Premise and Product Liability
If you are a property owner in Pennsylvania, it is important that you understand your liability should someone fall on your premises. Similarly, if you’ve been injured in a fall on someone else’s property, you need to understand your rights.
As in all negligence cases in Pennsylvania, an individual seeking to make a claim against a property owner after a trip or slip and fall must prove all of the elements of their case.
First, the injured person must prove that the property owner had a duty to protect him from harm. In PA, owners are charged with making sure that their property is reasonably safe for foreseeable users. For instance, if the owner’s property includes a public sidewalk, the owner must maintain that sidewalk in good condition. This means removing snow and ice in the winter, and also by making sure that the surface is flat and intact and free of defects such as heaves from tree roots or pot holes. If the owner has handicapped ramps on the property, he must make sure they conform to applicable standards. Owners of establishments such as retail properties or restaurants also have a duty to keep indoor floors clear and dry.
Second, the injured individual must show that the owner of the property breached his duty to maintain the area in a safe condition. If you fall on someone else’s property, try to take pictures of the defect or condition that caused your fall. If your fall was caused by a height deviation or crater in concrete, use a tape measure in the photograph to show how deep the offending divot is. If you fall on snow or ice, make note of the weather conditions at the time of your fall. Property owners are given a reasonable amount of time following weather events to clear their sidewalks, so if it is still snowing when you fall, your case may not be as strong as if the last snowfall was days ago and the walk still isn’t clear. Similarly, a retail establishment has to be aware of a spill before they can be charged with negligence for failing to clean it up.
Third, the injured party has to show that the dangerous condition caused his fall. Make note of what kind of shoes you were wearing at the time of your fall. Keep in mind what you were carrying or if you were distracted at the time. Not every fall is caused by a property owner’s negligence, and you cannot bring a claim just because you fell on someone else’s premises. You only have a valid case if a defect in the property actually caused your fall – if you simply took a wrong step and fell, you cannot make a claim.
Finally, you must show that you suffered damages as a result of your fall. Damages are items like medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering which are incurred or experienced as a result of your fall. If you fall, get up, and move on with no injuries, you do not have a claim against the property owner (though you should notify him or her of your fall). However, if you are hurt, you should contact an attorney at Goodrich & Associates right away to assess your claim.
Even if you can prove all of the above elements of your case, slip or trip and fall claims are still among the hardest to prosecute. The property owner’s attorney will bring up issues such as your own negligence in choosing to attempt to navigate a damaged or icy sidewalk and whether you contributed to your own injuries by failing to pay attention to where you were walking.
You also need to be aware of other important factors like the time limits on personal injury claims in Pennsylvania. Our experienced lawyers at Goodrich & Associates can help you navigate these complex issues. If you are injured in a trip or slip and fall, call us right away for a free evaluation. It’s risk free.
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