Have you ever taken a tumble on a slippery sidewalk or in a parking lot? Were you hurt as a result of the fall?
Before you consider filing suit against the property owner for negligence, it is important for you to understand the burden of proof that is required in such cases.
There are four primary elements to a negligence case, and a person must prove all of them to win:
- You must prove that the property owner had a duty to protect you from harm or injury. In Pennsylvania, state law requires that property owners ensure their property is safe for users. If the property includes a sidewalk, that means the sidewalk must be maintained. It should be free of ice and snow, and it should be flat and free of defects such as heaves from tree roots or potholes. If the property has handicapped ramps, those ramps must comply with applicable standards. In the case of a retail establishment or restaurant, indoor floors must be clear and dry.
- You must demonstrate clearly that property owner neglected his duty to maintain safe conditions. If you fall on someone else’s property, take pictures of the condition that caused your fall. For instance, if it is a buckle in the concrete or a crater, use a tape measurer in the photograph to show the depth of the divot. If you fall on snow or ice, note 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.
- You must show that the dangerous condition is actually what caused you to fall. What kind of shoes were you wearing when you fell? Were you distracted at the time? Were you carrying something? These are all relevant factors. You only have a valid case if a defect in the property actually caused your fall. If you simply took a wrong step, you cannot make a claim.
- You must show you suffered damages because of the fall. These can take the form of medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you fall, get up, and move on with no injuries, you do not have a claim against the property owner.
Even if you can offer definitive proof on all of the above, slip-and-fall claims are still among the hardest to prosecute. The property owner’s attorney will often point to your own potential negligence. You also need to be aware of the time limits on personal injury claims in Pennsylvania.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Jack Goodrich and Associates to discuss your case. We are a nationally recognized personal injury law firm and offer a no-cost initial personal consultation. Call 412-261-GOOD (412-261-4663).