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Deck Collapses Can Cause Serious Injuries and Deaths

Last month three people were seriously injured when a deck collapsed in San Francisco’s Excelsior District.

When we think about premises liability, typically we think of slip and falls on wet floors, falling merchandise or other accidents. However, wooden decks collapse more often than we might think. A deck is most likely to fail in warm weather when lots of people are on it but snow can also cause the failure of a deck.

In an article by Robson Forensic, civil engineer J. David Gardner writes that more than 6,000 people suffer injuries every year in incidents involving the structural failure or collapse of a deck or porch. The information is based data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Gardner writes about how the experts at Robson Forensic have investigated more than 50 such incidents.

The most common cause of total deck collapse involves the deck “pulling away” from a house. This type of failure typically occurs because the ledger board was not properly attached to the house. Structural failures in decks also occur involving the support posts and deck joists.

Gardner writes about how a “properly designed and constructed deck can support a reasonably expected load of people, snow, and objects (40-60 PSF). The design must also be able to resist the lateral and uplift loads that are generated by people, wind, or seismic activity. Railings must be able to safely resist a 200-pound lateral force.”

The North American Deck and Railing Association has set up May of each year as “Deck Safety Month” as the time for homeowners to inspect their deck. NADRA provides a 10 point checklist for deck owners.

Deck collapses can be extremely serious. Last year a deck collapsed at a home in Greenville County South Carolina. About 20 people were on the deck when it collapsed during a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Firefighters said six of the people suffered serious injuries.

The risk of deck collapses is more serious in older structures because when decks first came into fashion many were not properly attached to the home, and this weakness can result in problems. However, building codes have been put in place to minimize this risk and require better structures.

If you are hurt in a deck collapse a business owner, a homeowner or a builder may be liable. Recently I co-authored a new book with John Cooper – Top 10 Tips If You Are Injured at a Store, Hotel or Restaurant in Virginia. If you have suffered serious injuries in a deck collapse or another accident at a business, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.799.1822

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