What happens if you have an accident and die in an Airbnb rental?
American man Zac Stone’s harrowing account of his father’s death at a rented cottage in Texas has prompted many to ask themselves that question.
Mr Stone’s father died after falling from a rope swing and hitting his head while staying at the property they found on the popular online home-sharing platform touted as an alternative to traditional hotels.
"When my father decided to give it a try on Thanksgiving morning, the trunk it was tied to broke in half and fell on his head, immediately ending most of his brain activity," Mr Stone wrote for online magazine Matter.
"I knelt down and pulled him up by the shoulders. We were face-to-face, but his head hung limply, his right eye dislodged, his mouth full of blood, his tongue swirling around with each raspy breath."
He said Airbnb sent a "thoughtful note" to his family three days after his father's death, offering condolences and the company's support.
But he noted that companies often contact accident victims "before they've had a chance to lawyer up ... knowing that victims tend to lowball the price put on wrongful death or injury".
Mr Stone's family did not take legal action against Airbnb and ended up settling for an undisclosed amount through the hosts' insurance company.
He noted this was likely "an exception to the rule" as many home insurance policies make exclusions for any commercial activity taking place — such as making money by renting through Airbnb.
What if the same thing happened in Australia?
Law expert Neil Foster from the University of Newcastle said Mr Stone's case raised important questions about who would be liable if the same accident happened in Australia, where more than 40,000 homes are up for rent on Airbnb.
He said if Mr Stone's case was repeated in Australia, both the host and Airbnb could be sued.
He said anyone renting their home on Airbnb must take steps to reduce foreseeable dangers, or they could be found liable.
"This is a situation where arguably the tree branch was dangerous — and it certainly seems to be dangerous for an adult to swing on it, maybe only children had swung on it before," he told the ABC.