Who Is Responsible For These Accidents?
Property owners may be held financially liable for damages under the premises liability statute if negligence can be proved.
Premises Liability Lawsuits
Slip and fall lawsuits are categorized under the premises liability category. This statute establishes responsibility on the part of the property owner for injuries which have resulted from negligence. Visitors are divided into three categories, each of which has different rights:
- Trespassers - receive the lowest amount of protection. Property owners are not required to keep trespassers safe unless the property owner is aware of the trespasser and neglects to alert him or her to the dangers present.
- Licensees (private guests) - must be warned of any hidden dangers when they enter the property.
- Invitees (business customers) - The property owner is required to inspect the property and ensure it is safe for invitees.
If you’re recovering from a slip and fall injury and wondering about your legal options, there are a few criteria you should be aware of. In order to file a lawsuit, your lawyer must be able to prove negligence on the part of the property owner. This can be proven in one of three different ways:
- The property owner created the danger which caused the accident
- He or she knew about the danger and did not adequately fix it
- He or she should have known about the danger
The law requires property owners to maintain a reasonably safe standard for their properties. Responsible property owners will do regular inspections and make any necessary repairs in order to ensure the safety of their guests.
What If I’m Partially Responsible?
Pennsylvania adheres to a comparative fault system when considering premises liability lawsuits. The court will analyze your own role and responsibility in the accident, and determine how much you could have done to avoid it - assigning a percentage for your level of responsibility. Damages may still be awarded to you as long as your responsibility is determined to be less than 50%.
When the plaintiff is determined to be partially responsible, the dollar amount will be adjusted to account for this. For example, a $100,000 verdict for a victim who was deemed 10% responsible for the accident would result in a total payout of $90,000.
Common Accident Causes
Slips and falls are some of the most common accidents, with about 1 million incidents per year. About half of those million suffer injuries as a result, and 300,000 are injured in a way that is at least temporarily disabling. Every year, a whopping 17,000 people even die from these accidents.
There are a variety of influences which could cause a slip and fall accident. Some of the common ones include:
Ice and snow
For uncleared ice and snow on sidewalks and driveways, Pennsylvania law operates under the “Hills and Ridges” rule. This establishes that a property owner must remove ice and snow within a reasonable amount of time. There are three criteria which must be fulfilled for a lawsuit involving ice and snow:
- Ice and snow has accumulated in ridges or hills of a size which obstructs travel and presents a danger to pedestrians.
- The property owner was aware of the condition, or enough time had passed that he or she should have been aware.
- The accumulation of ice and snow caused the slip or fall
Business owners are required to place wet floor signs in the vicinity of wet surfaces in order to warn patrons. Private property owners should also warn guests of any dangerous wet floors.
A walking surface with an abrupt change in elevation presents a danger to pedestrians. Any change in elevation should be gradual in order to prevent slips and trips. Cracks and breaks in floors and sidewalks also may lead to uneven elevations which could cause injuries.
Walking areas frequented by pedestrians, such as walkways, staircases, and parking lots, should be well-lit in order to allow pedestrians to see any obstacles in their way.
Potholes represent a serious hazard to pedestrians. Accidentally stepping into a pothole can cause serious injuries. In 2009, an Oregon college student sustained a concussion and other injuries after tripping on a parking lot pothole. These injuries resulted in over $14,000 in medical bills.
Broken Steps and Staircases
Property owners have an obligation to maintain all aspects of their property for safety. Broken or poorly maintained steps and staircases present a danger to those who use them and can cause serious injuries if a victim falls.
During autumn, property owners are required to remove leaves which have fallen on the ground. When it rains, accumulations of wet leaves create a slick surface which is hazardous for pedestrians.
These are just a few of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents. Don’t worry if you don’t see your accident listed. Lawyers who specialize in these cases work with a wide range of accident causes, and may still be able to assist you.
Victims of slip and fall accidents suffer from injuries which vary from minor to severe. Some of the most common slip and fall injuries include:
- Back problems
- Neck pain
- Lacerations and scarring
- Broken bones and sprains
- Damaged ligaments
- Spinal cord problems
- Shoulder injuries
- Head injuries
If you’ve recently suffered a slip and fall accident, we advise visiting a doctor as soon as possible. It’s important to be aware of any health issues you may face as a result. For some of these injuries, the symptoms may not surface right away. That’s why it’s important to rely on the advice of a medical professional, rather than waiting to notice something is wrong yourself.
How Will I Recover Damages?
If you decide to pursue compensation for your accident, your lawyers will work with a variety of information in order to build a strong case. First, they will consult with your medical doctors to determine the extent of your injuries. They may consult with professional accident investigators, who will return to the scene of your accident and analyze contributing factors and examples of negligence which may have caused your fall. Finally, they will gather all of the pertinent documents for your case - including medical records, police reports, and building permits.
If the property owner has demonstrated significant negligence, and your own responsibility for the accident is lower than 50%, a lawsuit may be appropriate. The court will consider both sides of the situation before settling on a verdict. If the ruling is in your favor, a monetary amount for damages will be set based on the types of damages you deserve and the ratio of responsibility between you and the property owner.
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