carolina Catastrophic Accident and Injury Attorney That Has a Track Record of Handling Vacation Rental Injury Cases

When faced with a catastrophic injury accident, you need an experienced and committed North Carolina attorney by your side to help you navigate the complex legal aspects and challenges, including liability, defenses, and proving damages for the fair and just compensation you and your family deserve.

An experienced attorney can help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including strategies on how to best present the evidence showing that the owner’s, or property managers’, violation of North Carolina’s laws intended to protect vacation renters from preventable harm at the hands of those responsible. 


An attorney will thoroughly review the evidence and facts of your case to analyze and strategize ways to best present your case in your best favor. Some examples of documents and evidence may include:

  • the rental agreement and relevant provisions
  • documentation such as medical records proving your injury and its severity
  • photographs of the catastrophic condition on the premises 
  • photos of the damages
  • police reports 
  • personal and witness statements

An attorney will also advise you on the best way to effectively portray your injuries, as some are more challenging to prove. For example, if pain and suffering in the form of psychological injuries such as depression and anxiety are impacting you, your attorney may suggest you keep a daily diary and/or begin or continue mental health treatment and keep track of the bills and medical reports. 

Contact a Wilmington Catastrophic Accident and Injury Attorney Today!

If you or anyone you know experienced and suffered from a catastrophic accident on the premises of a North Carolina vacation rental, don’t delay. It is important to contact an attorney that can help preserve evidence and advise you on the right steps to take. Speak to a Wilmington attorney today about the details of your case. 

The committed Horton & Mendez catastrophic accident and injury attorneys have the knowledge and skills to effectively represent you in your case and advocate on your behalf. We have successfully litigated and settled serious and catastrophic injury cases involving vacation rentals in North Carolina. We are ready to stand by your side to help you navigate the complex legal issues, including liability and damages involved in your catastrophic accident case. You can get started by contacting us at (910) 490-4303 to schedule a free evaluation of your case. We are committed to ensuring you obtain the fair financial compensation you and/or your loved ones deserve.

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