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Fairfax County Deck Collapses

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Fairfax County Deck Collapses
Brien Roche

Outdoor decks have become a common fixture on many homes.  Sometimes the decks are built as part of the new home and sometimes they are built as afterthoughts by the owner.

Fairfax County Deck Collapses May Be Governed By Typical Deck Detail

Fairfax County, Virginia has been a leader in what is called the “Typical Deck Detail”.  The “Typical Deck Detail” is a plan that sets forth the details of how to build a typical outdoor deck off a home.

If you have a case involving a fall from a deck or the collapse of a deck, you need to research the “Typical Deck Detail”.  A deck is not a balcony.  If you have ever been to New Orleans, you probably have seen balconies. They overhang the sidewalks and the streets in the French Quarter.  Those are not decks.

Typical Deck Designed To Ease Building

The motive for local governments to have a “Typical Deck Detail” is to streamline the process to approve these structures.

If the proposed deck that an owner or builder wishes to build complies with the “Typical Deck Detail”, then there is no need to submit a detailed plan to the local building office.  In addition, the approval process becomes fairly simple. The permit for the deck is issued. All that need be done after the deck is completed is to have the local building official inspect the deck.

If the deck is not a “typical deck” then detailed plans need to be submitted. In addition there must be proof that the materials have been tested in accord with the Code. The materials consist of posts, handrails, guardrails, and fasteners. They must meet standards as far as strength and being able to withstand weather.  Once those things have been proven then a permit is issued. Upon completion of the deck it must be inspected by the local building official. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Deck Falls

Most falls from decks involve some deficiency in the handrail/guardrail system.  The code that applies is the Uniform Statewide Building Code. This code requires that the handrail must be able to resist 200 pounds of pressure at any point.  If you are looking at a deck fall case, your inquiry should include:

  • Does the “Typical Deck Detail” apply? If so obtain a copy of that document. The “Typical Deck Detail” is not part of the building code.  However, if it exists in your local area then it must be complied with for the building of a typical deck.
  • A “typical deck” is raised off the ground and is supported by a system of posts that are secured into the ground. If the deck is not a typical deck, then it should have been built with plans and materials approved by the local building office. Those plans must set forth the details of the deck.  All materials must be approved by the local building office.

Typical or Non-Typical

If the the “Typical Deck Detail” does not apply then a publication called DCA6, from the American Wood Council, may apply. This is almost the same as the “Fairfax County Typical Deck Detail”.

The key to your case is to find out if the deck was built to comply with the “Typical Deck Detail”. If not were the proper plans submitted, approved and inspected? All of this must be done before the deck is used. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Patchwork of Laws On Deck Collapses

There is a patchwork of laws relating to decks not controlled by the typical deck detail. As of November 16, 2005 decks and balconies have to be well-connected to the building.  That is, there are certain basic standards for the size, penetration and placement of bolts used to affix decks and balconies to structures.  These various standards are in the Virginia Building Code.

Deck Collapses-Limitations

With any deck collapse case there may be issues of the statute of limitations. There is also a statute of repose. In Virginia the statute of repose is five (5) years from the date the structure was completed. Claims brought after that date are barred. However if there were repairs done to the deck and the deck collapsed as a result of that then the statute may be prolonged. An issue may arise as to whether that is two (2) years from the date of injury.  The point to be made is that in any deck collapse case time is of the essence. You must decide quickly who must be sued and where are they.

Deck Collapses-Control Is The Issue

If the deck is in a common area and the injured party is a tenant then that may raise a host of issues again as to who is to be sued.   On the other hand if the deck is not in a common area and the injured party is a tenant then it may be that the tenant has no claim. If in fact the deck is under the control of the tenant then it may be the tenant’s job to maintain the deck.

Deck Collapses-Notice

Likewise issues of notice may apply.  If the plaintiff knew of the defect and still used the deck that may be a bar to the claim.
For more information on decks and balconies, see the pages on Wikipedia and for information on personal injury see the pages on this site. Call, or contact us for a free consult.



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