Where to Find the Best Slip and Fall Attorney in Philadelphia
Slip-and-fall lawsuits are a subset of personal injury law. Slip and Fall attorneys take these claims because they fall under premises liability, which makes the property owner where the accident happened liable.
When Should You Contact a Slip-and-Fall Accident Lawyer in Philadelphia?
You should contact a slip-and-fall accident lawyer if you fall and injure yourself on a property other than your own.
Under premises liability, a property owner is liable when someone trips and falls on their property. The responsibility applies to homeowners, commercial properties, and government facilities. In addition, municipalities, counties, and states have liability for people injured on public property, such as sidewalks, parks, and forest preserves.
Property owners have liability when their negligence causes an accident. For instance, a grocery store is liable if a customer slips on spilled water. It is the owner's responsibility to keep the store clear of hazards that could cause members of the public to trip. If the hazard cannot be removed, then the business has an obligation to provide sufficient warning.
For example, the grocery store may need to mop an area where pedestrian traffic travels. It may be unable to wait until the store is closed to complete the cleaning, such as if it is a 24-hour location or employees must clean a spill.
Because the store must complete the cleaning while people are about, it has a duty to warn patrons of the slip risk presented by the wet floor. Businesses can easily meet this requirement by placing signs around the area.
Property owners have no liability unless the plaintiff demonstrates negligence.
How Is Negligence Determined in a Slip-and-Fall Case?
Proving negligence in a slip-and-fall personal injury case requires demonstrating four essential elements:
- The property owner had a duty of care toward the plaintiff
- The property owner breached that duty of care
- The breach of the duty of care caused the injury
- The plaintiff has suffered damages because of the accident
What Is Duty of Care?
Duty of care is a legal concept that establishes a general principle of responsible behavior towards others in a variety of contexts. For instance, all motorists have a duty of care towards other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and others they encounter while driving.
The law expects motorists to abide by traffic regulations and drive safely. For instance, drivers must obey the speed limit, pay attention to the road, and take care to avoid or mitigate accidents, such as by braking to avoid a collision.
When drivers breach the duty of care and hurt another, they become negligent and liable.
According to the same logic, property owners have a duty of care to anyone on their property. This duty of care requires them to ensure that the property is safe for guests, customers, and others who enter the property.
A few exceptions exist to the duty of care. Homeowners have no duty of care towards individuals who enter their property illegally, such as burglars and trespassers.
However, homeowners sometimes have liability for minors on their property without permission, especially if they have an attraction like a swimming pool. If the pool is left unsecured and a child goes into it and suffers injury or drowns, the homeowner may have liability.
What Is a Breach of the Duty of Care?
Courts find defendants have breached the duty of care when their actions or inactions caused harm.
For instance, drivers often cause accidents by violating traffic laws, such as running a red light. However, no specific law must be broken to establish negligence. Provided the driver is at fault, he has civil liability regardless of whether a citation is issued or upheld in court.
In the case of premises liability, owners must take steps to ensure their property is safe for others. This involves monitoring their property for hazards and fixing them. If the hazard cannot be immediately remedied, the owner must provide a warning of its existence.
Often, property owners are unaware of a hazard until someone suffers an injury; however, this is not an excuse. A court is likely to find that the owner should have known of the hazard and therefore has liability.
A breach of the duty of care in a slip-and-fall claim can take many forms, such as the following:
- Wet floors
- Broken and chipped flooring
- Broken or cracked concrete
- Stairways in disrepair
- Failure to warn of hazards
The Breach of a Duty of Care Must Have Caused the Injury
Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the breach of duty caused the injury.
Establishing that the defendant breached the duty is insufficient without a link to harm. For example, a business may have breached the duty of care toward a customer by leaving a walkway in disrepair that caused that person to fall. However, if the fall resulted in no injury, then there is no harm and, therefore, no liability.
The burden of proving harm and its link to the incident rests on the plaintiff.
Medical records provide evidence of harm. They show the type of injury and provide insight into how it occurred. It is always wise to seek medical treatment as soon as possible after a slip and fall, even if the injury seems superficial. Often, latent injury symptoms demonstrate that the harm is worse than first recognized.
The Plaintiff Must Have Suffered Damages Because of the Breach
Plaintiffs must also prove their damages.
A slip and fall may result in three types of damages: economic, general, and punitive.
Economic damages cover the direct monetary losses of the harm. They are easily provable because they correspond to documentable expenses and lost income. Common examples include the following:
- Ambulance charges
- Emergency room treatment
- Intensive care
- Doctor visits
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost business income
- Lost benefits
General Damages consist of the non-economic impact of the harm, such as the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages rarely apply to slip-and-fall cases. Courts only award them if the defendants acted in an exceptionally reckless or heinous manner.
To win damages, plaintiffs must present evidence that their damages exist and that they are linked to the slip and fall.
Medical records and witness testimony demonstrate that harm occurred and link them to the accident.
Slip-and-Fall Claims and Comparative Negligence
Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state. Modified comparative negligence eliminates awards for plaintiffs when they are found to be over 51% at fault, known as the 51% bar rule.
Even if plaintiffs demonstrate the property owner was 51% or more at fault, they still receive a substantially reduced award if the defendant shows the plaintiff has considerable partial fault for the incident.
Under comparative negligence, the plaintiff loses 1% of the award for every 1% of the fault attributable to him.
For example, if the court rules that the defendant is 80% liable and the plaintiff 20%, the award is 80% of the damages. However, if the court finds the defendant 100% responsible, then the plaintiff receives all of his allowable damages.
In a slip-and-fall case, comparative negligence comes into play when the defendant points to some action on the part of the plaintiff that contributed to the accident. For instance, if a plaintiff slipped on a wet floor, the defendant may claim that the plaintiff was warned.
According to this scenario, the court could find that the plaintiff has partial liability and reduce the award according to its reckoning of comparative negligence. Should the court decide that disregarding the warning constitutes more than 51% comparative negligence, then the plaintiff receives nothing.
Do Plaintiffs Usually Collect in a Slip-and-Fall Case in Philadelphia?
Plaintiffs usually collect a substantial portion or all of their damages in slip-and-fall cases.
Homeowners' insurance and business liability policies cover premises liability. Should you fall at someone’s home or business, these policies oblige insurance companies to defend claims and pay the damages.
Most cases settle out of court. It’s difficult for the defendant to deny most slip-and-fall cases. There are typically witnesses, reports, and medical evidence to corroborate the plaintiff's account and establish damages and their link to the accident.
As a result, insurance companies prefer to settle cases without the expense of protracted litigation.
Slip-and-fall lawyers negotiate hard to ensure their clients receive their full damages.
Even when the accident is proven, insurance companies try to mitigate their losses by claiming the plaintiff is partly responsible or disputing damages.
For example, the defense may assert the plaintiff should have recognized the danger because an adequate warning was provided. The plaintiff’s team may counter that the warning was non-existent or inadequate.
In addition, the defense may argue that the injury was not related to the fall. The defense may counter that the medical records demonstrate the injury did result from the fall.
Your slip-and-fall attorney will negotiate with the insurance company. Often, the defense tries to claim there is dual negligence when the accident is fully attributable to the defendant. Mattiacci Law’s legal team is accustomed to dealing with these defense tactics and fights back hard.
In most situations, the defense eventually agrees to a settlement that fully compensates the plaintiff. However, if they remain unreasonable, Mattiacci Law’s legal team will win the case in court.
Discuss with a Philadelphia Slip and Fall Attorney
Every personal injury victim deserves a legal team dedicated to fighting for their rights. The law entitles you to damages when another party’s negligence caused you to fall and suffer harm. Mattiacci Law’s crack slip-and-fall lawyers prove your claim and collect all the compensation you deserve.
Call Mattiacci Law for a free slip-and-fall consultation.
Related Post: What Is a Personal Injury Claim in Philadelphia?