Child Injured at Someone’s Home, Owner Can’t Afford Restitution: What’s Next?

Hurt at House

Let me tell you a story about a young boy named Anthony. He just learned how to get up and down the stairs without holding his mother’s hand. Climbing the stairs on his own is about the best thing in his life right now, and he’s quite the boaster about it.

Today, Anthony is at his friend’s house for a play date. The friend’s father recently got laid off at work, though of course the children don’t know about this. The recent decrease to the family’s income has left certain household needs unattended. One of those needs is to fix some of the rotting steps that lead down to the basement.

Anthony sees these stairs while waiting in the kitchen for his friend’s mother to make some lunchtime sandwiches. Excited to do what he does best, Anthony starts his descent to the basement. But what good is taking the stairs without an audience? Anthony turns around and stomps excitedly to get his friend’s attention. In an instant, his foot sinks through the wood and Anthony tumbles backwards in shock.

Now Anthony has a broken leg and his play date has abruptly ended with a rush to the emergency room. Anthony’s mom doesn’t know how to approach getting restitution for her son’s injury. On the one hand, it was the friend’s family’s responsibility to protect her son from these rotting steps; on the other, she knows that the father recently got laid off and the family is struggling financially.

Child Injury Accidents Happen

Your most important responsibility to your children is to keep them safe. But can you always be around to do so? No. At some point you have to let the baby bird fly from the nest and go have a play date with another baby bird. But what happens if your child gets injured in someone else’s nest, and that nest owner can’t afford to pay restitution?

In the event that the homeowner is unable to pay restitution for your child’s injury, they will need their homeowner’s insurance agency to step in. Everyone should have homeowner’s insurance, so hopefully that much won’t be an issue. Here are just a few common causes of injury that come up for homeowner’s insurance cases:

  • Slips and falls
  • Poor security
  • Dog bites
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Roadway and sidewalk defects
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Iced entryways

Liability for injury on one’s own property can be a tricky issue. This is mainly because the laws of liability for homeowners are surrounded by guidelines that vary from state to state. While some states tend to favor the victim in their guidelines, others aim to protect the homeowner. Below are some of the factors that homeowners insurance will consider while pursuing a personal injury claim.

Whose Fault Is It?

In 9 out of 10 cases of liability for injury, homeowners are protected by something called “reasonable conduct.” This basically states that if the home or property owner took reasonable action to remove hazardous conditions from the property and warned you about those that still exist, they are most likely not liable for your injuries.

For example, if you slip and fall during a snowy day on your way into the movie theater, the theater might not be liable if they did their best to salt and shovel the sidewalks beforehand. Another instance is if you slip and fall on a floor that has been recently mopped. If the property owner placed a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign over the area, they partook in reasonable conduct.

Invitees Only Please

Other guidelines that might protect a homeowner from being liable for your kid’s injury have to do with whether or not your child was where they were supposed to be. Revisiting the story about Anthony, it could be said that he wasn’t supposed to be climbing those stairs to the basement. However, in the case of young children, appropriate supervision should keep them from going somewhere that might be dangerous. It is therefore a tough situation to decide whether or not the homeowner is liable for the child’s breach of invitee status.

Now, if your child happened to wander into someone else’s front yard and get bitten by that person’s dog – that would be a different story. If you or your child trespasses onto another person’s property, that homeowner owes you nothing in the event that injury occurred.

What Else Can You Do?

Most personal injury claims concerning homeowners don’t require an attorney. However, if you fear that the homeowner is not able to pay restitution, it might be best to hire personal injury attorney. Be sure to ask your attorney any and all questions to protect your livelihood in the case moving forward.

*Jeremy in the Attic by Thomas Mueller/CC BY-ND 2.0

child injury guide