How to Prove Liability in Pennsylvania Slip & Fall Claims

How to Prove Liability in Pennsylvania Slip & Fall Claims

How to prove liability in Pennsylvania slip and fall claims. Fall accidents are very common in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of three million older adults are treated in the emergency department every year for fall injuries, and 800,000 people are hospitalized for injuries that they have sustained in falls. When fall accidents happen when people are visiting the property of others, the property owners might be liable in some cases but not liable in others.

If you have been injured after slipping or tripping and falling while you were visiting a business, the private property of another person, or public property, you might wonder whether you can recover damages to compensate you for the losses that you have suffered. In some cases, property owners will not be liable for injuries in fall accidents. For example, a business might not be liable if you slipped and fell in something that was spilled in the seconds before your accident because the business would not have had time to discover the spill and clean it. Property owners also will often not be found to be liable when people slip and fall because of something that a reasonable person would be expected to see and avoid.

Property owners are required to keep their properties in reasonably safe conditions for people who are legally present. Slip-and-fall accident cases frequently turn on the reasonableness of the property owners’ actions to prevent falls and the negligence of the victims in failing to avoid falling. Determining liability in a potential slip-and-fall claim is important to figure out whether the claim has legal merits. The legal team at DiCindio Law can evaluate claims and explain whether the victims have grounds to file lawsuits and recover damages.

Liability in slip-and-fall cases

Before you can recover damages after suffering injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, you will need to be able to prove that the business or property owner was liable for what happened to you. 

To succeed, you will need to show that one of the following situations occurred in your case:

  • The hazardous condition that caused your fall was created by the property owner or an employee.
  • The property owner or an employee must have known about the dangerous condition but failed to do anything about it.
  • The property owner or an employee should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonably prudent person would have discovered and fixed it.

Out of the three scenarios, the third one is the most common. However, it is also not as clear-cut as the other two because plaintiffs must prove that the property owner should have known about the hazardous condition. In these types of cases, liability frequently is determined by common sense. A jury will determine whether the property owner was appropriately careful by examining the steps that the owner took to ensure that the property remained safe.

Determining reasonableness

In many slip-and-fall negligence claims, the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions will be important. The court will look at whether the property owner engaged in regular and thorough activities to try to maintain the property in a clean and safe condition. For example, if you tripped and fell over a broken or torn area of the floor or carpet or slipped on a slick area, determining how long the dangerous spot had been there will be important to show that the owner either knew or should have known about it.

If the property owner has a regular schedule or procedure for inspecting and cleaning the premises, you will want to get copies of any proof that the owner has that the maintenance was conducted. For example, the business might have a maintenance and inspection log that the employees initial.

If you fell because you tripped over an object that someone had left on the ground, the reason why the object was placed there will be important. If there was a legitimate reason for its placement, you might not have grounds to file a claim. However, if the reason for the object being placed there no longer exists, you will want to explore whether it could have been removed or made safe in a different way. You will also want to investigate whether the object could have been placed in a different, safer spot without substantial expense or inconvenience caused to the property owner. If there wasn’t a barrier around the object or a warning sign, you will also want to determine whether a barrier or sign could have prevented your accident from happening.

The lighting conditions can also be important in some cases. For example, if you tripped and fell while walking on stairs, you might have grounds to file a lawsuit if the stairwell was dark because of inadequate or broken lighting.

Your negligence or carelessness

In most slip-and-fall cases, determining whether the victim contributed to his or her accident will also be important. Pennsylvania follows a rule of modified comparative negligence. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102, contributing to your accident will not be a bar to recovering damages as long as your negligence did not exceed the negligence of the defendant. However, your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to you. For example, if a jury determines that you were 49% at fault and the defendant was 51% at fault, you can still recover damages. Your award will be reduced by 49%, however. If the jury determines that your negligence was greater than the negligence of the defendant, you will not be able to recover damages.

Defendants commonly try to argue that the plaintiffs were careless and caused their accidents. They do this to try to limit their liability or avoid it altogether. This makes it important for you to evaluate your actions to determine whether your carelessness might prevent you from recovering damages. 

Some things to consider include the following:

  • Whether you had a valid and foreseeable reason for being in the area where the dangerous condition was located
  • Whether a reasonable person would have noticed and avoided the dangerous condition
  • Whether warning signs were placed in the area
  • Whether you were distracted by your smartphone
  • Whether you were engaging in unreasonable actions such as running, skipping, or jumping

Get help from DiCindio Law

Determining liability is the first step in figuring out whether you can recover damages after a slip-and-fall accident. An attorney at DiCindio Law can help by evaluating what happened and explaining the legal options and remedies that might be available. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

How Long Does a Slip-and-Fall Case Take to Settle?

How Long Does a Slip-and-Fall Case Take to Settle_

Suffering serious injuries because of slipping and falling while visiting the property of someone else in Pennsylvania can devastate your life. When your injuries were caused by the negligent actions of the property owner, you might wonder how long a claim might take. Slip-and-fall accident claims can be complex, and each case is different. An attorney at DiCindio Law can evaluate your claim and explain its merits to you. He can also explain the process and the length of time that your claim might take to reach a settlement agreement or to go through a trial.

What factors affect the length of the claims process in Pennsylvania?

Many different factors can impact the lengths of the claims process after a slip-and-fall accident in Pennsylvania. The most important factors that can have an impact on the length of the process include the following:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • How long it will take for you to recover
  • The strength of your evidence showing the property owner’s liability
  • The willingness of the responsible party to negotiate a settlement agreement
  • Whether your negligence also contributed to the accident

Working with a slip-and-fall accident lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand what to expect throughout the claims process. Your lawyer can handle all of the details for you so that you can concentrate on recovering from your injuries.

The extent and severity of injuries in slip-and-fall accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents that lead to extensive and severe injuries can take longer to resolve than accidents that result in minor injuries. Cases involving severe injuries that are expected to last a long time take longer to resolve because of the greater sums of money that will be involved. At-fault parties who stand to have to pay large sums to the victims to compensate them are likelier to vigorously defend against the claims. If your injuries are severe, it might also take more time for you to reach your maximum level of medical improvement or to receive a prognosis. These are necessary for calculating your medical expenses and your future anticipated costs of care.

The consequences of common slip-and-fall accident injuries

While slip-and-fall accidents can result in many different injuries, some types of injuries are common in these accidents. Fractures are a common type of injury that can happen in a slip-and-fall accident because of direct trauma from a hard surface or the victim bracing himself or herself during the fall.

Many victims suffer sprains and strains to their ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues. These types of injuries might require extensive rehabilitation to regain mobility.

Traumatic brain injuries can leave victims with lifelong injuries, depending on their severity. TBIs can range from concussions to major conditions that permanently alter the lives of the victims and their families. Victims can also suffer spinal cord injuries in slip-and-fall accidents. Spinal cord damage can cause permanent partial or total paralysis. If you have suffered these serious types of injuries, your claim might take longer because of the amount of compensation that might be involved.

Understanding premises liability

Slip-and-fall accident claims are negligence claims that involve premises liability. Property owners and operators must maintain their premises in reasonably safe and hazard-free conditions for the people who are lawfully present, including guests, people who are on the premises for business purposes, and customers.

To prove an owner’s premises liability, you will be required to prove that the owner created the dangerous condition that led to your accident. You will also need to prove that the property owner either knew about the condition or should have known about it because of the length of time that it had existed. You will need to show that the property owner failed to take steps to correct the problem or to warn about its existence. Causation is another element of a premises liability claim. You will have to show that the property owner’s breach of the duty of care caused your accident, injuries, and financial harm.

The duty of care is a legal responsibility that commercial, residential, and governmental property owners owe to people who are legally present on their premises. Property owners and operators must keep their premises safe and free of hazards for guests. For example, they must keep their walkways, staircases, and handrails in good condition, promptly clean spills, post warning signs, and proactively inspect their properties to discover any dangerous conditions that might arise.

A breach of the duty of care occurs when a property owner fails to uphold his or her responsibilities. For example, a property owner might breach the duty by putting off repairs or ignoring spills.

Even if you can show that the owner breached the duty of care, you will not be able to recover compensation unless you can show that the breach caused your accident and injuries. Finally, you must show that you suffered actual harm, including injuries and financial losses.

If you have strong evidence linking the actions or inactions of the liable party to your injuries, it will be likelier for you to negotiate a fair settlement before going to trial. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your claim to help you to build a strong case of liability.

Settling a slip-and-fall accident claim

Many slip-and-fall claims are resolved through settlement agreements without ever going to trial. Your lawyer will work as hard as possible to negotiate a fair settlement for you. Settling your claim is advantageous because it allows you to avoid the risk of trial. When you go to trial, there is no guarantee of what a jury might do. Settling your case also makes the process faster and spares you the expense of a trial.

What damages are recoverable in a slip-and-fall case?

Your lawyer will not be able to give you a precise value until a thorough investigation is completed. Typically, the following types of damages might be recoverable, however:

  • Economic losses such as your medical expenses and income losses
  • Noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering damages, disfigurement, scarring, disability, and others

Your lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the value of your claim after investigating it. If we are unable to reach a settlement agreement, we will fight for your rights to compensation through the litigation process.

Get help today

After suffering injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, you need to act quickly to preserve your rights. Contact DiCindio law today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

What Do I Need To Know About Slip And Fall / Premises Liability?

Hazardous conditions on a property can sometimes occur without warning. For example, a sinkhole could suddenly open and cause an accident without the property owner knowing about the potential danger. In other cases, property owners may be aware of a danger and choose to ignore it. When a property owner knows about a dangerous condition or should have known about its existence, the property owner may be liable to pay damages under a theory called premises liability. In most cases, premises liability involves negligence, which occurs when someone engages in a careless act or negligently fails to act. When a property owner fails to correct dangerous conditions on his or her property that he or she knew about or should have known about, resulting in injuries to people who were lawfully present, the victims may be able to recover damages for their losses. DiCindio Law might be able to help injured victims to recover the compensation to which they should be entitled.

Dangerous property conditions

When someone is injured while visiting the property of another, it does not automatically mean that the owner was negligent. The property might have a dangerous condition, but the condition alone does not mean that the owner was negligent. Instead, the property owner may be liable when he or she failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition or to correct a known hazard that existed.

Slip and fall accidents

One of the most common types of cases involving premises liability is a slip and fall accident. These cases are also difficult to prove and will require an investigation of the circumstances that occurred to determine legal liability.

Some dangerous conditions that can lead to slip and fall accidents include the following:

  • Tripping over objects and falling
  • Poor lighting
  • Narrow staircases
  • Fallen merchandise
  • Slick floors
  • Uneven floors
  • Torn carpets
  • Broken or uneven sidewalks
  • Potholes in parking lots

Some common types of injuries that occur in slip and fall accidents include the following:

  • Broken bones
  • Strains and sprains
  • Bruising
  • Lacerations
  • Spinal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Because of how common they are, some people might think that slip and fall accidents are minor. However, many people who are injured in slip and fall accidents suffer severe injuries that come with exorbitant costs. In some cases, slip and fall accidents can result in deaths and lead to the basis for wrongful death lawsuits.

The status of the injured victim

Property owners and operators have different duties of care to people who are present on their properties that depend on the statuses of the visitors. There are three statuses that are recognized under the premises liability law of Pennsylvania, including invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

Invitees are people who are invited to the premises for business reasons. For example, a business that is open to the public has invited shoppers to enter for the benefit of the business’s owner. Other visitors such as firemen, garbage collectors, and others are deemed as invitees under the law. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees and must correct for known hazards and inspect for unknown hazards. They must warn visitors of any hazards that are discovered and take action to correct them.

Licensees are people who enter the property with the owner’s implied or express permission. For example, if you are invited to go to a friend’s house for dinner, you would be deemed to be a licensee. An owner’s permission includes any conduct that leads the visitor to believe that the owner will allow them to enter. In addition to social guests, others who have this status include meter readers. Property owners must correct known hazards that exist on their property for licensees who visit.

Property owners owe the least duty of care to trespassers. These are people who come onto the property of someone else without express or implied permission. Property owners do not owe a duty of care to trespassers to correct known or unknown dangers on their properties. However, they may be liable if they deliberately set traps with the intent to injure trespassers.

Children have special protections under Pennsylvania law, including trespassing children. Property owners must take care to remediate dangerous conditions that could attract children such as swimming pools, ponds, mines, wells, and other dangerous conditions that might attract children who do not understand the risk. For example, people should erect fences with locking gates around their swimming pools to prevent children from entering them.

Insurance considerations

Before a premises liability lawsuit will be filed, it will be important to figure out whether the defendant has the financial ability to pay damages. If he or she does not, filing a lawsuit might not be worthwhile. However, in most cases, the defendants will have a homeowner’s insurance policy or a business’s general liability policy. A personal injury lawyer at DiCindio law will investigate to identify all of the potential recovery sources.

Your attorney will then look at the policy limits of the existing policy to determine whether they are sufficient to cover the claim. There may be different limits contained in the policy for different types of damages. Any claims that exceed the policy limits will have to be collected from other sources.

The insurance company’s duty to defend

Insurance companies must indemnify and defend their insureds against legal liability up to the policy limits. The duty to defend includes covering the legal costs involved with defending the claim. The duty to indemnify means the insurance company is responsible for paying monetary awards from judgments against the insured. In most cases, the insurance company will hire a defense lawyer and will engage in settlement negotiations. The companies are required to act in good faith in settlement negotiations and lawsuits.

Accidents in the workplace

Slip and fall accidents that happen at work fall under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and the workplace safety laws of the state of Pennsylvania. People who are injured at work may be entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you have been injured by a dangerous condition while you were lawfully present on the property of another, you may have legal rights. Contact DiCindio Law to learn about your potential claim by filling out our online contact form or calling us at (610) 430-3535.

Is There A Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Personal Injury Claim in PA?

No matter what type of accident you might have had in which you were injured because of the actions of another person or entity, you might be considering filing a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania. If you decide to file a claim in the civil court system, it is important to understand the statute of limitations that applies to it. At DiCindio Law, we can help people who have been injured by the wrongful or negligent actions of others to file their claims within the limitations period so their rights to recovery might be preserved.

What is a statute of limitations?

Pennsylvania and all other states have statutes of limitations. These are laws that specify a time limit for filing different types of claims. The time within which the claims must be filed is called the limitations period. Claims that are filed outside of the limitations period will be dismissed, meaning that the victims will be prevented from recovering compensation for their losses. This makes knowing the statute of limitations for your particular type of claim important so that you can make certain to comply with it. If you fail to follow the statute of limitations, you may be permanently barred from recovering the damages to which you would otherwise be entitled.

Personal injury statute of limitations in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for personal injury claims is found at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5542. Under this law, you have two years to file a personal injury action to recover damages for your injuries or for the wrongful death of your loved one that results from the negligence or wrongful conduct of someone else.

The two-year statute of limitations applies to most types of personal injury claims, including those that are based on negligence and those that are based on intentional conduct. Intentional torts include civil assaults, civil batteries, and other intentional actions.

The clock on the limitations period begins from the date of your injury accident. If you have been injured because of the actions or negligence of someone else, you will have two years to file the civil complaint and other required documents to commence your lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, your lawsuit will be dismissed.

What happens when people miss the deadline?

If you wait to file a lawsuit until more than two years have passed since your accident, the defendant will likely file a motion to dismiss. He or she will explain to the court that you have filed your complaint outside of the limitations period. Unless an exception provides you with more time to file, the court will dismiss your claim. If your claim is dismissed, you will lose your right to ask for an award of damages for your injuries from the court. It will not matter how much you have lost or how significant your injuries might be. It also won’t matter if the defendant’s liability is clear.

This makes the personal injury statute of limitations pivotal when you want to file a formal lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. It is also important when you want to negotiate with the insurance company or the defendant for damages outside of the court process. If the insurance company or defendant knows that you are outside of the two-year statute of limitations, there will be little incentive for a settlement agreement. You will not have any leverage over the defendant to threaten to file a lawsuit against him or her.

Exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations in Pennsylvania

While the personal injury statute of limitations is strictly enforced in Pennsylvania, there are a few scenarios that might toll the running of the clock and expand the filing deadline period. Some of the examples of exceptions that can modify the limitations period include the following:

  • The injured victim was a minor who was not legally emancipated at the time of the accident that caused his or her injuries. In this situation, the clock won’t begin to run until the injured victim reaches age 18 under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5533.
  • The defendant is outside of Pennsylvania for more than four months after the accident and before the lawsuit is filed or hides his or her presence in the state by using a fake name under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5532.

In the case of concealment or absence, the time during which the person was absent or hidden will likely not count against the running of the limitations period.

Lawsuits against the government

If the responsible party in your injury accident is a governmental entity, the limitations period is quite different. For example, if you had a slip and fall injury accident while you were visiting the premises of a government agency, a different statute of limitations applies. Under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5522, people who intend to file claims against the government must send notices to it within six months of the date that they were injured in the accidents. If you fail to send the required notice, any lawsuit that you might later file against the government will likely be dismissed.

When should you contact an attorney?

The statutes of limitation in Pennsylvania provide hard deadlines within which you must file a formal lawsuit against the negligent or wrongful actors who caused your injuries. While these limitations periods give you an idea of the maximum amount of time that you can wait to file a lawsuit, you should talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury occurred. Talking to a lawyer early can help you to preserve evidence that could otherwise be lost. In some cases, the government may hold partial liability for an accident, meaning that you might need to file a notice much earlier than the two-year statute of limitations for a personal injury claim.

Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (610)430-3535. You can also fill in your information in our online contact form to request a consultation.