Elevator Accidents in Vacation Rental: Can I File a Lawsuit?

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Elevator accidents are serious and can tragically happen to you and/or a loved one on a vacation rental property. In fact, between 1981 through 2019, residential elevator accidents caused 4,600 injuries and 22 deaths.

Elevator door gaps are considered a hidden and deadly danger, particularly to small children who are at risk of being crushed and either killed or left with long-term injuries.

Following the recent death of a North Carolina child who suffered a tragic death in a vacation rental elevator, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced new guidelines for vacation properties. These guidelines urge vacation rental owners with residential elevators to:

  • Notify renters (in an email, warning box, or on reservation site) of residential elevator dangers
  • Ensure elevator safety and inspection certifying no existence of a hazardous gap
  • Disable the residential elevator and/or lock its entrance access doors

Pursuing a Lawsuit

While the above warnings have been issued to owners regarding residential elevator concerns—if you have been directly affected by an elevator accident in a vacation rental, you may be left wondering what you can do.

You may be interested in filing a lawsuit against the owner and others and be entitled to be awarded money damages to cover your losses such as medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering because of the residential elevator accident.

Vacation Rental Owner Responsibilities

If you have been personally injured due to the property owner’s failure to keep the premises safe, specifically by failing to ensure you and/or loved ones are safe from the harms of their residential elevator, then you may have a claim against the owner and be eligible for personal injury compensation to cover your damages.

Under the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act (the “Act”), which regulates short-term rentals that are being visited for less than 90 days, owners of vacation rental properties are required to ensure their property is maintained in safe conditions for visitors. This includes safe conditions on the premises, including locking or disabling access to a faulty residential elevator.

The property owner is also responsible for ensuring that elevators are maintained to a high, functioning, standard. Ideally, they should have their elevators inspected each year by a licensed professional. Additionally, property owners should use a reputable service provider, replace old components, and promptly make repairs. In the event that their elevator is not working, or malfunctioning, they should lock access to said elevator.

Under the Act, which serves to protect visitors, the owner must provide you with writing in the rental agreement:

  • the duties and obligations of the owner and tenant (i.e., ensuring that there is at least one functioning carbon monoxide alarm on every floor, functioning smoke detectors, non-slippery floors)
  • what you will pay under the agreement
  • security deposit and fees
  • agreement to comply with applicable housing regulations

Damages

Economic damages include:

  • medical expenses and bills (including doctor and hospital visits, procedures, and treatment, including those that are ongoing and/or in the future)
  • lost wages (including lost future wages)

On the other hand, non-economic damages are intangible losses you have suffered, which may be referred to as “pain and suffering,” which include the non-physical harms suffered such as a diminished quality of life due to the inability to engage in your favorite hobbies or activities.

Non-economic damages may include:

  • emotional distress: emotional or psychological impact or conditions resulting from the injury such as discomfort, inconvenience, anxiety, and anguish.
  • Loss of consortium: losing the personal companionship, relationship, and support of a loved one who passed as a result of the accident.
  • Loss of enjoyment: a change to your quality of life, i.e., you can no longer enjoy activities that you once did before the accident.

Seek Legal Counsel

If you and/or a loved one is seriously injured or, in the most tragic cases—you lose a loved one, then you need an experienced and committed North Carolina attorney by your side to help you navigate the complex legal aspects, including liability and damages to obtain the fair financial compensation to which you and your family are entitled.

An experienced North Carolina attorney will know exactly what to look for in your rental agreement. Examples of some of the things they might look out for include the specifics of the Vacation rental act, and state specific laws, such as the  North Carolina three-year statute of limitations.

Documentation

Most importantly, you will need documentation to prove your injuries. You should take pictures of the scene of the accident and any noticeable defects on the elevator. If the cause of the accident is clear you should ensure to capture photographic evidence of this as well.  Also, if you were hospitalized, medical records and bills are ideal for proving your injuries and damages. If you experienced pain and suffering, an experienced North Carolina injury attorney could help identify the most effective way to document non-economic damages, as these may be more challenging to prove. For example, a daily diary of how your quality of life and/or mental health have declined as a result of the elevator accident should effectively demonstrate these damages.

Based on an examination of the facts and evidence of your case, your attorney will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including whether they can establish the vacation renter owner’s failures to maintain a safe and/or livable rental home. Horton & Mendez Injury attorneys also has a team of expert engineers who work in conjunction with the legal team to help prove the case.

If the owner did not properly maintain the premises to ensure it is safe from the risk of injury and even death, then you may have a case against the vacation rental owner, who may be held liable to cover your damages. For example, in a residential elevator with a hidden risk of death and injury, such as a gap that caused you to become seriously injured, you could potentially sue the owner to be compensated for your losses, such as money expended on medical treatment and the lost wages from inability to work.

Don’t Delay, Contact a Wilmington Attorney Today!

If you have been personally injured or have lost a family member If you have been seriously harmed as a result of an elevator accident on a vacation rental property, contact us to find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit., the Horton & Mendez personal injury Attorneys have the knowledge and skills to effectively represent you in your injury case and advocate for your best interests. Don’t delay! Contact us at (910) 490-4303 to schedule a free evaluation of your case. We are committed to ensuring you obtain the financial compensation you and your family may deserve.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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