Personal injury litigation can tear friendships apart, which is a problem that has become real to you since a friend fell through your deck during a party. They are claiming you owe them compensation for their injuries and are threatening to take you to court for negligence. What can you expect from a case like this and how can you defend yourself?
The Elements Of A Negligence Tort Case
Your friend's claim of negligence in this case must fall under multiple variables before it can hold up in court. For example, they have to prove that you failed in providing a reasonable standard of care for your guests, i.e. you did not create a safe environment for them to enjoy a visit. They would have to prove that you failed to repair your deck when damage was apparent.
The latter point is particularly important in a negligence case. If you were unaware of the damage to your deck (and can prove it), then your friend has no case against you. However, if they can show evidence that you knew of the damage (such as discussing it with a friend who testifies against you), their case may go to court.
Compensation You May Have To Pay
In a negligence case, you are liable to pay for injuries that occur to your friend after falling through your deck. For example, if their leg was severely cut by the wood of your deck or they suffered from a sprained ankle, you are likely going to have to pay for their medical expenses. You may also have to pay for loss of earnings and future earnings if they can't work for an extended period of time due to the injuries.
You may also have to pay for their pain and suffering or even mental anguish. In a case like this, however, these two instances may be more difficult to prove. You could argue that a person can't feel much mental anguish falling through a deck. While your friend may still try to pursue this argument, it's probably one you don't have to worry about so much as paying for their physical medical treatments.
How You Can Defend Yourself
In negligence cases, there are typically four different defenses: contributory negligence, comparative negligence, assumption of risk, and inherent risk. Contributory negligence states that the person who suffered from the injury contributed to it somehow. For example, your friend may have jumped on the damaged deck as a joke, knowing full well it was damaged.
Comparative negligence is harder to argue in this case because it states that your friend was more negligent than you. Assumption of risk is a little easier. If your friend knew that your deck was damaged, you could argue that they assumed a certain level of risk walking on the deck. Inherent risk is harder to argue, though, as most decks aren't inherently risky to stand on.
If you are concerned about the chance of getting sued by your friend in a case like this, talk to a personal litigation attorney right away. They can help you understand this case and give you a better chance of coming out of it without paying any money.