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Who Is Liable When A Deck Collapses?

Posted In On February 22, 2021

Man and woman enjoying outdoor social activityAs the weather heats up, many family gatherings and activities will migrate outdoors. If you’re lucky, your next family fun night will be held on the spacious deck of your home, condominium or apartment in Atlanta. Unfortunately, all decks are not built equally, which can result in tragic collapses. But who is liable if you are injured in a deck collapse?

What Causes a Deck to Collapse?

Deck collapses can be caused by many issues. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Rotten wood: Most decks are made of wood, which is vulnerable to the elements and may lead to rotting wood and rusted screws and nails. This also includes wood that was already rotting when purchased.
  • Termite infestation: Tiny pests that damage and eat through wood that is not treated properly. 
  • Poor design or construction: Since decks are governed by local building codes, it is common for a homeowner or contractor to try and save time or money by not building a deck to code.
  • Improper or defective materials: This could be the result of using wood that is too weak, or screws and nails that are not long enough or strong enough.
  • Lack of inspection and maintenance: A building’s owner has an obligation to regularly inspect and perform needed maintenance on their decks and porches.
  • Exceeding capacity: Having too many people on a structure at one time, or having items on it that are too heavy to be supported by it, is a recipe for disaster. The building owner should know and enforce said limits.

How Can a Home or Business Owner Keep Guests Safe on Their Deck? Decaying outdoor deck

Proper maintenance and inspection are the key components of keeping guests safe on balconies and decks. The proper maintenance of a deck includes tightening or replacing loose screws and bolts, removing splinters, sealing the wood against the elements to prevent rot and decay, reinforcing anchors and bolts that hold the deck to the permanent structure, and replacing warped or damaged boards. All of these things are the responsibility of the property owner.

There are codes to ensure a structure remains solid and can handle the additional weight limits. All deck maintenance and additions must adhere to all state specific building codes. If a deck was built by a licensed contractor or builder and a collapse occurs, then the builder can be held liable for the structure’s failure as long as it happens within 8 years of being built. 

The second line of defense for owner safety is adherence to weight limits identified in the building code. We’ve all seen stories on the news about how a deck or balcony collapsed because there were too many people on it. The weight or people limit is typically high. For example, a 10’x 10’ deck may max out at 75 people standing or dancing on it. However, an improperly maintained or unsafely built deck can collapse from a much smaller crowd.

Related: How to Avoid Common Summertime Injuries

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Deck, Porch, or Balcony Collapse?

Inspector examining residential deckA number of parties may be held liable for damages resulting from a deck collapse. Depending on what caused the collapse, liable parties could include:

  • The owner of the property
  • The property manager
  • The party charged with maintaining the structure
  • The designer or builder of the structure
  • The manufacturer of a defective part used in the structure’s construction
  • The entity that sold the flawed or defective part(i.e. hardware or lumber store)
  • The municipality charged with inspecting the structure

Most of the people or companies listed above already have insurance coverage to compensate their victims. 

Related: Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney

How Can Dermer Appel Ruder Personal Injury Attorneys Help?

The legal team at Dermer Appel Ruder can help you cut through the red tape. While we hope you are careful and safe while enjoying time in the sun this Spring, we know that accidents do happen. If you or a family member has the misfortune of being injured during a deck collapse, our team of dedicated injury attorneys can investigate the incident, determine liability, and put our 80-years of combined experience to work to get the compensation you deserve. Call us today for your free case evaluation.