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Guests who suffer a personal injury in your home may be able to sue you for negligence. Third parties who are injured by your guests after they leave your home may also have a cause of action against you. The next time you have a wedding in your backyard, you may have more to worry about than if the vegetarians have enough of a food selection to keep them happy.
Homeowners Owe Guests a General Duty of Care
Homeowners must provide a reasonably safe environment for guests who are invited onto their property. You have a duty to prevent conditions that may cause injuries, unless the danger is so visible and obvious that a guest should be able to avoid it. This responsibility is based on traditional standards for negligent behavior, which can hold you responsible for injuries that result from unintentional accidents. Courts typically impose greater liability on homeowners when the injuries involve children, since they are less able to recognize danger.
Insurance Protects Homeowners
Homeowners insurance is the primary way to protect yourself against accidental injuries to guests. This type of insurance is available to property owners and renters. The policy covers most types of accidental injuries to guests but does not cover injuries that result from intentional acts, such as getting into a fight with a guest. That said, some courts have forced insurance companies to pay out under a policy for intentional acts that resulted in unintentional injury.
Serving Alcohol to Guests
Another type of guest liability falls under the concept of social host liability. The homeowner is responsible under this theory for injuries to third parties resulting from their guests who drive home under the influence of alcohol. You may be liable if you served alcohol to your guest, knew the guest was drunk, and knew the guest would be driving.
Special Liability for Underage Guests
In certain states, social host liability can extend to underage drinking by guests in your home. These states hold the parents responsible for kids drinking in their home even if the parents did not know of the drinking, explicitly prohibited drinking, and no harm resulted. Homeowners can be sued by the parents of the visiting teenager and can face legal penalties and jail time. In other states, parents are liable for underage drinking by guests in their home under certain circumstances, such as when the drinking results in an accident.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding injuries sustained by people visiting your home is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a personal injury lawyer.