Many apartment and condominium complexes have the added benefit of a Homeowners Associations (HOAs) or condo associations to help maintain a clean and cohesive ambiance in the neighborhood. Beyond keeping up appearances, these associations often have a legal duty to the residences and common areas they oversee. If anyone, resident or guest, is injured while visiting a communal area, liability could be placed on the HOA or Condo association.
While laws and statutes can vary by state, it is important to understand the rights and responsibilities property owners and associations have to a designated neighborhood. People who were injured on communal property of the HOA or condo association may be able to recover compensation after suffering injuries.
Proving HOA Liability
Premises liability is a legal concept involved in personal injury cases where an injury was caused by an unsafe or defective status on property. “Every personal injury case includes liability and damages,” note injury experts at Bonilla Injury Law, “based on the unique nature of the injury suffered, different damages are available to help compensate a victim for the physical and emotional harm suffered in an accident.”
To prove an HOA is liable for a person or parties’ injuries, there are four key elements that must be established and proven:
A claimant must prove the HOA or condo association had a duty to reasonably maintain the premises for all residents and guests, including discovering and repairing any dangers. This legal duty will most likely be stated in the HOA contract.
Breach of Duty
A claimant must prove the HOA or condo association knew or should have known about the unsafe or dangerous condition of the property and still failed to properly address or warn the community about the threat.
A claimant must prove the HOA or Condo association’s action or negligence directly caused the injury or significantly contributed to the injury.
In addition to proving the three elements above, the claimant must also prove that he/she/they suffered measurable losses. Recoverable damages for a personal injury often include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and emotional suffering.
Common Types Liability Cases with HOAs
Property owners and associations are responsible for keeping their grounds safe and free from possible injury for all visitors, resident or guest, and may be held liable if an injury occurs.
Common premises liability accidents include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Snow and ice accidents
- Trip accidents
- Dog attacks
- Elevator accidents
- Escalator accidents
- Accidents caused by uneven curbs
- Inadequate security
- Toxic fumes
- Toxic chemicals
- Swimming pool accidents
Associations can also be held responsible for external maintenance of a community, such as roofing, and thus could be held responsible if someone was injured due to broken or faulty exterior construction work.
Common Injuries in Premises Liability Cases
While no two accidents are alike, premises liability cases often have similarities. Common personal injuries sustained in premises liability cases include:
- Broken bones
- Dog bites
- Dislocated or fractured bones
- Lung damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Emotional suffering or anguish
What to Do After Sustaining an Injury on HOA Property
The aftermath of a personal injury can be stressful. Many personal injury victims are unsure of what to do next, including when to seek medical and professional help.
Immediately Seek Medical Help
Seeking immediate medical attention should be the first priority after sustaining an injury on HOA property. Call an ambulance if necessary or drive to the nearest available emergency room. Even if you don’t feel pain, it is best to visit a medical professional; some injuries aren’t obvious or may develop in the days following an accident.
Any delay in seeking medical attention could affect the validity of your personal injury claim, should you decide to file in the future.
If possible, return to the accident scene and collect evidence. Keep a written record of details that occurred before, during, and after the accident in your own words to help recall what happened. Gather police reports, witness contact information, photos, videos, as well as timestamps of the events.
Keep to Yourself
During the process, only discuss your injury and case with trusted professionals. Telling your friends and coworkers the details surrounding the incident may seem harmless, but could be used against you if you chose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Only discuss your case with your doctor and/or attorney and avoid posting photos or status updates on social media platforms.
Talk With a Professional
If you are contemplating filing a claim, a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer is a good place to start. Many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and can help explain your rights and time limits for filing a premises liability claim against the HOA, condo association, or respective insurance company. A lawyer can also be a helpful resource to collect evidence, connect you with medical professionals, and give you peace of mind.