Real Life Question-and-Answer Series: Injury from Defective Handrail on Vacation Property
In our “Real Life Question-and-Answer” Series, we present actual questions that have been posed by real people and the answers we’ve provided. In this case, a woman on vacation was injured when the railing on a staircase at her vacation home came apart. She had questions. We offered answers.
REAL QUESTION FROM A REAL PERSON:
We were on vacation staying in a 3rd floor condo with outside stairs. My wife was climbing the stairs when the hand rail at the 2nd floor landing came apart, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs. She has bruises, scrapes, swollen foot/ankle and sore shoulder as of now. there are still bruises forming. I have been taking pictures of the bruising and scrapes as well as the landing where the hand rail came apart. Also, the outside light for the 3rd floor landing was not working and there was no light at the 2nd floor landing. My question is: What recourse do I have to get reimbursed from the property owner for the medical bills? I notified the rental agent that rented the property to us on behalf of the owner. He said he was going to notify the owner
ANSWER FROM Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C.
A Pennsylvania property owner who rents property to others has a duty to look for safety problems and either fix them or adequately warn renters about the problem. This doesn’t mean that a property owner is automatically responsible for harm that occurs on the property, but it does mean that if an unsafe condition was known to the property owner, or should have been discoverable upon a reasonable inspection, then the property owner is liable for whatever harm is caused by the condition.
It is your burden, as an injured person, to prove that there was an unsafe condition and that the property owner knew or should have known about it. You’ve done excellent work in getting photos and notifying the leasing agent. To take the investigation further, you will probably need the help of a lawyer who employs competent investigators.
Of course, if bruising is the extent of the injury and all you’re interested in is getting the E.R. visit paid, then it may be possible to handle the matter without a lawyer. Most commercial property owners have insurance and that insurance usually has a special coverage familiarly known as med pay coverage. It is not unusual for insurers to pay medical bills from this coverage without requiring proof of liability. I do not recommend that you try to resolve the matter without an experienced personal injury attorney. There’s just too much that we don’t yet know about your case (e.g., the extent of the injury, the position of the landowner, the extent of the insurance, etc.) and too many risks involved in waiting (e.g., loss or destruction of evidence), but acting without an attorney is, nevertheless, an option.
I’d be pleased to discuss the matter with you further, if you’d like. My direct dial number is 814-833-7100, or I can be reached through my website.