According to injury statistics from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, falls are the number one cause of unintentional injury in the United States, resulting in over 11 million emergency room visits. Nearly 1 million of these visits were related to slip and fall injuries, which can occur due to slippery floors, poor lighting, or other factors. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that in 2014 alone, in addition to causing millions of injuries, accidental falls also caused nearly 32,000 deaths.
Though common, slip and fall injuries are seldom truly “accidents.” Instead, they are caused by dangerous property conditions, such as wet floors, broken sidewalks, and icy parking lots. If you or a loved one was injured in a slip and fall due to a defective property condition anywhere in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, compensation may be available for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.
You should speak with an experienced Philadelphia slip and fall attorney as soon as possible to preserve your right to bring a personal injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit. For a free and confidential legal consultation about a slip and fall injury in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (800) 481-5026 today.
Types of Slip and Fall Cases Our Personal Injury Law Firm Handles in PA and NJ
The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is a personal injury law firm based in Philadelphia, PA. Our firm handles a wide array of injury claims, including slip and fall claims arising from deaths and injuries caused by property defects.
Trip and fall injuries are very common, because they can happen anywhere and at any time – usually when the victim least expects it. Our law firm represents slip and fall victims who were injured due to property hazards such as:
- Defective stairs and railings. Fall injuries can result in or because of stairwells if they are slippery, poorly lit, lack handrails, or feature defective railings.
- Hazardous workplace conditions. Whether you work at an office building, a warehouse, a grocery store, a construction site, or a different type of work environment, common hazards such as broken flooring, unsecured cables, wobbly railings, defective equipment, and slippery spots can all lead to preventable falls in the workplace.
- Icy sidewalks or broken sidewalks. Falls often occur due to defective conditions of the street or sidewalk. Examples include unsalted ice, broken or crumbling pavement, potholes in the sidewalk or street, raised or uneven pavement, and slush or snow that has not been removed in a timely manner.
- Wet floors, leaks, and puddles. Leaks and spills, such as leaks from broken containers in grocery stores, must be cleaned up or cordoned off promptly. Likewise, freshly mopped or waxed floors should be indicated by warning signs.
- Defective streets and crosswalks. Like sidewalks, streets and crosswalks can feature dangerous defects, such as potholes, uneven surfaces, and the remnants of removed signs, which protrude slightly from the pavement and create almost invisible trip hazards.
These and other hazards can exist at virtually any type or property, regardless of whether the property is indoors, outdoors, owned by an individual, owned by a private company, or owned by a government entity. In most cases, the property owner’s insurance will cover claims for personal injury. Examples of locations and properties where slip and fall accidents frequently occur include:
- Apartment Complexes
- Auto Dealerships
- Bars and Restaurants
- Concert Venues
- Convenience Stores
- Department Stores
- Fast Food Franchises
- Food Courts
- Grocery Stores
- Hotels and Motels
- Movie Theatres
- Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums
- Parking Garages
- Parking Lots
- Recreational Centers
- Retail Outlets
- Shopping Malls
- Sports Arenas
- Tourist Attractions
- Work Sites
The Wieand Law Firm, LLC handles personal injury cases that cause serious harm or permanent injury. Types of injury claims we handle on behalf of slip and fall victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey include:
- Ankle Fractures
- Back Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Bruising and Contusions
- Concussions and Head Injuries
- Cuts and Lacerations
- Hand Injuries
- Herniated Disc Injuries
- Foot Injuries
- Internal Bleeding
- Knee Injuries
- Neck Sprain and Strain Injuries (“Whiplash”)
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Torn Ligaments
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
- Wrist Injuries
- Wrongful Death
How Much Compensation is My Slip and Fall Case Worth?
Although trip and fall cases are frequently trivialized, we know that the pain and suffering endured by victims is real. We understand the problems caused by unexpected medical expenses, and consider the limitations the injury may have on your work or daily activities. When you are represented by our personal injury law firm in Philadelphia, you can rest assured that we will work diligently and strategically to pursue the compensation to which you are entitled.
The amount of compensation awarded varies greatly from case to case. It will depend on the extent of the negligence of the defendant, as well as harms and losses you incurred as a result of your fall.
Slip and fall injuries can simultaneously reduce your quality of life, burden you with heavy medical expenses, and make it difficult or impossible for you to continue earning income at the level you were accustomed to before the incident occurred. However, if your injury occurred because of another party’s negligence, that party may be liable for your damages, including:
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Lost Wages and Income
- Medical Bills
- Pain and Suffering
- Punitive Damages
We will fight aggressively on your behalf in an effort to see that you are fully and fairly compensated for the harm caused. We will protect you from unknowingly accepting a low-ball settlement offer that fails to appropriately address your long-term care expenses. If an acceptable settlement offer is not made, we will not hesitate to try your case in front of a jury.
When Are Property Owners Liable for Injuries to Tenants, Customers, or Visitors?
Generally, a property owner or possessor is responsible for keeping his or her property in reasonably safe condition. This duty includes making timely and reasonable efforts to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions which might cause injury to guests, residents, visitors, invitees, shoppers, diners, customers, patrons, and members of the general public who are on the property lawfully.
Further, if a property owner has notice of a dangerous condition on their premises, he or she owes a legal duty not only to cure the hazard, but also to warn persons who are legally on the property of the condition. Common warnings may include:
- Caution Signs
- Verbal Warnings
- Wet Floor Signs
- Written Notices
In some cases, notice of the danger may also require business owners to barricade the hazard – for instance, constructing a fence around a hole in the ground – or take other reasonable precautions that are necessary to make the premises safe.
What Do You Need to Prove in a Negligence Case?
Property owners and business operators almost always insist that when someone falls on the premises, it was because they were “not looking they were walking.” However, the truth is usually the opposite. Most slip and fall injuries are preventable, and occur because the area was negligently maintained, poorly designed, or both. In fact, slip and fall cases are the most common type of case in premises liability, the area of personal injury law that deals with danger caused by property hazards.
In addition to claiming the victim was not paying attention, another common defense property owners often attempt to use is that the defective condition of the property was “open and obvious.” If true, the defendant may avoid liability under the theory that the victim should have seen and avoided the danger. However, despite the defendant’s claims to the contrary, the defective condition is frequently not open and obvious. People seldom notice dangers, such as wet floors or broken sidewalks, until it is too late to avoid being injured.
If you were recently injured by falling on another person’s property, and you believe that the cause of your fall was a hazard, flaw, or defect on the property, it is critical that you contact a slip and fall accident attorney for help. The sooner your slip and fall injury lawyer begins collecting, preserving, and analyzing the evidence, the greater your likelihood of prevailing in a claim and obtaining financial compensation. Some key steps in the investigative process include:
- Collecting other key evidence before it is lost or destroyed.
- Interviewing witnesses who saw the accident.
- Preserving video surveillance footage.
- Taking photographs of the defective condition.
What Are the Steps of a Personal Injury Claim?
If you were injured due to a trip and fall accident, you may wonder if you have a legal right to be compensated for your harms and losses, and if so, what happens if you contact a slip and fall lawyer to represent you for a personal injury claim. Below, you will find a detailed step-by-step overview of how premises liability litigation works in Pennsylvania, and what you can expect if you file a claim.
Slip and fall injury claims are very nuanced, and must meet certain legal criteria to succeed. An experienced personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia can help you determine your legal rights after a fall.
Step 1: Claim Evaluation
The first step in evaluating a claim is to discuss the circumstances of your fall with a lawyer who can help determine if you have a viable claim. For slip and fall injury claims to be actionable, the fall and injury must be caused by someone else’s negligence. To prove negligence, your attorney will need to show the following:
- Duty – Did a person or business owe you a duty of care? The level of care owed to others usually depends on their guest status: for example, were they a business invitee, licensee or trespasser?
- Breach of Duty – Did you fall because of someone else’s negligence, carelessness or recklessness? If so, this may be considered a breach of duty.
- Causation – Were you hurt as a direct result of someone else’s negligence? To have a viable claim, your injury must have been caused as a result of another person’s negligence. If your injury was caused by something else, you would not meet the criteria to bring a personal injury claim. An attorney can help you understand whether you meet the criteria.
- Damages – Did you suffer actual harm as a result of your fall? If you fell but were not injured or harmed in any way, you do not have a viable claim.
Premises liability claims typically allege that the victim fell and was injured due to the defective condition of the property. Some of the most common defects known to cause serious injuries are broken sidewalks, uneven walkways, icy parking lots, wet floors, and potholes in the street. However, even if you were injured due to another person’s negligence, there are many defenses to premises liability actions.
Is there a Valid Defense?
In addition to analyzing your claim for negligence, your lawyer will also need to consider what defenses will be used to argue against or minimize your claim. Some of the most common defenses to premises liability claims are provided below.
Assumption of the Risk – “Assumption of the risk” is a complete bar to recovery, or something that prevents you from obtaining compensation, in a negligence claim in Pennsylvania. Assumption of the risk occurs when someone fully understands the risk of harm associated with their actions, yet chooses to continue with the action or remain in a hazardous area despite the risk.
This defense is most commonly used when someone is injured while playing a sport, such as football, or while participating in a dangerous activity, such as skydiving. However, it can also be used to defend against a slip and fall injury lawsuit. For example, if you see that a parking lot is covered with ice, and witness three people slip and fall while walking in the parking lot, but you choose to walk on the parking lot despite this knowledge, you will likely encounter an assumption of the risk defense.
Comparative Negligence – The most common defense to negligence lawsuits is that the victim was wholly or partially at fault for his or her own injuries. For example, if you trip and break your ankle on a broken sidewalk, the defense attorney will almost certainly claim it was your fault for not watching where you were walking. This is a “comparative negligence” defense.
Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law is codified at 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 7102. It allows a plaintiff to recover compensation for injuries if he or she was less than 51% at fault. If the plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault for a negligence claim, they are prohibited from making a financial recovery.
If a plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their slip and fall accident, but still less than 51%, an award for pain, suffering and other economic losses will be reduced by their proportionate share of comparative negligence. For example, let’s say that you slipped on ice in a grocery store parking lot and injured your back. The jury awards you damages in the amount of $100,000. The jury finds that the grocery store is 80% at fault, and finds you to be 20% at fault. Under these circumstances, the jury’s award of $100,000 would be reduced by 20% due to your comparative negligence. Thus, your total recovery would be $80,000.
De minimus – A de minimus condition is a property defect that is too small or trivial to warrant consideration. Though case law in Pennsylvania describes some conditions that have been found to be de minimus, the court has discretion to find what does and does not constitute a de minimus defect.
Hills and Ridges Doctrine – The “hills and ridges” doctrine is a defense that protects Pennsylvania landowners from liability for generally slippery conditions caused by ice and snow when the snow has not been allowed to accumulate to unreasonable ridges or elevations.
Open and Obvious – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has found that a property owner is not liable to for injuries caused to others when the defective condition is “open and obvious,” unless the land owner should anticipate such harm despite this knowledge. See Carrender v. Fitterer, 503 Pa. 178, 469 A.2d 120 (Pa. Dec. 14, 1983).
“Open and obvious dangers” are those that are apparent and obvious to a reasonable person. This defense to premises liability claims is usually asserted when the defect is physically large and open.
Notice – Defendants often allege that they did not have actual or constructive notice of a defective condition, and therefore, were not negligent. The lack of notice defense is most frequently used when a customer slips or trips due to something recently spilled or dropped on the floor by another customer.
Sovereign or Governmental Immunity – A “tort” is a civil wrong, like an act of negligence that causes personal injury. Commonwealth and government entities in Pennsylvania are protected from tort claims by Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.
The Tort Claims Act creates eight exceptions to this immunity. In order to successfully bring a premises liability claim for an injury that occurs on property owned by a municipality, a city, or the Commonwealth, you will need to prove that your claim meets one of the exceptions to governmental immunity.
Statute of Limitations – The “statute of limitations” limits the time you have to bring a claim. With limited exceptions, Pennsylvania has a two-year statute of limitations on negligence claims. If you do not settle your claim or file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, you case will be dismissed.
Given the array of defenses available to defendants and their insurance companies, it is vital that you discuss your fall with an experienced attorney as soon as possible so they can protect your legal interests and gather the evidence needed to prove your case. After you retain an attorney to represent you, the next step is the pre-litigation process, or “pre-lit.”
Step 2: Pre-Litigation
During the pre-litigation phase, your attorney will work to collect all the necessary information needed to prosecute your claim, and take appropriate steps necessary to protect your rights. Some documents that may be collected in pre-litigation include:
- Accident Scene Photographs
- DHS and Medicare Liens
- Incident Reports
- Injury Photographs
- Medical Records
- Medical Bills
- Medical Liens
- Verification of Lost Wages
- Video Footage and Surveillance
- Weather Reports
- Witness Statements
During pre-litgation, your attorney will try to determine the identity of the responsible parties, such as the land owner, the property manager, or the snow and ice contractor, and notify them of your claim. It is also good practice to send a preservation of evidence letter, so that key evidence is not lost or destroyed.
If your claim is against the Commonwealth or a political subdivision such as a city, borough or other municipality – for instance, a claim against Philadelphia – you must give the government proper notice of your claim within six months. Failure to do so may result in dismissal of your claim.
After all the necessary information has been gathered, your attorney may try to negotiate a settlement with the negligent party’s insurance company. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to make an offer that will fairly compensate you for your losses, the next step is to file a lawsuit.
Step 3: Filing a Lawsuit
In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit is initiated by filing a writ of summons or civil complaint. The Complaint sets forth the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant, and the plaintiff’s requested relief. In Pennsylvania, the amount of relief requested for injury claims is not a specific dollar amount. Instead, the rules of court require that a plaintiff plead whether the relief requested is over or under a certain threshold.
For example, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, claims are filed as either “arbitration” or “major jury.” A complaint that alleges damages in excess of $50,000 will be put into the major jury program. If the complaint alleges damages not in excess of $50,000, it will be submitted to the compulsory arbitration program.
The compulsory arbitration program is intended to help resolve smaller cases without expending the time, expense, and resources needed for a jury trial. In compulsory arbitration, a case is decided by three arbitrators in a less formal setting.
Arbitrations usually take a few hours, as opposed to a jury trial which may take several days or weeks. Plaintiffs and defendants each have an automatic right to appeal the arbitration award within 30 days.
Step 4: Discovery
After a lawsuit is filed, your case will be assigned scheduling deadlines, and the parties will begin the formal process of exchanging information. This process is aptly known as “discovery.” During discovery, a party can request information from the other parties, or even from persons not involved in the litigation, if it is relevant and calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Counsel for the plaintiff and defendant have several tools at their disposal for collecting the evidence needed to prove – or defend – the case. These include:
- Defense Medical Examination – Physical examination of the plaintiff by a doctor or medical expert.
- Deposition – A court event where the attorney can ask questions to another party, witness, representative, or expert on the record.
- Request for Entry – Request for entry upon another party’s premises.
- Subpoenas – A request for production of documents (or other items) possessed by a non-party.
- Written Interrogatories – Written questions to another party.
- Written Request for Production of Documents – Request for documents or other items, such as photographs, video, or physical evidence.
Step 5: Settlement and Pre-Trial Conferences
Following the close of discovery, a settlement conference and/or pretrial conference will be held with the judge or settlement master. During these conferences, the parties – with the help of judge or neutral settlement master – will attempt to settle the case. If it does not resolve, the case will be set for a jury trial, or an “Alternative Dispute Resolution” such as mediation or private arbitration.
Step 6: Jury Trial or Alternative Dispute Resolution
Jury trials give each party the opportunity to plead their case in front of a jury of their peers. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial may last several days, weeks, or even months.
During the trial, a judge presides over the case and acts as the courtroom referee. After the case is litigated, and each party has presented its case, the judge will instruct the jury on the law which must be followed during deliberations. The jury then performs its civil duty as the “finder of fact,” and will render a verdict for either the plaintiff or defendant.
Alternative Dispute Resolution has increased in popularity in recent years. If a case cannot be resolved by the parties, they often turn to a neutral third party to help resolve the matter. Alternative Dispute Resolution is a private agreement which must be agreed to by both parties. The most popular Alternative Dispute Resolution methods for personal injury cases are mediation and binding high-low arbitration.
Philadelphia Slip and Fall Attorney Handling Premises Liability Claims
Based in Philadelphia, the Wieand Law Firm, LLC aggressively represents injured people throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have handled hundreds of claims for clients whose lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC has significant experience representing the victims of slip and fall accidents throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, Upper Darby, Bethlehem, Bensalem, Lancaster, Lower Merion, Abington, Bristol, Levittown, Hamilton Township, Trenton, Camden, Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, and beyond.
To us, your case is not just another easy settlement – it’s personal. If we represent you, we will immediately begin preparing your case for trial while working to negotiate a settlement to fairly compensate you. For a free and confidential legal consultation about your personal injury claim, speak with an attorney at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC by calling (800) 481-5206.
Disclaimer: This page does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. This information may not be current law or may contain errors. You should always consult with an attorney if you have specific legal questions or concerns.