WHEN SOMEONE SUFFERS A FALL-DOWN, THE INJURIES AND HARM MAY BE TRAUMATIC AND CAUSE PERMANENT MEDICAL CONDITIONS AND PROBLEMS THAT MAY LAST A LIFETIME. HEAD, NECK AND BACK INJURIES AND BROKEN BONES ARE ALL TOO COMMON IN FALL-DOWN SITUATIONS, AND MAY EVEN LEAD TO BRAIN DAMAGE OR PARALYSIS.
Fall-down harm may be caused by a dangerous or hazardous condition on the property. Common unsafe and negligent dangerous conditions may include slippery or unsound surfaces caused by an accumulation of ice and snow, water leakage, food spillage, defective or uneven flooring, improper design or poor maintenance of property, and bad/insufficient lighting.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm from a fall that is caused by negligence or a hazardous unsafe and negligent condition on property, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, disfigurement, emotional distress. Awards can be substantial in some cases. For example, a federal jury awarded a Bucks County woman over $800,000 in a Pennsylvania fall-down case that occurred at the Pathmark on Franklin Mills Avenue. The woman suffered multiple injuries including a dislocated right shoulder with four fractures, a fractured knee, carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist, neck injuries, back injuries, and depression. Cases in different parts of the state may bring different awards or settlements. Obviously, cases in the southeast portion of the Commonwealth are generally thought to be of greater value to judges and juries. However, every case must be looked at individually.
Sometimes, even in the absence of fall, there may be a recovery for unpaid medical bills or unreimbursed wage loss, up to a certain amount of money. Many people these days carry so-called “no fault” homeowners or other property liability policies which may reimburse those unreimbursed expenses up to a set amount. It depends upon the insurance policy, and this is certainly not required.
In cases involving fall-downs, the defense may be made that the person who was injured is comparatively negligent and any award should be reduced because of that. Such situations can be very complex, and need to be looked at carefully.
Situations that Cause Harm from Slip and Falls
You can have harm from a fall-down anywhere: at home, in a business, at work, school or play. Where a local agency or the state is at issue, there may be sovereign immunity issues, which can be very complex. This has to be properly investigated and well understood. Common places for harm from slip and falls are:
- Entrance areas
- Parking lots
- Sidewalks and walkways
- Escalators, and elevators.
Pennsylvania law, under certain circumstances and consistent with the facts require property owners to maintain their properties, give notice or warning of any hazards, and then repair the defects. When this is not done properly, the result can lead to serious harm from fall-downs. Frequent causes for harm from falls include:
- Improper concrete maintenance resulting in uneven levels of sidewalks and floors
- Holes in or sloping of the ground
- Spills of liquid or chemicals that have not been removed
- Snow or ice in walk areas
- Elevation in carpet or failure to use slip resistance.
Under Pennsylvania law, any person, business or store open to the public is required to inspect the premises for obvious or hidden defects. A person who enters into a business, where invited, is called, in Pennsylvania, “business invitee.” Others who enter premises may be considered “licensees,” and then there is also potential trespasser liability. A business is required to either correct or warn of the condition, and it may be held liable if it has failed to do so.
Just because a person sustains harm because they fell at work, or on a business site or other property, does not mean that every fall-down case will be successful. To prevail on a fall-down claim, your attorney will need to prove the defendant was negligent, except in circumstances explained above if there is a so-called “med pay” (no fault) insurance policy. Sometimes the possessor of land is liable and sometimes the owner is, and sometimes both of them are. There are circumstances of primary and secondary liability. All of this law can be quite complex.
To prove negligence, there are circumstances where the owner or occupant of the property must have done some or all of the following:
- Created the danger
- Knew about the danger and did not handle it properly
- Should have known about the danger.
In addition, it must be shown that:
- The owner failed in this duty because of negligence.
- The negligence caused the accident.
- You were injured as a result.
Are You Partially Responsible?
In making a determination of whether you should be compensated, the courts will look at whether you had any responsibility in your fall. People are expected to watch where they are going and take steps to avoid accidents; if you can be shown to have contributed to the accident by your negligence, it may affect your claim. In a trial, a jury would determine how much you were responsible for the accident and how much responsibility was due to negligence of the property owner and adjust any award accordingly.
If your own carelessness “contributed” to an accident in Pennsylvania, your settlement amount is reduced based on the percentage you are at fault. If your own fault is greater than 50%, you cannot win any damages, so the settlement value of your case could even be zero. There are also circumstances that become very complex where there are joint tortfeasors; where more than one party is negligent for the harm caused by the fall-down. There may be maintenance issues, for example, inspection issues and control of property issues all in the same case. Pennsylvania now has a law making it more difficult to impose joint and several liability on one so-called “deep pocket” defendant.
Pennsylvania personal injury law allows for the recovery of pain and suffering. This includes both physical and emotional pain and the psychological impact of an injury — including fear, anxiety, stress, mental anguish, embarrassment, humility, and sleep loss. The law may also allow for punitive damages on top of any compensatory damages if the defendant’s conduct is deemed outrageous, intentional, or otherwise satisfies the standards for punitive damages.
Achieving Results When it Counts
The experienced slip and fall attorneys at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters have spent decades honing their skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. We offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, we are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
Contact a Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you or your loved one has been injured in an slip and fall accident, your next step should be to consult with Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters by calling (570) 323-8711, or by using our online contact form. Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.