Who Is Held Liable for Catastrophic Vacation Rental Accidents in NC?

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Accidents happen unexpectedly, even while vacationing in a rental home. The unthinkable is even more devastating when the accident is catastrophic or tragic. 

Catastrophic vacation rental accidents can be serious, life-changing, or life-threatening incidents. For example, a previous North Carolina catastrophic vacation rental accident involved the tragic and preventable death of a child who was crushed by a residential elevator due to a trap door. In another case, visitors suffered serious injuries from a collapsed deck at a vacation rental. Most concerning is that the vacation rental owners could have taken steps to ensure the rental was safe for its visitors and to protect them from the risk of harm, including serious injury and death.

If you and/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, you may be wondering who can be held liable for the damages and losses suffered as a result.

Owner Liability:

If the vacation rental owner is legally at fault, you may be entitled to financial compensation for damages and losses resulting from your injuries. Vacation rental owners in North Carolina have a legal duty to ensure that their premises are safe and maintained so that visitors are not at risk of harm or injury. 

Specifically, North Carolina has laws in place to protect renters from vacation rental hazards or improper maintenance. North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act applies to short-term rentals where the tenant rents the vacation property for less than 90 days. This Act regulates vacation rentals and requires the owner to ensure the premises are safe as a means to protect you.

Under the Act, owners must ensure:

  • the condition of the property is livable
  • existence of functioning smoke detectors 
  • placement of carbon monoxide alarms on each floor 
  • adherence to housing regulations
  • a signed rental agreement outlining the owner and tenant’s responsibilities, including payment and fees

Where the owner failed to meet their duty to maintain safe premises to protect visitors, the owner can be held liable for damages caused by catastrophic accidents. 

Examples of catastrophic events and injuries may include:

  • A life-threatening fire due to lack of properly maintained appliances and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms resulting in severe burns
  • A massive tree falling on the premises, severely injuring visitors and causing a spinal cord injury
  • A visitor drowning from a swimming pool accident due to the improper maintenance of the swimming pool area
  • A balcony that collapses and injures visitors causing multiple bone fractures

Contributory Negligence:

North Carolina follows a contributory negligence approach which provides that the 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 applies to catastrophic injuries in North Carolina. 

Under this approach to apportioning fault, a determination of any fault on your part, even if it is as small as 1%, would result in zero recoveries on damages. This is particularly concerning since you may be completely locked out of any financial recourse if found to have any fault. 

For this reason, it is critical to have an injury attorney by your side to ensure that you don’t miss out on your chance to receive the fair and just compensation that you deserve. For example, if you are found to be negligent, an attorney can advise you on your legal options, including defenses such as the last clear chance defense. 

Under this doctrine, your attorney can argue that the other driver had the last clear opportunity or chance to avoid the accident. If the defendant is found to have had the last clear chance to prevent an accident and failed to take that opportunity, then the defendant’s negligence—rather than any negligence on your part—was the proximate cause of your injuries. An attorney can best advise you as to whether contributory negligence applies as well as if any defenses such as last clear chance are applicable to your specific case. 

Seek Legal Help From a North Carolina Catastrophic Accident and Injury Attorney:

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

An experienced attorney can help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including whether you can establish the owner’s violation of North Carolina’s laws, which are intended to protect vacation renters from preventable harm at the hands of the owner. 


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

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! 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 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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