Slip and Fall Cases
The medical bills and legal compensation associated with slip and fall accidents in the U.S. often top $70 billion annually. Avoidable accidents that cause physical injuries and property damage as the result of poorly maintained premises result in lost work, large medical bills, and even deaths.
Slip and fall accidents can happen almost anywhere:
- Stadiums and Arenas
- Parks and Playgrounds
- Hospitals and Retirement Homes
- Private Residences
- Construction Sites
- Parking Lots
These accidents are considered premises liability cases because one of the chief legal questions to determine is: who owns the location where the accident occurred and who was responsible for maintaining safe conditions there?
There is a common misconception that the entity, whether a private resident or a business, occupying the space automatically owns the property and thus is responsible for anything that occurs in or around it. However, many occupants are merely leasing the space from a landlord, who also has certain duties to keep the premises free from avoidable slip and fall risks.
Individuals who suffer a slip and fall injury in their workplace are entitled to file a claim for both workers’ compensation from their employer and to negotiate or sue for compensation from the third-party landlord who owns the building or workspace.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
- Spilled liquids or other foreign substances that weren’t promptly cleaned up and marked with cautionary signs.
- Extreme weather conditions (e.g., ice, rain, or hail) affecting areas that aren’t properly remediated (such as with salt or sand) or cordoned off.
- Tripping hazards caused by unsafe property conditions (e.g., damaged floors, stairs, and sidewalks, or inadequate lighting).
Determining Who Is at Fault
Liability for a slip and fall accident can be based on where the injury occurred, who controlled the premises, or both.
For example, a store that rents space in a building is responsible for taking reasonable precautions to prevent slips and falls in the areas they rent and have exclusive control of. But the owner of the building may have sole or shared responsibility for keeping the exterior portions, such as the sidewalks and parking lot, free from fall hazards.
Generally, the party controlling the property and/or the party that owns it will be found liable for a slip and fall accident if they do one or more of the following:
- Cause the dangerous condition that results in a slip and fall.
- Become aware of a dangerous condition and permit it to persist for an unreasonably long period of time.
- Allow a dangerous condition to persist even if they didn’t know of it — if a reasonable person would have noticed and corrected it.
Shared Fault Rule
Some states, including Pennsylvania, apply a shared fault rule, which reduces the amount an injured party can be compensated based on their actions in causing or not preventing the accident, such as:
- Entering a part of the property where customers or visitors are not permitted or expected to be.
- Directly causing the hazard, such as by spilling a liquid at the supermarket and then slipping on it before the store ever had a chance to clean it up.
- Wearing inappropriate footwear for the circumstances, such as shoes with completely worn out soles or flip flops in a snowstorm.
- Not paying attention, such as by looking down at a phone while walking somewhere.
- Ignoring safety signs, cones, or ropes cordoning off a dangerous area.
- Failing to notice a dangerous condition that would be considered obvious to someone using reasonable care and attentiveness while walking.
- Running, jumping, or otherwise traversing the area in a manner that is inherently unsafe given the conditions of the location.
Pennsylvania uses a modified comparative negligence standard to determine how compensation should be adjusted based on the injured party’s own actions. For example, if the court finds they were 20% responsible for the accident but awards them $50,000 for their injuries and property damage, that award will be reduced by 20% to $40,000.
If a Pennsylvania court finds that the injured party was more than 50% responsible for the accident, they will not be entitled to any compensation.
Statute of Limitations and Compensation
In most states there is a time limit to bring a claim for a slip and fall accident. In Pennsylvania, injured parties have two years from the occurrence of the event to formally request compensation.
If successful, the injured party may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages, and repair or replacement of personal property of theirs that was damaged during the fall, such as expensive jewelry or wristwatches.
Get the Legal Guidance You Need to Fully Recover From a Slip and Fall
Only an experienced premises liability and personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a case. The attorneys of Pond Lehocky Giordano are skilled at investigating slip and fall accidents, gathering evidence to prove the injury and/or property damage that occurred was avoidable, and determining who should be held responsible.