With its hot sunny days, summer is the perfect time to hang out at the pool, travel to unknown parts of the country, or barbecue with friends and family members. With this increased activity, however, your chances of getting sued also rise. Here are three ways you may end up facing a lawsuit this season and what you can do to avoid them.
Serving Guests Alcohol
Since the weather stays nice and the daylight sticks around for longer periods of time, it's common for people to get together for parties and barbecues. Of course, it's also common for alcohol to be served at these events alongside burgers, corn, and cake. However, you could be held liable if any of your guests leave the party intoxicated and get into an accident while on the road.
There are a couple of ways this can happen. Some states have social host liability laws that hold party hosts responsible for their guests' behavior if they furnish alcohol to them and those people harm others as a result. However, most of the time, the law is only applicable if the intoxicated person was under 21 (the legal drinking age).
A second way you could be held liable is via negligence laws. If you knew something bad was going to happen because of someone drinking and did nothing to stop it, the injured person could come after you for damages. For example, you know your friend is going to drive after drinking but you supply the person alcohol anyway. If you don't make a reasonable effort to prevent the person from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, you could be held at least partially liable for any accident the person gets in.
Though it may be awkward, it's essential you establish a no drinking and driving policy and make sure anyone who plans on drinking has an alternative way home that doesn't involve them driving. Additionally, you need to take steps to ensure underage persons don't have access to the alcohol.
Leaving Your Pool Unattended
Another way you may end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit is if you don't secure your pool. While swimming can be relaxing, it's also one of the top causes of injury or death to children. Unfortunately, you can be held liable for a child's injury or death even if the kid trespassed on your property and used the pool without your permission.
This has to do with attractive nuisance law. The doctrine states homeowners have a duty to take precautions to keep children from accessing hazardous conditions the kids may find attractive, such as empty or filled pools, trampolines, and even trees. The courts recognize children often don't understand the risks associated with their actions and so adults must assume that burden. If a child trespasses on your property and drowns in your pool as a result, his or her parents can successfully sue you for damages if there was nothing preventing the child from getting to the area.
To avoid this issue, it's essential you erect a fence around your pool area and that the gate to access it can be locked. Make sure the fence can't be easily defeated (e.g. a child can climb a nearby tree to get over it). This way, if a child does get in your pool area without your permission, you can point to the measures you took to keep them out as a defense against liability.
Letting Your Dog Roam Freely
A third issue that's often the source of personal injury lawsuits is dog bites. It's not unusual for pet owners to let their dogs out to enjoy the nice summer weather. However, you need to make sure your animal companion is secured behind a fence or on a leash, particularly if the dog doesn't take kindly to strangers. If the dog ends up biting someone, you will be responsible for paying the person's medical bills and you might have to put your dog down, depending on its breed and history.
It's also a good idea to put a sign on your property warning you have a dog. This way, if someone trespasses on your property without your knowledge, they will have been adequately warned about the possibility of a dog attack.
For more information about these issues or help with a civil lawsuit, contact an attorney like Hart Law Offices, PC.