A slip and fall accident happens instantly, but the consequences of a serious injury can stretch for months or years. Victims often have to deal with substantial medical bills, lost wages, great physical pain, and even long-term health issues.
Most slip and fall injuries happen because of factors beyond just bad luck. Under Pennsylvania’s slip and fall laws, property owners can be held responsible for the dangerous situations that lead to these accidents, such as uneven or slippery floors, broken handrails, or accumulated ice on walkways.
If a property owner’s negligence contributes to slip and fall injuries, the victim may be entitled to receive compensation. However, by their very nature, slip and fall accidents are sudden and unpredictable. Therefore, victims must show specific elements to meet the threshold for liability, such as showing the property owner could have prevented the accident.
An experienced slip and fall lawyer can evaluate your claim, determine its viability, and help you explore options for recovering a fair settlement.
What Counts as Negligence for Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Laws?
Pennsylvania property owners must keep their indoor and outdoor spaces reasonably safe for employees, customers, guests, and other legal visitors to the property. This principle is called premises liability and forms the basis for the state’s slip and fall laws.
Winning this type of claim depends on showing that the property owner failed to take the steps a reasonably responsible party would have taken and that this negligence directly caused the victim’s fall. For example, property owners can be held responsible for not promptly repairing a potential slip and fall hazard or for failing to provide a warning that could have prevented the injuries.
Pennsylvania's slip and fall laws protect property owners from liability for weather-related accidents involving snow or ice. Under the Hills and Ridges Doctrine, property owners are not responsible for the injuries caused by a slip and fall accident that happens either during or immediately after a snow storm.
The state enacted this rule because Pennsylvania’s harsh winters make it impossible to keep premises completely safe from the slippery conditions dangerous to pedestrians.
In these scenarios, liability for a slip and fall accident will depend on showing that the property’s walking surfaces were not cleared for a long time, leading the snow and ice to accumulate into hills and ridges. While this doctrine makes winning claims for a slip and fall accident because of winter conditions harder, property owners are still liable if they neglect to make a reasonable clean-up effort.
No matter the circumstances, to win a slip and fall claim, the victim must show the following legal elements:
The property owner owed the victim a duty of care.
Under Pennsylvania's slip and fall laws, property owners must avoid harming pedestrians and legal visitors to the premises. This duty of care includes mitigating the risks of a potential falling hazard, either by fixing the problem or providing an adequate warning. The duty excludes anyone trespassing on the premises or engaging in excessively careless behavior that caused their injuries.
The property owner violated this “duty of care.”
The at-fault property owner created the conditions for a dangerous slip and fall accident by neglecting to maintain their property up to reasonable standards. You can hold property owners liable for:
- Tripping hazards: Exposed electrical cords, torn or raised carpeting, uneven flooring, and other unexpected obstructions can all cause a serious falling injury
- Slipping hazards: Freshly waxed floors, grease spots, liquid spills that don’t get cleaned up right away, and accumulated snow or ice on walkways are all likely to cause a slip and fall accident
- Poor lighting: Inadequate lighting on walkways like parking lots and stairwells leads to poor visibility, which is a major hazard for a slip and fall accident, especially if there are uneven surfaces like raised cracks and uneven surfaces
- Inadequate safety measures: Open maintenance holes, broken stair rails, and construction sites without proper barriers are all potential hazards for causing a slip and fall accident
The property owner’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries.
A successful slip and fall claim must prove that by failing to use reasonable care, the at-fault property owner exposed the victim to unnecessary risk that directly caused their serious injuries.
The property owner’s actions led to specific damages.
A skilled slip and fall attorney will use evidence to demonstrate the economic and non-economic costs that result from your injuries. These specific damages might include medical treatments, lost wages, and intangible costs like pain and suffering.
Who Can I Hold Liable After a Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Accident?
Under premises liability, property owners are responsible for maintaining their premises in a safe condition, which makes them liable for compensating victims of a slip and fall accident on their property. However, some scenarios can be more complicated, such as when someone other than the owner is under physical possession of the property. A slip and fall lawyer can review the circumstances of your accident and determine the likely liable parties for a slip and fall claim, including:
Slip and fall accidents commonly happen in retail spaces, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses operating on leased premises. Regardless of the property owner, the liability for slip and fall injuries transfers to the entity occupying the property when the accident occurred.
Slip and fall accidents are more likely to happen in a business setting. However, private homeowners have the same legal obligation to keep their property reasonably safe for legal visitors. That means they can also be held liable for negligence that causes serious hazards that lead to a slip and fall injury.
Property owners are only liable for slip and fall injuries in common areas like the parking lot, stairwell, or lobby of a residential property. The tenant would be legally responsible if the accident occurred in a rented apartment or house.
Slip and fall accidents happen in government-owned properties, such as public sidewalks, parks, or at the post office. Cities and towns are responsible for protecting the public from potential hazards, which means they can also be held liable for any negligence leading to a slip and fall accident. However, there are some limitations when trying to file a personal injury lawsuit against a government agency in Pennsylvania.
For example, the victim has to provide written notice that they intend to take legal action within six months of the incident, or they lose the right to file a claim. There are also legal caps on the amount of compensation that a victim can recover.
Other Important Elements of Getting Compensation After A Slip and Fall Accident
While Pennsylvania's slip and fall laws offer victims the ability to get restitution from a negligent property owner, the process can be very intimidating. Victims must recover from their injuries while navigating the complex legal issues involved in this type of claim.
Here are some important aspects to know about the claim process:
Victims Can Be Held Partially Responsible For Their Injuries
When pursuing compensation for a slip and fall accident, be prepared for the property owner's legal team to argue that you bear some responsibility for causing your injuries. This strategy is extremely common because the at-fault party can decrease their liability by pinning part of the blame on the victim.
Under Pennsylvania’s “modified comparative negligence” laws, the compensation a victim can recover from a personal injury claim decreases by the victim’s percentage of fault. For example, if the victim files for $50,000 worth of damages and is found 30 percent at fault, the victim would only receive $35,000. A plaintiff that gets assigned more than 50 percent of the blame is not eligible to recover any compensation.
Some of the arguments used against a slip and fall accident victim include:
- The plaintiff went where visitors don't have permission to or the owner shouldn't have expected them to go
- The hazardous situation should have been reasonably obvious
- The plaintiff wasn’t wearing appropriate footwear for the situation
- The plaintiff was distracted by their phone or otherwise not paying enough attention to their surroundings
Victims Have a Time Limit for Filing a Slip and Fall Claim
Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for pursuing compensation after a slip and fall injury is only two years from the date of the accident. This time limit means that victims can forfeit their right to compensation if they don’t start the legal process by the deadline. While two years may seem like a long stretch, preparing an effective case requires substantial time and resources. If you’ve suffered a serious slip and fall injury because of a negligent property owner, you should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible to begin the process.
How A Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Attorney Can Help
Suffering serious injuries from a slip and fall accident is an incredibly difficult experience with wide-ranging consequences for victims and their families. You may be dealing with substantial financial losses from medical debt and lost wages and having life turned upside down by physical pain and stress.
While Pennsylvania property owners are legally responsible for keeping their properties reasonably safe from slip and fall hazards, the burden of proof is on the victim. Winning this type of claim will require solid evidence and the right legal approach.
A skilled slip and fall lawyer can help victims protect their legal rights and hold negligent property owners accountable. Some of the assistance an attorney can provide to strengthen your claim include:
Substantiate the circumstances of the accident
The threshold for proving negligence in a slip and fall accident is very high, especially for showing that the property owner should have known there was a falling hazard. Your lawyer will investigate the case using all available evidence to show that the property owner should have prevented the accident.
Documenting the extent of the victim’s damages
Demonstrating how your injury has impacted your life is essential for winning fair compensation after a slip and fall accident.
An experienced lawyer can maximize the value of your claim by demonstrating damages like:
- Economic costs: The financial burden from having a serious injury includes all medical bills related to the accident, including ongoing treatments like physical therapy. Many victims will also need to take time off from working while they recuperate, leading to lost wages or possibly losing their job. In the case of catastrophic injuries with long-term consequences, the accident may lead to a permanently-reduced earning capacity.
- Non-economic costs: Pennsylvania courts also recognize how much a serious slip and fall injury will affect the victim’s quality of life. While these damages are subjective, they’re still entitled to compensation under the law. Victims can file for intangible losses like physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, permanent impairment from having a disability, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium.
- Wrongful death costs: The most severe slip and fall accident injuries will lead to a tragic, preventable death. The deceased’s closest relatives are eligible for “wrongful death” damages, including hospital bills, funeral and burial expenses, lost income the deceased can no longer contribute to the family, and the emotional costs of grieving the loved one.
Negotiate a Fair Settlement
Most slip and fall claims resolve by a negotiated settlement with the property owner’s insurance company, but this is a grueling process that usually starts with a lowball offer. Having an experienced slip-and-fall attorney in your corner can make the difference between receiving fair compensation or fighting an uphill battle to cover your damages. Your attorney can take your claim to trial, if necessary, to pursue the maximum compensation.
You may deserve compensation if you've suffered injury from a slip and fall due to a property owner's negligence. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to schedule a free consultation and learn about your right to hold an at-fault party liable. Don't struggle through the losses of a slip and fall accident alone. A lawyer can ensure you have the strongest chance to recover the restitution you need.