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Tips to Keep Your Home Safe for Guests in Winter

Winter provides many opportunities to celebrate with family and friends and enjoy each other’s company. However, winter weather brings many hazards that may cause accidents. Homeowners who invite guests into their homes may be at risk of a lawsuit if someone is injured on their property.

If you plan to host a party this winter, it’s essential to understand your liability as a host and learn ways to keep your home safe for guests this winter.

Wisconsin and Premises Liability

In Wisconsin, commercial and residential property owners are required to protect guests from an unreasonable risk of injury. Typically, this involves properly maintaining your property, addressing any dangers as soon as they are detected, and warning guests about known dangers that have not yet been addressed.

A property owner who fails to prevent reasonable dangers may be liable if a responsibly behaved guest is injured. However, the level of protection required by law varies based on the visitor’s classification. Visitors can fall into three categories:

  • Invitee: An invitee is a guest invited by the owner. If you are a homeowner throwing a party, your guests will be invitees. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care under Wisconsin Law.
  • Licensee: A licensee is a guest who enters the property for their own purposes with the approval of the landowner, such as a maintenance worker.
  • Trespasser: A trespasser is someone who enters the landowner’s premises without permission.

Your Liability as a Host

Under Wisconsin’s premises liability law, there are a few ways homeowners can be held liable for injuries in their homes:

  • The owner or occupant of the home directly caused the dangerous conditions that led to the injury. For instance, if you intentionally pour water on an icy walkway and a guest slips and injures themselves, you may be liable for any injuries they sustain.
  • The owner or occupant was aware of the dangerous conditions that led to the injury and failed to repair them. For example, you knew that the steps leading to your home were covered in ice but failed to address the issue. You will likely be held liable for any injuries sustained by guests as a result.
  • The owner or occupant should have reasonably known of the dangerous condition. If an average reasonable person would have discovered the dangerous conditions and repaired the hazard, you may be held liable if you failed to discover it.

However, a guest will be unable to recover compensation if they were found to have contributed at least 51% of the fault in an accident.

Tips to Keep Your Guests Safe in Winter

If you plan to host a gathering this winter, take steps to prevent injury and avoid liability in the event of an accident. The following tips can help shield you from a potential lawsuit.

  • Inspect Your Home Before the Party: Under Wisconsin’s premises liability law, homeowners are responsible for maintaining a safe home. To prevent injury to guests, conduct a full inspection of your home before the party. Look for loose handrails, water leaks, damaged chairs, and missing or blown light bulbs. If you fail to repair hazardous conditions in your home, you may be liable for injuries resulting from the danger.
  • Clear Walkways: Half of all accidental deaths in the home are due to slips and falls. Slippery ice patches on sidewalks are a common cause of slips. During the winter months, clear away all snow and ice as soon as possible to avoid icy build-up. Add extra lighting to dark paths or sidewalks and avoid putting extension cords for holiday lights across walkways. If ice does form, consider using road salt or cat litter to melt ice.
  • Exercise Caution Around Fire Pits or Fireplaces: Fire-related injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning are possible with fireplaces. If you plan to use your fireplace during a party, ensure your carbon monoxide detector works and close off the area around the fireplace with a screen to prevent burns.
  • Control Clutter Inside: With the addition of holiday decorations, gifts, and people, your house may fill up quickly. Ensure there are no potential hazards for trips or slip-and-falls by keeping your home tidy, with minimal decorations and plenty of walking space. Clean up toys, wrapping paper, and presents as soon as they are opened to avoid tripping on them. Leave wet shoes on a non-skid mat near the door to minimize slip hazards.

Speak with an Attorney from Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers

If you are involved in a premises liability injury case, you will need an experienced Wisconsin premises liability lawyer to assist you. Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can help you navigate the complicated Wisconsin premises liability laws to increase your chances of receiving fair compensation.

Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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