Proving Fault in Slip-and-Fall Accidents in Pennsylvania

Proving fault in a slip-and-fall accident claim can be difficult. Each year, thousands of people are seriously injured after slipping and falling on surfaces that have become dangerous. However, proving the liability of the property owner or manager can be hard in many cases. Getting help from an attorney at DiCindio Law might allow you to gather enough evidence to prove your case. Here are some things that you should consider.

Could your accident have been prevented by the property owner?

After being injured in a fall accident, you might think that you should immediately file a lawsuit. However, not every slip-and-fall accident provides a valid basis for a legal claim. To evaluate your claim, start by asking yourself if the accident could have been avoided if the property owner had exercised more care. For example, if another customer spilled milk directly in front of you, causing you to slip and fall within a few seconds, you will not be likely to have grounds to file a claim.

The property owner would need to have enough time to discover the spill and to clean it. Similarly, a property owner will not be liable if you slipped and fell because of an obvious danger that a reasonable person would have avoided. Everyone has to remain aware of their surroundings and to take steps to avoid open and obvious hazards.

What is the duty to maintain the premises?

Property owners must maintain their properties in reasonably safe and hazard-free conditions. This does not mean that they will be liable for every accident that happens. However, it also does not mean that they will never be responsible for injuries that occur.

Property owners are required to take steps to keep their premises free of dangers that could foreseeably cause slip-and-fall accidents and injuries. The reasonableness of the property owner’s actions will be balanced against the care that you should have exercised to avoid your accident.

Determining liability in a slip-and-fall accident

To win a slip-and-fall accident claim, you will need to be able to prove the owner’s liability. To do this, you will have to prove one of the following scenarios occurred:

  • The property owner or an employee should have reasonably known about the dangerous condition and repaired it.
  • The property owner or an employee had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition but did nothing.
  • The property owner or an employee caused the hazardous condition.

In many slip-and-fall cases, the first scenario is what is litigated. It can be tricky to prove that the owner or employee had constructive notice of the dangerous condition, however. Once you present your arguments and evidence, the jury or judge will determine whether the owner or the employee should have discovered the condition and corrected it. This will require you to show evidence that the condition existed for a long enough time that it should have been discovered. Your lawyer might secure video footage, witness statements, and maintenance and repair records to help to prove that this occurred.

What is reasonableness?

The reasonableness of the property owner’s conduct will likely be at issue at some point in your case. Before you file a claim, your attorney will likely discuss several factors with you. One of these factors will be the length of time that the condition had existed before your accident. If the condition occurred immediately before your fall, you will have a difficult time arguing that the property owner’s failure to correct it was unreasonable.

Your lawyer might also investigate the cleaning and inspection activities that are implemented by the property owner each day. If the owner claims that the property is inspected at a regular interval, your lawyer will want to see the evidence to support the claim.
If you tripped over something that had been left on the floor, your attorney will want to investigate whether the object was there for a legitimate purpose and whether that reason still existed when you fell.

Comparative negligence and carelessness

Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this law, your damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault that you contributed to your accident as long as your negligence was equal to or less than that of the property owner. If your negligence was responsible for more than half of the cause of your accident, you will not be able to recover damages. Defendants frequently try to argue that the victims caused their falls to reduce or avoid liability.

Your attorney will likely talk to you to figure out whether you might be found to have been negligent in your accident. For example, your lawyer might question whether you had a legitimate purpose for being on the premises when your accident happened. He or she might also ask whether a reasonably prudent person in the same situation would have avoided the condition or handled it in a way that would have reduced the chances of falling.

Your lawyer might ask whether there was a barrier or a warning sign alerting you to the presence of the dangerous condition and if you were engaging in any type of actions that contributed to your fall. For example, if you were texting on the phone without looking where you were going and tripped and fell over a barrier, you will not be likely to recover damages.

You should talk to an experienced premises liability lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible after your slip-and-fall accident. An attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your case and explain whether you have valid grounds to file a claim. Getting help quickly can also help your lawyer to preserve evidence that could otherwise be lost as time passes. Slip-and-fall claims also have a statute of limitations that limits the time within which you can file a lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling (610) 430-3535.

***This blog article is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact DiCindio Law, LLC for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case. ***