Any time a person travels on foot, they are at risk of suffering a serious slip and fall accident. These types of accidents, which are sometimes called “slip and fall accidents,” can be caused by a wide range of property hazards and defects, ranging from icy sidewalks and dim lighting to rotten flooring and uneven surfaces. When a slip and fall accident is caused by the negligent, careless actions of another person, such as a landlord who fails to conduct critical maintenance, the injury victim may be able to recover compensation. The Reiff Law Firm is a Philadelphia personal injury law firm with nearly 40 years of experience helping slip and fall victims fight to recover that compensation.
At the Reiff Law Firm, we have earned the respect and authority that can only come from successfully representing thousands of clients. We are equipped with the tactical skill, legal knowledge, focused, persistence, and the network of resources to manage your case effectively, investigating your accident, and uncovering vital evidence to support your claim. Serving accident victims throughout Pennsylvania, our trusted Philadelphia slip and fall lawyers handle a wide range of cases, ranging from claims involving broken bones to wrongful death lawsuits stemming from accidental falls.
If you or a family member fell and was injured on another person’s property in Pennsylvania, our injury attorneys may be able to help. For a free legal review of your accident, contact the Reiff Law Firm online, or call us today at (215) 709-6940.
What Is a Notice of Defective Condition?
You may have seen those big yellow signs in supermarkets or restaurants that say, “Caution: Wet Floor.” These are more than just friendly reminders. In reality, the property owner has a legal obligation to notify you and other property guests about the slippery conditions. Legally, this is referred to as the duty to provide notice. Property owners must take reasonable steps to identify any hazardous conditions that could foreseeably cause their guests harm. Once the property owner or manager discovers such a condition, such as a slippery area on the floor or a broken step, they must provide notice to their guests that the condition exists until the condition can be fixed or otherwise made safe again.
Property owners do not have a legal duty to warn guests about unforeseeably dangerous conditions. Examples of unforeseeable dangers may include what are referred to as “acts of God,” such as natural disasters, or criminal acts of third parties. If you file a lawsuit to recover damages for your slip and fall, you will want to keep the concept of foreseeability in mind, as it is one of the more commonly used defenses in personal injury cases.
Common Injuries that Occur in “Slip and Fall” Accidents that You May be Able to File a Claim for:
Slip and fall accidents may not always appear serious to onlookers, but unfortunately, these types of accidents are capable of inflicting severe, catastrophic, or even fatal injuries. Some individuals have an above-average risk of being seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, such as adults aged 65 and older, who account for approximately 800,000 fall-related hospital visits per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Regardless of an individual’s age or occupation, falls are an ever-present risk in all types of indoor and outdoor commercial and residential settings. When an accidental fall occurs, it is common for serious injuries to result. Some examples of severe injuries caused by slip and falls include:
Bone fractures (broken bone injuries) are very common in slip and fall accidents. The wrists and arms are particularly at risk, because it is a natural response for a person to extend his or her arms as a fall is happening. Other areas of the body where bone fractures are common to include the hips, ankles, feet and toes, knees, the spinal column (“backbone”), and facial bones, such as the nose and jaw. According to the CDC, among adults 65 and older, “More than 95% of hip fractures,” or pelvic fractures, “are caused by falling.”
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
The spinal cord plays an essential role in human anatomy, serving as the connective link between the brain and the rest of the body. If the spinal cord is pinched or severed, victims may experience partial or total paralysis, which is known as “paraplegia” (paralysis from the waist down) or “quadriplegia”/“tetraplegia” (paralysis from the neck down). It is not uncommon for victims of spinal cord injuries to also sustain injuries to the spinal column, or the vertebrae forming the backbone.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Concussions
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury, a type of brain injury which occurs when the head is struck by or against an object. These injuries are very common, particularly when a person falls backward and strikes their head on a hard surface such as cement or wood. Often, those who suffer a traumatic brain injury or concussion report extended recovery times and are sometimes unable to return to their former functioning. Depending on the severity of the brain injury and where it is located, a victim of TBI may experience effects that include loss of sensation, chronic pain, incontinence, personality changes, or difficulty speaking and communicating.
These serious injuries require prompt, costly, and sometimes risky medical treatments. In addition, many of these injuries will result in lengthy rehabilitation times and can cause ongoing physical, emotional, and financial problems for their victims. For example, people who become paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries may need to leave their jobs, submit to invasive and expensive surgeries, and remodel their homes for improved access. They may also struggle with psychological effects, such as anxiety or depression. Whatever sort of injury a slip and fall accident results in, the resulting hardships to the victim are immense, particularly in scenarios where the victim was previously providing financial support for a family member, child, or elderly relative.
Bone fractures, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and many other types of injuries can serve as the basis for a personal injury claim in Philadelphia. If you or a loved one recently suffered any type of fall-related injury in Philadelphia or other areas of Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact our law offices for a free consultation.
What Kind of Compensation is Available for Slip and Fall Injuries in Philadelphia?
The final element needed to prove negligence is showing quantifiable damages. Typically, damages come in two specific categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are your financial losses associated with your injury. Therefore, a slip and fall victim is entitled to recover for their medical expenses, lost income, and other costs they have incurred because of their injury and treatment. In some cases, these damages could be significant, especially if the plaintiff is out of work for an extended period or requires months or years of physical therapy. Typically, our Philadelphia personal injury attorney will be able to gather receipts, bills, and estimates to calculate your economic damages.
Non-economic damages refer to the pain and suffering a victim experiences because of their injury. These types of damages are much more challenging to calculate. It is difficult to put a price on the pain you are experiencing in your shoulder or the amount of sleep you are losing because of your anxiety. By working with your healthcare professionals, family, friends, and talking directly with you, our experienced attorney will work to come up with a justifiable figure.
Another form of damages that are available in a small percentage of cases are known as punitive damages. Unlike the damages described above, punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant if their behavior is especially malicious and intentional. Proving that a defendant acted with willful malicious is very difficult. Therefore, it is unlikely you would be awarded punitive damages in a slip and fall case.
Not everyone who falls, even if it was because of the negligence of a store manager or property owner, has a viable personal injury case. Without an injury and quantifiable damages, you do not have the basis for filing a lawsuit. Damages is the term to describe your monetary losses incurred because of your injury, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Damages also include financial compensation for your physical pain and emotional suffering. It is critical to talk to a knowledgeable Philadelphia slip and fall attorney to understand what damages could be available in your case.
Negligence in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
As stated above, slip and fall accidents in Philadelphia often result in serious injuries. Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere but are very common in the workplace, including construction sites, factories, warehouses, and loading docks. Philadelphia is also a busy, pedestrian-friendly city. Therefore, slip and fall accidents are prevalent because many people are walking to their destination. In addition to dangerous worksites, slip and fall accidents occur in apartment buildings, restaurants, bars, hospitals, schools, supermarkets, hotels, and even in the homes of your friends and family members.
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident, you might be entitled to file a lawsuit against the property owner or manager. To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to establish four elements.
The Breach Must Have Caused the Injury
The third element in a negligence case is causation. Causation in a personal injury lawsuit means that the property owners’ conduct or inaction caused the injury or accident. Our Philadelphia slip and fall attorney will have to show that the plaintiff’s accident was a direct result of what the property owner did or did not do. If a plaintiff fell because they slipped on a spill in the produce aisle of a grocery store, the evidence would have to prove that the cause of the slip was the property owner’s failure to clean up the spill or warn the plaintiff.
“Comparative Negligence” in Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Lawsuits
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident, Pennsylvania law permits you to seek compensation for your damages. However, many times the person who was hurt was partially to blame for the accident. For example, you might have slipped in a grocery store because a spill was left untended. However, while you were walking down the store aisle, you could have been texting a friend and were not paying attention to your surroundings.
Because Pennsylvania follows the comparative negligence doctrine, any degree of fault you share could impact your potential award. In some situations, if your percentage of fault is significant enough, you could be barred from receiving any financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This is one of the reasons it is important not to give any indication that you might believe you were to blame during the moments immediately following a fall or with an insurance adjuster a day or two afterward.
A jury in Philadelphia will not only be asked to determine what compensation should be, they will also determine how much each party was to blame for a slip and fall accident. Therefore, if you were awarded $20,000 but found to be 10% to blame for your fall, your recovery amount would be reduced by $2,000. It is also important to note that Pennsylvania follows a modified 51% comparative negligence rule. This means that if a jury determines that your conduct contributed more than 50% towards your injury, you are prohibited from receiving any monetary compensation in the case. The attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm are aware that the defense will work to shift the blame onto the victim and will vigorously work to counter or mitigate any allegations that are made.
The Duties of Owner/Managers
Under Pennsylvania law, a property owner in Philadelphia owes individuals on their property a duty of care. The exact nature of the responsibility depends on how and why an individual is on the property. If you are on another person’s property, you are an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
Invitees are people who enter another person’s property by the invitation of the owner. One of the most common examples of an invitee is a patron in a store. The owner of the store has invited their customers to enter and shop. If you live in a residential apartment building, then you are considered an invitee when you enter any common areas, including the lobby, stairwells, hallways, or garage. Property owners in Philadelphia could be held liable if an invitee is injured because of a known hazard or if they should have known a dangerous condition existed. Therefore, a property owner has a duty to regularly inspect the property and keep it maintained in a safe condition.
When someone is not invited on the property but is there with the owner’s permission, they are considered licensees. When someone thinks of a slip and fall accident, a familiar picture is someone tripping on a cracked or uneven sidewalk. If you are walking on the sidewalk in front of a building or home, you are considered a licensee. Another example of a licensee is a utility worker who enters a home to read a meter. Property owners could be held liable if a licensee is injured by a known hazardous condition. Under these circumstances, a property owner has an obligation to either address the condition or provide an adequate warning.
A trespasser is an individual who enters a property without permission or an invite from the owner. Someone scaling the wall of a construction site to take a shortcut is trespassing. Typically, a property owner must not willfully injury a trespasser. However, in Philadelphia, there is an exception for children that are known to come onto a property. If this is the case, the children are raised to the status of licensee regarding the property owner’s duty.
The Duties of Property Owners
Once a duty of care is established, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the property owner breached their duty of care. While whether a plaintiff is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser will influence what constitutes a breach, some basic concepts come into play in nearly every personal injury lawsuit arising from a slip and fall accident.
If the property owner created the dangerous situation that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury, then they likely breached their duty of care. For example, if a store owner spilled water out on their sidewalk, creating a slippery and hazardous surface, they could be held liable if someone walking by slipped and fell.
In cases of invitees and licensees, a property owner could be held liable if someone is hurt because they were aware of a defective or dangerous condition and failed to warn the plaintiff or take action to correct the condition. Accidents occur in grocery stores all the time; items fall off shelves and spills happen. If a store owner is aware of a spill and does not have it cleaned up or post a notice of a wet floor, they could be held accountable if an injury occurs. Another example of this is a homeowner who is aware that the steps on their outside deck are broken. However, they fail to inform their guests that the steps present a danger.
As stated earlier, property owners owe invitees a more significant duty of care and could be held liable if they should have known about a dangerous condition. To avoid this type of liability, a property owner is required to inspect their property regularly to ensure that it presents no unreasonable hazards to their invitees.
Third-Party Liability for Slip and Fall Injuries in Philadelphia
In many instances, commercial property owners may contract with an outside company to provide inspection and maintenance services for their property. Safekeeping duties may also be delegated through a commercial lease agreement between a property owner (such as a real estate holding company) and a tenant (or retail business who uses the lot).
If you slipped and fell on a wet spot in a restaurant, it is typically easy to identify the restaurant owner as the defendant, even if they are only tenants in the space. However, other situations may be more complicated, such as accidents in parking lots that service multiple commercial lots. Call a resourceful Philadelphia slip and fall attorney today to determine who was responsible for the conditions that caused you injury.
When is the City or State Responsible?
If you were injured in a slip and fall on public property in Philadelphia, you may have a claim against the municipal government body responsible for preventing the condition that hurt you. The City of Philadelphia is responsible for creating and implementing protocols for the safekeeping of public streets, government buildings, sidewalks, and parks. This is most important during and after inclement weather that could create icy conditions.
You do have the ability to file a suit against the City of Philadelphia if their negligence caused the conditions that harmed you. Your attorney can help you identify whether a government entity was responsible, and if so, which one. This task can be particularly complex where sidewalks are concerned. Some aspects of sidewalk maintenance may be the responsibility of a nearby private property owner. In some situations, you may be able to sue more than one defendant for your injuries, but you should always consult with your Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer before jumping into a lawsuit.
If you do decide to file a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia, you will face stricter time requirements than you would under the statute of limitations in a suit against a private property owner. Typically, in order to file your lawsuit against the government, you must provide proper notice of your claim within six months of the date of the injury. There are other important notice requirements that you must adhere to when filing your lawsuit against the city, of which our Philadelphia slip and fall lawyers are already well aware.
Slip and Fall Lawsuits While Trespassing in Philadelphia
There are three different labels that the law uses to categorize people who are injured on someone else’s property: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property for business purposes, such as a customer at a restaurant or at a retail shop. A licensee is someone is invited with the permission of the owner, such as a social guest. Trespassers by definition do not have the owner’s permission to enter the property.
However, even though they did not grant permission, property owners in Pennsylvania still owe some duties to potential trespassers. While the property owner does not have a responsibility to fix foreseeable dangers on the property, they will be liable if they cause injury by intentionally setting up traps that are designed to harm a trespasser.
Philadelphia property owners must also bear in mind the law of attractive nuisance. This theory typically comes into play when a child trespasses on the property and is injured. Property owners in Pennsylvania may be liable for injuries to children because of hazards that might foreseeably attract a child to the property. The law exists to protect children who may not be able to appreciate the risk of the dangerous element. Examples of attractive nuisances could include pools, trampolines, or heavy machinery.
Even if you were trespassing at the time of your slip and fall injuries, you may still have a case. Contact one of our experienced Philadelphia slip and fall attorneys as soon as possible.
Statute of Limitations for Philadelphia Slip and Fall Lawsuits
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses a specific law, called the statute of limitations, that puts a time limit on every type of civil claim that a plaintiff should wish to file. In the case of slip and fall injury lawsuits against property owners, Pennsylvania gives you only two years to file your claim. The clock starts running on the date of the accident.
Two years may seem like a long time, but you may be surprised to find out how long it can take to prepare a lawsuit. You will need to work with your lawyer to identify the defendant (or defendants) in your case and estimate the cost of your harms prior to filing. Additionally, certain situations may require you to act earlier than others, such as in lawsuits against a municipal government body. To hear more about these special circumstances, keep reading below or contact one of our Philadelphia slip and fall lawyers.
Our Philadelphia Slip and Fall Lawyers Can Help if You Were Hurt on a Negligent Person’s or Company’s Property
As the victim of a slip and fall accident, your injuries may be more serious than you initially anticipated. You may have to take time off from work to recover, or even experience long-term or permanent disabilities from the accident. At the Reiff Law Firm, we have helped numerous clients recover compensation for their losses following serious trip and fall accidents and are ready to help you fight for the maximum amount available in your case. It may be possible to recover compensation for medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages associated with your accident.
Our slip and fall attorneys have been representing injury victims and their families for nearly four decades. We are highly experienced in dealing with complex liability claims against property owners and their insurance companies and make all reasonable efforts to fight aggressively while offering clients the support and legal guidance they need. If you were injured in Philadelphia, we are here to help. To arrange a completely free and confidential legal review, call our law offices at (215) 709-6940.