Deck collapses fall under the umbrella of North Carolina premises liability law. When you are on the property of another, they have the legal obligation to use reasonable care to keep you safe. It goes without saying that a balcony or deck collapse should never happen. However, there is a long way from the time of your injury until you may be able to receive a check.
The deck collapse attorneys at Horton & Mendez in Wilmington, NC, can handle your case from beginning to end. Call us today to learn more.
The Risk of Injuries From Deck Collapses
Roughly 6,000 people each year are injured in a deck or porch structural failure. Not only are people on the deck or balcony are at risk, but those below it too may also be harmed if the balcony collapses onto them.
A serious recent accident in the North Carolina mountains underscored the dangers that people face in deck collapses. Eleven people were injured, including two who were airlifted to a hospital, when they fell through the middle of a deck.
In the past, there have been several mass injury incidents when decks collapsed during a gathering. Some of these incidents occur in beach towns on the North Carolina coast, where the ground may not be as sturdy.
North Carolina Law Is Often an Obstacle to Deck Safety
North Carolina law does not always promote deck and balcony safety. First, municipalities may not pass more stringent building codes than those that are in place in the state. Second, there are no inspections required after the initial structure is built. The state can stand to better because the lax laws increase the chances of deck collapses.
Still, “the law didn’t require it” is not necessarily a valid defense when an owner did not inspect and maintain their own balcony or deck. A reasonable person would still act to keep a deck in safe condition regardless of whether an inspection was required.
Where Patio or Deck Collapses May Occur
Deck collapses may occur anywhere that there is a structure. Most often, a collapse will happen at a private home, where a contractor (or the homebuilder itself) built the deck.
Other places where a deck or balcony collapse may occur include:
Causes of Balcony and Deck Collapses
It may take some time to learn what was to blame for the accident.
Potential causes of patio or deck collapses can be:
- Structurally, the deck may have pulled away from the house.
- Inadequate support for the deck.
- There may have been nothing wrong with the deck as designed and built, but the property owner may not have properly maintained the deck over time, with deficiencies such as rotted wood or rusted metal.
- The deck may have been built in a location that cannot support one.
- The establishment or property owner may have allowed too many people on the deck, or they did not ensure that the weight was evenly distributed.
Investigators may study what happened to reach a conclusion about who or what was to blame for the deck collapse. In the meantime, your attorney may also hire an expert to determine the cause of the accident.
The Legal Standard in a Deck or Balcony Collapse Lawsuit
Deck collapse claims are a type of premises liability lawsuit. In order to receive compensation for a deck collapse injury, you must prove that someone was negligent. In a premises liability case, negligence often means that the property owner knew or should have known of the danger but did not take reasonable action to protect you. Presumably, the property owner should have known of the potential risks through an inspection or by keeping the deck from being overloaded.
In a premises liability case, you have the burden of proof. You must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant should be responsible to pay for your injuries. Your attorney would need to understand why the deck collapsed and know how to gather the evidence that proves their responsibility.
Potential Defendants in a Deck or Balcony Collapse Lawsuit
Potentially liable parties when you have been hurt in a deck or balcony collapse include:
- The owner of a home that you were visiting who invited you onto the deck
- The leasing agent of a property that had a deck
- A restaurant or tavern owner with an outdoor deck that collapsed
- The contractor who built the deck
- An engineer who designed the deck
In many deck collapse cases, there is more than one responsible party. Your lawyer can advise you to sue everyone who had played a role in your injuries and let them sort out who pays what for your injuries. If you can sue several parties, there may be more insurance coverage to fully compensate you.
Challenges in a Deck Collapse Lawsuit
Although you may think that a deck collapse case is simple, there are several challenges that you may face, including:
- Learning exactly who was responsible for the accident, in light of the many possible defendants.
- Responding to the insurance company’s allegations that you may have been to blame for the accident based on a lack of maintenance of the deck or overcrowding.
- Uncovering evidence that showed that the property owner knew or should have known about the danger.
- Coming up with the exact valuation of your damages in light of your own specific situation.
Contact a Wilmington Deck and Balcony Collapse Lawyer Today
Deck and balcony collapse injuries can be very serious. Many suffer head injuries when involved in this type of accident. The attorneys at Horton Mendez can review your case and completely investigate what happened.
We can then take legal action on your behalf against the appropriate party, fighting for you at every step of the way. To learn more about your case, and to speak with a lawyer, you can message us through our website, or you can call us today at (910) 812-5874.