The Legal Examiner Affiliate Network The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner search instagram avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner
Skip to main content
A Vacation Rental Sign in front of a yellow one story home on the beach.

Summer is quickly approaching, and you may be thinking about your next vacation. Nowadays, families look to rent vacation houses instead of hotels, motels, and inns. Roughly 60 million Americans visited vacation homes in 2022, and that number is on the rise. Naturally, as a personal injury attorney, a common question I get is what happens to people who are injured at one of these rental properties? While no one expects to be injured during a vacation, the unknown layout of the property, the relaxed nature of the vacationers, and alcohol are just some of the factors that lead to injuries at these vacation homes.  

Premises Liability Law

Premises liability is an area of law that covers the responsibility of property owners to make a reasonable effort to keep a property safe for those that enter the property. Premises liability law can be complex because the duty of the property owner depends on the relationship between the owner and the user of the property. In short, an owner of a property does not owe the same duty to a trespasser that your local grocery store owes to its customers. 

How does this apply to vacation rentals? The responsibility of a vacation property owner was addressed by the Virginia Supreme Court in Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn¹, a 2018 case decided by the Virginia Supreme Court. In this case, the plaintiff was part of a family that rented out a beach vacation home for a week. Unfortunately, on the first day of the rental, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a lip or level change between her carpeted room and the tiled hallway. The plaintiff sued the owners of a vacation home and their management company and alleged that this level change was a dangerous condition that they did not fix or warn of. 

The question at trial was what duty did the property owner owe to the occupant? The property owner argued that they were like a landlord and the plaintiff was akin to a tenant. In a landlord-tenant relationship, the owner has no duty to warn of a dangerous condition that is open and obvious. The plaintiff, or the rental occupant, argued that the owner owed the same duty as an innkeeper, analogizing the rental of the vacation home to a hotel or bed and breakfast. If that was the case, the owner would owe a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of any dangerous conditions that could not be fixed. 

In Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn, the Court found that the owners owed a landlord duty to the guest, not an innkeeper duty. They decided this because of several factors, including the fact that the 

owners didn’t visit the property during the guest’s stay and didn’t provide room service, daily cleaning, or security services to the guest. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all Virginia vacation rentals are automatically a landlord-tenant relationship. If you rent a room in someone’s home while they’re on the premises, for example, it may constitute an innkeeper-guest relationship. Additionally, a vacation rental offering amenities like daily cleaning or allowing the owners to visit may be held to a different standard.

Common Types of Vacation Rental Injuries

While every vacation rental injury has its own unique circumstances, there are some commonalities. These are the most common types of vacation rental injuries.

What To Do After a Virginia Vacation Rental Injury

The question of who’s responsible after an injury depends on various legal factors, which is why it’s essential to hire a Virginia premises liability lawyer after an injury. Here are a couple of things you can do to strengthen your personal injury case: 

Preserve any Agreement or Waiver 

Another factor in these types of cases are waivers or agreements that third-party applications may force you to sign before you can rent. For example, if you book your rental through Airbnb or Vrbo, it is important to have an attorney look at your case to find out how enforceable the waiver is. In Virginia, pre-injury releases, or waivers of liability, are usually not enforceable. An attorney can help you get compensation and take on the powerful insurance companies that may try to deny your claim. 

Seek Medical Treatment

Even if you’ve only experienced minor injuries, or do not think you are going to pursue a personal injury claim, you should still seek medical treatment. The severity of some injuries may not be apparent until the adrenaline wears off days later, and having proof that a medical professional immediately treated you is helpful if you need to file a lawsuit. Of course, a medical professional can also give you advice on how best to physically recover as well. While going to a hospital far away from home may be scary, it is the best thing for you.  

Take Photos

Gather all the evidence available to you to help strengthen your case. Photos and videos can help prove that a property is in a dangerous condition. Take as many pictures and videos of the hazard that caused your injury as possible. These can be invaluable down the road in legal proceedings.   

Hire An Attorney

As we’ve mentioned, the most essential thing to do after a vacation rental injury is to hire an attorney who practices premises liability law. You may be able to recover compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages, along with non-economic damages like pain and suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life. An attorney can examine the specifics of your case and can negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies or help determine whether you have enough evidence to proceed with a lawsuit.

The attorneys at Curcio Law are expertly familiar with the complexities of Virginia premises liability law and can answer any questions you may have. Call or text us at 703-836-3366 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

¹296 Va. 191 (2018)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Please do not include personal details in your comment. To message the author privately instead, click here.

Contacting the author via this website, either publicly or privately, does not create an attorney–client privilege.