While the phrase slip and fall might not sound serious, it is shocking to many to discover just how many people are seriously injured in Pennsylvania slip and fall accidents and how expensive these injuries can be. In fact, slip and fall accidents are the greatest cause of injuries in hotels, restaurants and public buildings, in addition to being the most common reason for visits to the emergency room. At Fairlie & Lippy we understand how serious and expensive these accidents are and will zealously pursue your claim to fight for the compensation available to you under the law.
Slip and fall is the generic term for a personal injury that falls under the umbrella of “premise liability” cases, which refer to situation when an individual is injured on the premises owned or maintained by another and the owner or possessor of the premises is held liable for the injuries suffered. Generally, slip and fall cases occur when someone slips, trips or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. Pennsylvania law protects pedestrians from businesses and homeowners that fail to ensure their property is safe for others. If a person or business fails to keep their property safe for others it may be possible to pursue a claim for negligence. Dangerous conditions that typically give rise to slip and fall accidents include:
- Snow and ice
- Hidden defects in the ground
- Improperly placed signage
- Cracks in the sidewalk
- Steps in disrepair
- Wet floor surfaces
- Things left on the ground in blind places
Snow and Ice:
There are many special rules with regard to slip and fall cases that should be carefully followed. For instance, where there is snow or ice on the ground, Pennsylvania’s Hills and Ridges doctrine may apply. Under the Hills and Ridges doctrine, the owner is not required to clear a natural accumulation of snow or ice the moment it falls unless it is artificially created (runoff from gutters, puddles, etc.) or develops hills and ridges. This doctrine is very confusing and best understood in a thorough consultation with a knowledgeable attorney. For instance, the Hills and Ridges doctrine can bar a suit for a slip on fall on black ice, although there are circumstances where a suit based on black ice is proper.
Other Dangerous Conditions:
While the rules surrounding slip and fall cases may be complex, in all slip and fall cases the injured party must demonstrate that the owner of the property is liable for the accident. In most cases, to establish liability the injured party must show that the property owner was negligent and his or her negligence was the cause of the injuries sustained.
When is a property owner “negligent”?
The critical issue in many slip and fall cases is just how a reasonable property owner was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like an “ordinary reasonable person” would have acted. The determination of whether a given person has met the “ordinary reasonable person” standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial. Generally, a property owner is responsible for injuries that occur as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on their property, which the owner knew about, or should have known about (known as “constructive notice”).
What damages are recoverable for slip and fall cases?
Depending upon the facts of your case, the following damages may be recoverable:
- Medical bills and out of pocket expenses
- Lost income from work
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- General damages
Can a trespasser recover damages in a slip and fall lawsuit?
Whether a trespasser may file suit against a property owner and recover damages depends on the circumstances of the case. Generally, a trespasser may recover damages for a slip and fall if the property owner was aware a trespasser was on the property or expected to be on the property and failed to keep the property in a hazard-free condition.
What should I do if I have suffered a slip and fall injury?
If the injury occurred at work or at another commercial entity an accident report should be completed. This report should document the injury including what happened, if there were any witnesses, and circumstantial conditions (such as the lighting or the weather). Many businesses have these reports as a matter of policy. However, if a report is not available or if the injury occurred on a public path or a private residence, take the time to write down your recollection of what happened. This will strengthen your claim by articulating details that may be difficult to recall later on. Include information such as:
- The date and time of the slip and fall
- A description of the circumstances surrounding the slip and fall
- Who was around at the time of the slip and fall and/or helped afterwards — If available include written record of the comments made by these witnesses
- Take photographs of the area where the slip or fall occurred as soon after the accident as possible
- If you were physically injured, have your injury treated by a medical professional immediately to help substantiate your claim. Like all personal injury lawsuits, if treatment is delayed the defendant will likely argue that it was not the slip and fall that caused your injuries, but some cause in between your slip and fall and your doctors visit.
How long do I have to file a claim?
Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” which determine the time frame within which one who slips and falls can file a claim. The statute of limitations for Pennsylvania slip and fall cases is two years from the date of the slip and fall. Once the limit has expired, you will have waived your ability to obtain compensation from the property owner at fault. There are narrow exceptions to this rule, therefore, it is important to contact a well-versed personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you receive the best possible recovery available to you under the law.
Why Fairlie & Lippy?
At Fairlie & Lippy, we have handled cases against businesses and homeowners for issues such as broken sidewalks, wet supermarket floors, poorly designed staircases and doorways, failing to salt or remove snow and ice, and unsafe delivery areas. Additionally, through our investigation we have found defects in the way buildings were maintained that caused repeated problems, such as improper drainage of water or other maintenance deficiencies.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a fall, you need a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney on your side. If you have suffered a slip and fall, or other premise liability injury in Philadelphia, Bucks or Montgomery County, contact Fairlie & Lippy. We can investigate your claim and help you obtain the best recovery possible for your injuries.