If I went to give my neighbor a hug and she fell off of her chair and was injured in my garage, am I liable?

I was going on during a social gathering where underage drinking occurred in my garage. I was 21 and my neighbor was turning 21 in a week. Nobody gave her alcohol. She either went in the fridge and got it on her own or her boyfriend provided it. My mom was briefly in the garage but didn’t pay attention to who was drinking. She is always wearing neck or leg braces before the incident. She said that she had neck injuries headaches and a concussion before this. We have facebook statuses to prove it. She didn’t go to the hospital until 5 days later.

Asked on September 21, 2011 under Personal Injury, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The owner of the property would be liable for a guest's injuries that occurred on the property.  The fact that the neighbor was wearing leg or neck braces before she was injured by falling out of the chair is irrelevant because there ia rule in law that a defendant is liable for a plaintiff's injuries despite the plaintiff's condition.

It would be advisable for your parents as the property owners to refer this case to their homeowner's insurance company.

The fact that the neighbor didn't seek medical treatment for five days will not bar her claim because sometimes injuries don't manifest themselves immediately.  Her claim may include medical bills, pain and suffering, and documentation of any wage loss.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement. Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement. The medical reports will document the nature and extent of her injuries and will be used to determine  compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.

If the case is settled with your parents' homeowner's insurance, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled, the neighbor could file a lawsuit, but don't worry about it because if a lawsuit is filed, the homeowner's insurance company will provide you and your parents (the owners of the property) an attorney at no cost.  The insurance company will handle the case.


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