Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Can you sue a family member over a Thanksgiving fall?

What happens if you take a tumble down your aunt's unlighted steps this Thanksgiving? What if you get bitten by the family dog at your cousin's?

If you were injured in a fall or by some other means while walking through a store, you probably wouldn't hesitate to file a personal injury claim. The owner of a property has a duty to keep the property reasonably safe for visitors and to address known hazards that could endanger anybody's well-being. That rule doesn't change just because you're at a relative's home for a holiday celebration.

However, can you sue your aunt or another relative? You can, and you might not have much of a choice. A slip-and-fall accident, a burn from a mismanaged turkey fryer, a bite from the family dog and other injuries can send you to the emergency room. That can cost thousands of dollars -- not all of which will be covered by your insurance. If your injury is serious, you may require a lot of follow-up care, which means that your co-pays and other medical bills will begin to mount.

Depending on your injuries and your job, you may also be out of work for a while. Worker's compensation isn't going to cover your lost wages since you weren't injured on the job. Unless you have plenty of accumulated sick leave available, you could be struggling to meet your financial obligations.

The odds are good that your relative has homeowners insurance, which is designed for these kinds of situations. In the vast majority of situations, your claim won't directly damage your relative's financial situation -- but not filing a claim will deeply damage yours.

It can be emotionally difficult to press a premises liability claim against a relative or friend. Talk to a personal injury attorney about how you can proceed without causing undue harm to your family relationship.

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