Are Homeowners Ever Liable for Natural Disaster Injuries?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Natural disasters don’t wait until everyone is safe in a home or public building to strike. You could be watching the game over at friend’s house or need to take shelter during a service call. If you suffer an injury at someone else’s home, you may wonder how you will pay for medical bills, the cost of rehabilitation, and time off work.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, including tornadoes, lightning strikes, severe storms, floods and earthquakes, are considered “Acts of God.” No one can foresee or prevent the damage caused by these events. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance are the first two places many individuals look after a natural disaster, but these two forms of insurance may only offer limited coverage after a natural disaster.

All insurance policies are negotiated using a “standard risk measurement.” Natural disasters often fall outside of those categories, and some homeowner’s insurance policies may not cover any injuries or damage associated with the disaster. Every insurance policy varies slightly. Homeowner’s should look closely to see what types of damage and injuries are covered after a natural disaster.

Many insurers do not cover flood damage, and others may limit the amount of compensation a policyholder or injured individual can collect. Both residents and guests who suffer during an incident may find some financial relief from these types of insurances, but it may not fully cover the associated costs.

When a Homeowner or Third Party Is Liable for a Visitor’s Injuries

Proving homeowner or third party liability after a natural disaster is difficult but not impossible. Property owners are required to reasonably address foreseeable hazards in and around the home. When they fail to do so or to warn visitors of the hazard, they are liable for any resulting injuries. For instance, if a friend comes over for dinner and a heavy wind gust in a storm knocks a tree over, hurting the individual, the homeowner may be liable. If the tree was dead or a hazard prior to the weather event, injury liability lies squarely with the property owner.

An injured individual may also hold a product manufacturer or a construction/installation company liable for an injury in some cases. For example, if a wooden beam falls in a barn during a tornado and a subsequent investigation shows the beam was not reinforced according to building code, the construction crew may shoulder the responsibility for any resulting injuries.

How Your Attorney Can Help

If you suffer an injury after a tornado, flood, mudslide, or other natural disaster on someone else’s property, you may have access to compensation through a homeowner’s insurance policy. In addition to helping you investigate the proximal cause of your injury, your attorney will:

  • Negotiate with medical insurance providers – After a serious injury, your health insurer may try to deny or reduce your coverage. Your attorney can represent you in front of your health insurer.
  • Represent you in front of homeowner’s insurance providers – A homeowner does not have much control over how their insurance provider handles their claim after a natural disaster. Your attorney can help you negotiate your claim with the insurer if the policy included coverage for injuries resulting from an Act of God.
  • Represent you during a lawsuit – In conjunction with negotiation with insurance providers, your attorney will likely pursue an alternative case to prove negligence on the part of a homeowner or a third party.

After a natural disaster, an injury attorney will help you secure compensation through every possible route. You shouldn’t have to suffer with the consequences of an injury that was out of your control. The team at the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC can help you determine the right course of action to secure the treatment and compensation you deserve. Contact our office in Dallas today for a free case evaluation.

Posted by admin at 7:58 pm

Understanding Fault in High Risk Activity Accidents

Friday, February 19, 2016

What happens if you get injured while rafting, paragliding, BASE jumping, or another extreme sport? Many of these activities require liability waivers, but a waiver does not necessarily preclude an injured individual from taking legal action against the organizer.

In 2012, a man in Fort Worth drowned during a mud run. In 2013, a Pennsylvania hospital’s emergency services took in 38 patients during a Tough Mudder (extreme obstacle course) event. Of course, there are many of these kinds of incidents, and they can quickly become tragic.

Extreme sports and obstacle courses are exhilarating, in part, because of the risk-factor. Liability waivers are designed to protect organizations from lawsuits arising from certain injuries or death. However, many waivers are not enforceable, even when a participant signs the document.

What Affects the Protectiveness of a Waiver?

Every state has different laws regarding contracts including waivers. Some states may not accept the terms or the structure of a waiver under state law. Assuming state laws do support the enforceability of a waiver, the waiver may still not protect the organization from a lawsuit.

A waiver only protects an organization within the limited scope outlined in the document. In other words, an organization may be liable for an injury that goes above and beyond the terms of the waiver. For instance, if you were injured because an organization knowingly changed the hazardous nature of an activity or failed to take reasonable safety precautions (extreme negligence), you may still be able to hold the organization accountable.

A good rule of thumb is to look at the nature of the activity and see if the factor that caused harm could have been reasonably eliminated without changing the nature of the activity. If it could have been removed or altered, then the waiver may not protect the organization from a lawsuit.

The Complexity of Waiver Enforceability in Texas

Enforceability of waivers is a complicated matter in Texas. There are no written laws that explicitly define what a liability waiver must contain to remain enforceable. Instead, courts rely on a patchwork arrangement of court opinions and interpretations to determine enforceability on a case-by-case basis.

If you have an attorney who understands the framework for enforceability in Texas, he or she can review the waiver and develop a case that either contests enforceability or goes beyond the scope of the waiver. For instance, if a parent signs a waiver for a child to go whitewater rafting, the parent may give up the ability to file a claim, but a child may recover some damages.

Always Talk to an Attorney After an Extreme Activity Injury

After a high risk activity accident, secure a copy of your signed liability waiver. Keep any recordings that capture the time of the incident, and tell your medical provider about your injury. If you were using equipment that malfunctioned, take pictures of the equipment.

Some individuals assume a waiver will keep them from recovering damages after an injury. As a result, they never pursue a legal consultation to determine if they have grounds for a lawsuit. At the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC, our initial consultations are always free, and we can help you determine if a lawsuit is the right course of action.

Knowing your rights can help you take action after an accident. You probably don’t need to have your attorney review every waiver before you, but don’t be afraid to reach out to an attorney if you have any questions. You may have options to secure financial compensation that will cover the cost of your injury and rehabilitation. For more information, contact the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC in Dallas.

Posted by admin at 11:42 pm

Boat and Aircraft Injuries: Crew Liability Issues

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If someone is injured on an airplane or boat, the individual or company responsible for the passengers is typically liable for the accident. However, the actions crew members take after the injury can help or hurt liability issues. Crew members must act professionally and follow certain standards when addressing injuries that occur in-transit.

Crew Member Responsibility

Crew members are responsible for using a certain standard of care during the course of work. On airplanes, for instance, flight attendants are responsible for ensuring all passengers have been adequately warned to wear seatbelts during rough weather, to reasonably accommodate passengers, to follow emergency protocols, and to secure food carts/baggage as needed.

On boats, including cruise ships and chartered vessels, the crew must follow safety protocols to reasonably provide passenger safety. As on aircraft, boat crews must secure items onboard in accordance with reasonable safety standards. They must respond to emergencies using the proper procedures and may need to keep working logs regarding their duties onboard.

Negligence Factors in Injury Cases on Water and in the Air

Many injury claims involving boats and airplanes focus on the initial cause of injury, but they can also include elements of negligence after an injury occurs. On water and in the air, an injured passenger may not receive immediate medical attention. In these cases, crew members must respond appropriately to the situation to avoid further liability.

Crew members must pass training on first aid, CPR, passenger management, security, evacuation and numerous other emergency situations. Any time a crew member fails to act in accordance with emergency procedure, the company in charge may face further liability issues. Every crew member must act with reasonable care towards passengers during the course of duty.

When Crew Members Are Not Responsible for Injuries

On boats and in aircraft, some events are outside the crew members’ control. An airline or boating company cannot control the weather or other freak accidents. Crew members are trained to respond in these situations, but they are not responsible for additional, unavoidable injuries.

What Should I Do if I Am Injured on a Boat or Airplane?

Always tell a crew member you are injured, and seek medical attention. Document your injury and pay attention to how the crew behaves in the aftermath. Did they offer first aid? Did they take steps to obtain medical attention in a timely manner? Did they reasonably accommodate your needs? If the answer is no to any of these, you may want to contact an attorney. Most airlines and commercial vessels follow a standard of care when handling onboard injuries. Your attorney can help you determine if the crew acted appropriately under the circumstances.

Who Do I File a Lawsuit Against if I Suffer an Injury on a Boat or Airplane?

Typically, an injured passenger will file a lawsuit against the company who owns the airplane or vessel. In some cases of extreme negligence, a passenger may hold an individual crew member liable. Dock workers, the FAA, and other air and water professionals may hold some level of responsibility for injury or the treatment of an injury. If you were a passenger on a private charter, the owner of the plane or vessel is responsible for your injury and subsequent treatment.

You can and should file a complaint if you experience an avoidable injury or unreasonable care after an injury on a boat or airplane. In addition to informing the responsible party, consider taking legal action. A personal injury attorney can help you develop a case for financial compensation. Contact the Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, P.C. for questions about crew member responsibilities and injury from boat or airplane mishaps.

Posted by admin at 11:47 pm