Walking through a parking lot can be dangerous. The cement may be uneven and cracked or there may be debris. In the winter there may be snow and ice that have been left for you to trip on. If you slip and fall in a parking lot you are likely to experience an injury. It may be just a bruised ego, or your injury could be more substantial such as a broken bone or concussion. You may be aware that a store has a duty to keep its aisles and floor clear from dangers, but you may not be aware that generally a store has the same duty in the parking lot. It does not matter if you are in the parking lot of a major nationwide chain, or if you are at a local gas station, if you have been injured because of a dangerous condition in a parking lot you may be able to recover from the property owner.

Is the Store Owner Liable?

In Pennsylvania, as a general rule, there is no liability if you slip and fall on snow or ice when their are general slippery conditions in the area (such as during an active snowstorm.) Instead, to recover for injuries suffered from a fall on ice or snow, you will need to prove that the owner, manager or snow removal contractor acted negligently. Usually, this negligence is in the form of allowing the snow and ice to exist for an unreasonable amount of time or failing to properly clear snow from the parking lot or sidewalks. In addition, a property owner could be found liable if the parking lot was in a defective condition which caused puddling or ice to form in certain areas.

What is the Hills and Ridge Doctrine?

The Hills and Ridges Doctrine is a legal doctrine that has been defined and applied by the courts of Pennsylvania. Basically, the doctrine refines and clarifies the duty that a landowner owes to a person on their property for a single type of dangerous condition. This doctrine has been more frequently applied to ice and snow.  The doctrine as it exists today protects a property owner from being held liable for generally slippery conditions that are a result of ice and snow. Pennsylvania Courts have summarized “the doctrine of hills and ridges” as follows:

This doctrine provides that an owner or occupier of land is not liable for general slippery conditions, for to require that one’s walks be always free of ice and snow would be to impose an impossible burden in view of the climatic conditions in this hemisphere. Snow and ice upon a pavement create merely transient danger, and the only duty upon the property owner or tenant is to act within a reasonable time after notice to remove it when it is in a dangerous condition. In order to recover for a fall on an ice- or snow-covered sidewalk, a plaintiff must prove:

  1. that snow and ice had accumulated on the sidewalk in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians travelling thereon;
  2. that the property owner had notice, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such condition;
  3. that it was the dangerous accumulation of snow and ice which caused the plaintiff to fall.

However, there are many instances in which the Hills and Ridges doctrine will not apply. In order to see if your fall accident meets an exception to the Hills and Ridges bar on liability, you should consult with an experienced premises liability lawyer who can offer expert advise tailored to your specific circumstances.

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Parking Lot Liability – Hazardous Conditions Other than Snow

Business parking lot owners owe the highest duty of care to keep their property safe for the general public. Because parking lots are generally connected to businesses if you are going in and out of a store and are injured in the parking lot you will often be considered a business invitee.

Under Pennsylvania law, a parking lot owner owes business invitees the highest duty of care. A business visitor or invitee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on a piece of property such as a store or a gas station for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the property owners land. This means that you can still bring a claim for injuries suffered because of the defective condition of the parking lot even if you did not buy anything in a store.. The parking lot owner must use reasonable care to make the parking lot safe for people to use. This may include them removing debris from the property and making repairs to potholes and sewer drains. Additionally if there is an unsafe condition in the parking lot, the parking lot owner has a duty to warn the people who want to park in the parking lot about the dangerous condition. This is commonly done by roping off an area of the parking lot, or by placing signs at the entrances and exits of the parking lot. The parking lot owner or owners must also use reasonable care to discover and dangerous conditions on the property. Employees sometimes conduct periodic inspections of the parking lot to make sure that there aren’t any shopping carts left out or that there aren’t any potholes. However, some stores do not inspect their parking lots often enough, or may not inspect their parking lots at all. This can leave you vulnerable to injuries.

Hire an Experienced Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer

The Wieand Law Firm knows how to get maximum compensation for your premises liability claim. We handle personal injury cases throughout all of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call Philadelphia personal injury attorney Brent Wieand today for a free legal consultation at 1(800) 481-5206. If your injury prevents you from traveling we will come to you. When accidents happen, the Wieand Law Firm is here to help.