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Premises Liability: Deck, Ramp and Walkway Collapse

What Should You Know about Deck Collapse?

Having a ramp or deck collapse under you can be a traumatic experience and one you would never expect to happen. However, if you Google these types of collapses, you would be surprised to discover how frequently they occur. It has occurred with decks attached to homes and decks attached to restaurants or bars.

What Can Cause a Deck to Collapse?

Some of the more common reasons decks collapse include:

  • Ledger board failure. Most decks attach to a house or building through a ledger board. The number one cause of deck collapses is ledger board failure. Older structures often had ledger boards attached to rim joists, but more recent building codes require lag screws, bolts and special brackets that extend into the home. The bracket connects the home's floor joists to the deck joists through the ledger board.
  • Splits in ledger boards. A staggered bolt pattern can reduce the chances of cracks forming along the ledger board, which result in breakage and failure.
  • Board rot. Standard lumber and proper flashing can prevent premature rotting.
  • Post and beam failures. Posts and beams that rot because they are set in soil without proper protection are often not able to withstand deck loads.
  • Joist failures. Joist failures can cause holes that people may fall through but usually don't cause the entire deck to collapse.
  • Foundation failures. When decks do not have strong foundations but instead rest on blocks or rocks that are insecurely set in soil or small pads, the foundation can fail. A properly attached ledger can even be ripped from the home when this occurs.

Exceeding the total capacity number that a deck could hold would point to negligence on the part of the property owner or the property owner’s agent. Today there are IRC (International Residential Code) safety requirements for building decks. Even so, many decks that collapse are older and were built before permits or IRC requirements existed.

Who Is Liable in a Deck Collapse Accident?

If you suffered injury in a deck collapse, your attorney would investigate to determine whether negligence occurred and determine whether parties should be held accountable. In a premises liability claim, evidence would establish the basis for a lawsuit. The following parties may be subject to legal action:

  • The property owner
  • The property renter (if property was subject to a lease agreement)
  • The contractor who built the deck
  • The manufacturer if part of the deck was purchased assembled
  • A municipality if inspection or periodic inspection was required

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your injuries and whether grounds exist for pursuing a lawsuit.

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