Deck Collapse / Railing Failure

Our firm has now handled two cases in which entire decks pulled away from houses, resulting in the deck falling sideways to the ground and severely injuring the occupants of the deck. In one case a large group of individuals were on a deck and were about to be served a low county boil, which was sitting over open flames, when the deck collapsed. This resulted in the boiling water and fire severely burning some of the individuals. We have also been involved in a number of cases in which the railing pulled away from the deck or otherwise broke.

Individuals often think that they will recover because they were injured on someone’s premises. However, just like a slip and fall/trip and fall case, the inquiry begins with the relationship of the individual who was injured to the owner of the home. See Slip and Falls/Trip and Falls. The individual is typically not an invitee because they are not there for business purposes. Usually the individual is there for social purposes and was a guest of the homeowner. As a licensee, or social guest, the only duty that the owner of the home owes to the individual is not to willfully and wantonly harm them. The insurance company for the homeowner will typically deny liability in these cases under the assertion that the homeowner had no knowledge of the defect and, therefore, did not know that there was a danger to their guest. Thus, they did not willfully and wantonly harm their guest and are not liable for their severe injuries!

This is a great example of why hiring an attorney immediately after being injured is so important. Your attorney can write a letter to the homeowner telling them not to make repairs or, if repairs are underway, to keep the pieces of the deck that are being replaced or repaired as evidence in the litigation. If they fail to do so, Georgia has a law, called spoliation of evidence, which might allow an individual to win a lawsuit based solely on the issue of the defendant spoliating the evidence. We then hire an expert who looks at the damaged deck or the materials removed from the damaged deck.

Georgia has certain building codes which are applicable to decks. If the homeowner is the one who constructed the deck then the homeowner may be, as a matter of law, on notice of a construction defect as a result of the fact that he constructed same. More often than not, the homeowner was not the original homeowner and did not construct the deck. However, if there is any visible rot or defect which, upon a normal inspection of a home by the homeowner, would show that the deck was starting to pull away from the house or a railing was pulling away from a deck or failing, then the homeowner can be charged with knowledge of the potential hazard and, therefore, can be charged with willfully and wantonly harming their social guest. A typical example would be visible rot on the boards where the deck attaches to the house. We have been repeatedly successful in these cases because of the immediate hiring of an expert and the willingness to spend the time and the money to get around the licensee or social guest defense.

Contact a Lawyer After Being Injured as No Fault of Your Own

To learn how we can help you after a being injured, call us at 912-212-2100 or click here.