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DW Got Injured While Looking at a House for Sale; Are Homeowners Liable?
Old 03-05-2021, 10:22 PM   #1
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DW Got Injured While Looking at a House for Sale; Are Homeowners Liable?

This has to be one of the worst days of our lives. We drove 175 miles to look at a house for sale. We met the realtor at the house. The homeowners were present. DW and I looked at the inside of the house while the homeowners stayed outside on their deck.

Then we went outside to look at the exterior of the house. After exiting the front door and porch and walking on the sidewalk towards the driveway, DW's foot stopped abruptly as it hit a section of the sidewalk that had separated and was about half an inch higher than the rest of the sidewalk. This tripped her. She fell full force on her face and began bleeding profusely from the nose as she sat up on the ground. She could not get up. I immediately applied slight pressure to her nose, and after about 15 seconds I determined this was very serious and yelled out to the homeowners to call 911.

Paramedics arrived and got the bleeding under control. In addition, her glasses cut a small gash in the bridge of her nose, her forehead was all scraped up, her wrist was bruised and sprained from trying to break her fall and she hit her knee and could not bend it.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital. In the ER, DW had 3 cat scans (one each of the spine, head, and face); and x-rays of her hand, wrist, and knee (4 views). Diagnosis: Open fracture of nasal bone (she broke her nose in 3 places, which may require surgery, it's too early to tell); injury of head; multiple abrasions; and a sprained wrist. Her glasses were also destroyed. I just pray we did not contract Covid because we were in the hospital ER for 4 hours!

At the time of DWs fall, I did not realize two sections of the sidewalk were mismatched and different heights and thought DW's foot caught the pavement because she did not lift it up far enough (she tripped at home once in this manner), so I said to the homeowners she has fallen like this before, as a reassurance for them to not worry about us sueing, but in retrospect, I think this might be serious negligence on their part, and I should not have said anything. DW at some point pointed to the sidewalk sections and said she fell because one part "was about an inch higher than the other", and I looked at it and judged the separation to be about half an inch vertically.

The homeowners are retired too (husband and wife, but older than us by a few years). The wife said her husband has fallen before. You would think that because of this, they would be aware of the danger their sidewalk presents and would have mentioned it to prospective buyers or had it fixed.

I have no idea what this is going to cost us. Some of the medical services may be out of network (DW is on Medicare and has United Healthcare supplemental insurance). Are the homeowners liable for damages through negligence? What about pain and suffering? How would you handle this situation if it happened to you? We live in Virginia and the property is in Virginia, if that matters in terms of the law. Thanks,
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:39 PM   #2
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Homeowners are always liable. But that doesn't mean you should sue them. It's up to you. If it was me I'd see what the bills are like, and decide from there. If there turns out to be anything majorly expensive then maybe contact the homeowners and their insurance company.

IMO opinion this is sort of a Golden Rule situation. If someone was at your house and fell and hurt themselves, would you want them to sue you? But JMO, and worth what you paid for it.
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:41 PM   #3
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Home sellers most likely have HO insurance. This seems like one of those things HO "should" cover. And perhaps home sellers HO coverage has "medical" for injuries on the property as part of coverage.
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:53 PM   #4
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IANAL. Probably not.

The duty of care that a property owner is obliged to provide differs depending on whether the person in question is a welcome guest or an unwelcome one.

I don't think a property owner owes it to a guest to point out a 1/2 inch height difference in a sidewalk. Uneven concrete is something that most reasonable adults are aware of and pay attention to.

Your wife also has her own duty to be careful and pay attention in unfamiliar surroundings, especially if she is unsteady on her feet.

One way you could simply find out if you have a decent case or not is to call a couple of personal injury lawyers in your state and see if they're interested in the case. I doubt you do, but I could be wrong.

What you might do is see if the out-of-network determination can be waived because it was an emergency situation.

If you're angry about your wife getting hurt and the medical bills, I think that's definitely understandable. And when I get upset I do start thinking about suing someone who I think might be responsible. Usually I cool off after a week or so. I'd let it go and try to be more careful in the future.
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Old 03-05-2021, 11:01 PM   #5
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I’m sorry your wife got hurt, but I do feel it’s her own responsibility to watch where she’s walking, uneven sidewalk or not. JMHO. I hope she has a speedy recovery.
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Old 03-05-2021, 11:12 PM   #6
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I'm sorry that you and your DW had a horrible day, and no doubt that your DW will suffer and have what will seem like a long road to recover.

Like others, I don't see a 1/2" difference in sidewalk slabs as being negligent... slabs shift over time and 1/2" isn't all that significant. Actually, a couple weeks ago I almost tripped over a ~1/2 difference in slabs near our community pool... checked it out and decided that I just needed to be more careful and pick up my feet more.

That said, you can sue anyone for anything and the seller's homeowners and/or umbrella policies may provide some financial recourse... insurers are used to paying slip and fall injury claims all the time. If you feel that you have been damaged and want to seek recourse, see a personal injury attorney.
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Old 03-05-2021, 11:24 PM   #7
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What you might do is see if the out-of-network determination can be waived because it was an emergency situation.
Iím sorry your wife got injured. I think the first thing to do is focus on her recovery. Thereís time for the other things. Once you see the bills, you can try to get the determination changed if necessary. You may even put in a call to your insurance company to see what they think in advance of the bills coming. The last thing on the list is to decide on any legal remedies.

Right now itís time to clear your head and focus on your wife and yourself. Your wife definitely got the worst of it, but youíve both been through a traumatic incident. Take time to heal.

Hoping for a quick and thorough recovery for you both.
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Old 03-05-2021, 11:25 PM   #8
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I have Medicare and a UHC Supplement, assuming you have Plan G there are no networks and you should be good there. I kind of agree with others, I would not sue.
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Old 03-06-2021, 12:33 AM   #9
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... After exiting the front door and porch and walking on the sidewalk towards the driveway, DW's foot stopped abruptly as it hit a section of the sidewalk that had separated and was about half an inch higher than the rest of the sidewalk. This tripped her...
Is the sidewalk a public right of way and city property? If it falls into disrepair, should the city be responsible for maintaining it?
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:12 AM   #10
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I predict a couple years of legal hassles.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:29 AM   #11
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Half an inch eh? The sidewalks here should be so good.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:32 AM   #12
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It doesn't sound like a half inch will cut it for a lawsuit, but what do I know.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:35 AM   #13
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If they have a homeowners policy, it probably has med pay coverage which would pay your medical bills without regard to liability. I would turn in a claim to their HO carrier and see what they say. Sometimes companies will offer a small amount over the medical costs to get you to sign a release and close the claim out. If you're trying for a larger settlement, you would most likely need to get an attorney who would typically take about a third of any settlement.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:43 AM   #14
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Half an inch eh? The sidewalks here should be so good.
+1

There are sidewalk discontinuities of more than a couple of inches, in front of every house on our block (except mine, because I had my sidewalk re-done). One house has a discontinuity of probably 6 inches in the sidewalk in front of it. We don't go for a walk on the sidewalk without a cane or walker. Some people just walk in the street since it is safer.

NateW, I am so sorry that your wife had such an awful fall! I wish her the best.
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:15 AM   #15
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I am sorry your wife was hurt and that you have to deal with this.

I think you should cool down for a few days and take some deep breaths and relax so you can make good decisions going forward. In another thread about your neighbors offensive wood smoke the very first thing you did was get the city inspector involved. It obviously wasn't a favorable way to start dealing with that situation. Now your first reaction to this situation is to find someone liable or negligent, find a lawyer and "sue the ba$tard$". It is horrible that this happened but it was an accident and nothing more. This is the very reason YOU have insurance. It's not like the sellers left a bunch of deck boards loose and not screwed down or didn't tell you about a wobbly spiral staircase. It was concrete sitting on the ground. Concrete shifts and moves along with the earth especially this time of year. I think your wife needs to be more aware of her surroundings.

I am sure the sellers are already devastated by this situation. They have probably already contacted their insurance company to warn them of the situation. I remember from your other smelly wood smoke thread that you don't like the chance of confrontation. If you find it necessary have the realtor that you dealt with make the initial contact with the sellers.

Looking back at yourself and the difficult situations you have come across during your lifetime do you think you have a history of overreacting?
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:36 AM   #16
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Homeowners are always liable. But that doesn't mean you should sue them. It's up to you. If it was me I'd see what the bills are like, and decide from there. If there turns out to be anything majorly expensive then maybe contact the homeowners and their insurance company.

IMO opinion this is sort of a Golden Rule situation. If someone was at your house and fell and hurt themselves, would you want them to sue you? But JMO, and worth what you paid for it.
Like others, I’d say no. If it happened at the home of a friend or family member would you be considering a lawsuit? But I am very sorry your wife was hurt and I hope she has a full recovery.
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Old 03-06-2021, 06:36 AM   #17
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I would talk to an injury lawyer. Golden rule doesn't apply when you could be looking at long term medical issues.
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Old 03-06-2021, 06:52 AM   #18
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Can't help on the legal part but I do feel very bad for what has happened. I hope all goes well, and take one day at a time and things will fall into place what needs to be done.
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DW Got Injured While Looking at a House for Sale; Are Homeowners Liable?
Old 03-06-2021, 06:55 AM   #19
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DW Got Injured While Looking at a House for Sale; Are Homeowners Liable?

So sorry this happened to your DW. I once had a bad fall as a result of a pot hole in a parking lot. I called a of couple of those injury lawyers here in VA who both told me that as long as the area was visible to me, I didnít have a case. I had a duty to watch where I was putting my feet.
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Old 03-06-2021, 06:56 AM   #20
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Sorry for your travails.. Here's to a swift recovery.

I'd be surprised if you have any uncovered medical expenses, given Medicare and United Health.

And pain and suffering? I can't imagine it given the circumstances of this situation.
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