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
- 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.
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.