Many residents do not consider the typical Philadelphia row house to be complete without a deck or porch. The deck or porch provides extra living space and an outdoor area as an antidote to the typically cramped urban environment. However like all outdoor fixtures porches, decks, terraces and railing are all vulnerable to the elements. In the winter the melting and refreezing of snow and ice can result in the warping of materials and weakening of the entire structure. In the summer, the heat, humidity and severe storms bring challenges of their own. Following the particularly harsh winter of 2013 to 2014, it is especially important to preform inspections and make necessary repairs. A timely inspection before the deck is used this spring could be the difference between a relaxing barbeque and a tragic accident.
What are the typical causes for deck collapse?
According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), accidents due to improperly maintained decks and railings have increased at an, “alarming rate”. Typical causes for a deck collapse include the age of the deck, the failure to maintain the deck, exceeding the deck’s maximum load, and improper construction. NADRA estimates that based on age alone, roughly 40,000 decks in the United States are unsafe and in need of repair. Providing even greater cause for alarm, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) estimates that only 40% of decks are completely safe.
What injuries are typical in a deck collapse?
Although every accident is unique, certain injury types are more likely to occur in a deck, porch or terrace collapse. Injuries that can occur due to a deck collapse include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Fractured bones
- Ankle injuries
- Knee injuries
- Crushing injuries
NADRA reports that between 2000 and 2006, at least 30 people were killed as a result of a deck collapse. Perhaps even more troubling and underscoring the need for vigilance, the organization found that three-quarters of the occupants of a deck that collapses suffer either an injury or death.
What are my rights under Pennsylvania law?
When Pennsylvanians visit a hotel, motel, restaurant, vacation property or club they expect that the premises have been adequately maintained. In fact Pennsylvania law requires property owners to take certain inquiries, precautions and actions to correct dangerous conditions that could result in injury. Whether you are able to recover under Pennsylvania law, however, is dependent upon your status or reason for being on the property.
Pennsylvania law divides individuals into classes based on their reason for being on the property. These classes include:
- Invitee – Invitees are typically invited onto the property for a particular purpose. A customer shopping at a store or a handyman who is invited into a home to make repairs are considered invitees.
- Licensee – Licensees are permitted to enter the property because they have the permission of the owner. A typical example of a licensee is a houseguest.
- Trespasser – A trespasser is one who enters the property of another without permission; intent to trespass is not required.
Invitees are owed the highest duty of care by an owner meaning that the property owner must undertake a reasonable inspection to discover dangerous and take reasonable steps to warn or protect invitees from the dangerous conditions. Licensees receive a middle-ground protection; while the owner must warn or protect an invitee about known dangerous conditions, there is no duty to undertake an inspection. Trespassers receive the lowest level of protection and have the greatest difficulty in recovery as the owner simply may not engage in willful or wanton conduct that results in an injury.
If You Were Injured Because of a Defective or Collapsing Deck or Railing in Philadelphia
For more than 34 years, The Reiff Law Firm have protected the rights of those injured due to the negligence of another. To schedule your free consultation please call us at (215) 709-6940 or contact us online.