Liability for Injuries on HOA Property
Dealing with injuries on Homeowner Association (HOA) property can be a complex issue, leaving many individuals unsure of who carries the burden of responsibility. The fundamental rule is that the party responsible for causing injuries typically bears liability. However, when it comes to an HOA property specifically, certain circumstances might lead to the association itself being deemed liable.
HOAs Can Be Sued
The Homeowners Association holds a legal obligation to keep its premises in safe and working condition. If the HOA fails to fulfill this responsibility, and as a result an injury occurs on its property, you as the victim could potentially sue for damages. As a legally established entity, an HOA can be sued just like any other party.
To bring a successful claim against an HOA, you’ll have to establish liability. Specifically, you and your lawyer must convincingly demonstrate that they were negligent by proving the following:
Duty of Care: Show the court that your HOA had a legal obligation to maintain safe premises. Every HOA carries a responsibility to care for and maintain the safety of their property—this is a legal expectation, not just best practice.
Breach of Duty: Prove that there was a lapse or negligence on the part of your HOA’s role in maintaining safety standards and conditions. It’s critical to demonstrate the existence of an unreasonably dangerous condition at the time when your injury happened.
Causation: Present evidence that this breach directly led to your injury.
Damages: Lastly, display tangible proof that damages (physical, financial, or emotional) occurred as a result.
Duty of Care Depends on Category of Visitor
The exact level of care an HOA owes will depend on the classification of the visitor. Legally, visitors are typically divided into three categories: invitees (residents or property owners), licensees (social guests), and trespassers.
Invitee: As a resident or property owner, you’re considered an invitee and enjoy substantial legal protection. This means your HOA has a high standard to maintain safety conditions within its premises for your well-being.
Licensees: On the other hand, social guests fall under the licensee category. While they also benefit from certain protections – like expecting common areas to be safe – these expectations do not reach as far when compared to residents and property owners.
Trespassers: While it’s true that trespassers – those who enter the property without permission or right – generally aren’t owed a duty of care, there is an exception. Essentially, while HOAs are not obligated to assure safety for unauthorized visitors, they still bear a fundamental legal responsibility not to willfully harm them.
Examples of When a HOA Could Be Liable
The responsibility of a Homeowners Association is usually to maintain common areas and ensure the safety and well-being of their residents. When they fail in these duties, they may become liable for any ensuing injuries.
For instance, if common areas such as parks, swimming pools, or gyms aren’t appropriately maintained, leading to hazardous conditions that subsequently cause harm— you could possibly hold HOA responsible.
Similarly, sidewalks are the HOA’s responsibility. If the HOA is negligent in tackling issues such as ice during winter months, causing slippery surfaces, or failing to repair broken slabs which could potentially lead someone to trip and get injured, they could be held responsible.
When a Victim Shares Liability With HOA For The Injury
In South Carolina, the principle of modified comparative negligence applies to situations involving shared blame for an accident. This rule is important in homeowner association lawsuits when both the HOA and you could potentially bear some liability for your injury.
Modified comparative negligence is a system where compensation can be sought from another party as long as your own degree of fault isn’t higher than a certain level. In South Carolina, liability must be less than 51% in order to have a successful claim.
The final compensation award will then be reduced in proportion to your determined percentage of the blame.
If you’ve been injured on an HOA property in South Carolina and believe the association may hold some responsibility, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.