People sometimes are injured in accidents when they are visiting the property of other people or businesses. If you were injured on someone else’s property because of the negligent actions or inactions of the property’s owner or possessor, you might wonder whether you have legal rights to recover damages. Liability is a key issue in claims involving slip-and-fall accidents. Whether you intend to pursue a settlement with the insurance company or file a lawsuit, you will have to prove that someone else is responsible for your injuries and losses. An attorney at DiCindio Law can help you to understand liability as it applies to the facts and circumstances of what happened to you. In a slip-and-fall accident, it will be important to identify the potentially liable parties, to evaluate whether they were negligent, and to determine whether their negligence caused your injuries and losses. It will also be important to consider whether you contributed to your accident with your carelessness.
Slip-and-fall cases and theories of liability
To prove a defendant’s liability to pay for damages following a slip-and-fall accident, an injured victim will typically have to prove one of the following:
- The property owner, possessor, or the property owner or possessor’s agent should have discovered the dangerous condition and corrected it but failed to do so.
- The property owner or agent caused the dangerous condition that resulted in the accident, and the accident and injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence.
For the first scenario, the key question will be whether the condition would have been identified by a reasonable person as dangerous and whether the defendant had sufficient time to fix the problem before the accident. For the second scenario, the question will be whether the slip-and-fall accident was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the dangerous condition that the owner or agent created.
Proving liability and negligence
In slip-and-fall settlement negotiations, the reasonableness of the defendants’ actions or inactions will frequently be an issue. This is because a plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant did not act in the same way as a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances to prevail in this type of claim. To assess whether the defendant’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances, the plaintiff will need to consider several factors.
In a case involving the defendant’s alleged constructive notice, the plaintiff will need to consider whether the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient time so that a reasonable person in the same situation would have found it and have remedied it. The plaintiff will also need to check whether the property owner had a policy for employees to regularly check for hazardous conditions and whether there is an inspection log. If there is an inspection log or other records, the plaintiff will need to check whether the employees followed the procedures before the incident occurred.
For situations in which the property owner or possessor created the hazard, the plaintiff will need to determine whether a reasonable justification existed for creating it. If there was a reasonable justification for the creation of the hazard, the plaintiff will then need to determine whether it continued to exist when the slip-and-fall accident happened. The plaintiff will also need to think about whether the hazardous condition might have been created less dangerously by the use of preventative measures, including placing it in a different area, placing warning signs near it, or keeping people from accessing the area with guardrails or other devices. Finally, a plaintiff might need to consider whether poor lighting in the area may have contributed to the accident.
Proving that the accident was not the result of your carelessness
In many slip-and-fall claims, the property owner or possessor will argue that the plaintiff was either partially or completely responsible for his or her accident and injuries. Defendants raise this type of defense to try to reduce or avoid liability. Pennsylvania follows a rule of modified comparative negligence. Under it, a plaintiff will not be able to recover damages if he or she was more than 50% at fault for causing the accident that injured him or her. If the defendant is successful in showing that the plaintiff shared fault at less than 50%, the plaintiff’s gross award will be reduced by that percentage. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault and is awarded $100,000, his or her damages recovery will be reduced to $70,000.
People are expected to take steps to avoid open and obvious hazards. These are dangerous conditions that a reasonable person should see when using his or her normal perception. A lawyer will assess several factors when determining whether the plaintiff’s carelessness contributed to the cause of his or her accident and injuries. For example, the attorney might look at whether the plaintiff was distracted by something else, including talking or texting on a phone instead of watching where he or she was walking. Other considerations might include whether warning signs were posted in the area or other safety measures that the plaintiff ignored. If the defense can prove that the accident happened because of the plaintiff’s carelessness, it will be unlikely for the plaintiff to win the claim.
Get help from an experienced injury lawyer at DiCindio Law
Proving liability in slip-and-fall accidents can be difficult and require extensive investigation and legal analysis. People who are seriously injured in falls while they are visiting the property of another person or business might benefit from consulting with an experienced injury attorney at DiCindio Law. We can review the facts and circumstances of what occurred and provide you with an honest assessment of your claim’s legal merits. If we agree to accept your case, we can work with experts to build a strong case showing the liability of the property owner or possessor. Contact our law firm today to schedule your free consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535. You can also request a consultation by submitting your information and case details to us on our online contact form.