Often times it can be difficult in proving who is at fault for slip and fall accidents. Hundreds of Thousands of people each year are injured, from slipping and falling on a floor, stairs or other surface that has, for one reason or another, become dangerous. Even ground that has become uneven to a dangerous degree can lead to severe injuries. However, you must keep in mind, that proving that the owner of the property is responsible for any slip and fall accidents is not simple.
Property owners must take reasonable steps to ensure that their property is free from dangerous conditions that would cause a person to slip and fall. This reasonableness is often balanced against the care that the person that slipped and fell should have used. The following is guidelines that Courts and insurance companies use when determining fault in slip and fall accidents:
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents
You will need to be able to show one of the following
The owner of the property, or an employee of the owner, should have known of the dangerous condition because another, “reasonable” person in his or her position would have known about the dangerous condition and fixed it.
Either the owner of the premises or an employee of the owner actually did know about the dangerous condition but did not repair or fix it.
Either the owner of the premises or an employee of the owner caused the dangerous condition (spill, worn spot, broken flooring…etc).
In general, the first situation is the most litigated, and most tricky to prove because of the words “should have known.” The standard, “should have known”, can have different meanings to different people, even those hearing the same case. After presenting your evidence and arguments, it will be up to the judge or jury to decide whether the property owner “should have known” about the dangerous condition that caused you to slip and fall.
Showing that a property owner is liable for the injuries you sustained in a slip and fall accident, you will have to show the reasonableness of the property owner’s actions. Questions to keep in mind regarding reasonableness:
How long had the defect and/or dangerous condition been there before your accident? For example, was the roof leaking over the stairwell for a year? Likely NOT reasonable for the owner to not fix, on the other hand, if the leak had just started the night before and the landlord was only waiting for the rain to stop in order to fix it.
What kinds of daily cleaning activities does the property owner engage in? Is there evidence of the cleaning schedule, i.e. a bathroom with a sheet noting date/time of last cleaning.
In trip and fall accidents where you tripped over something that was left on the floor or in another place where you tripped on it, why was the object there? is there a legitimate reason for the object to be on the floor? Did the legitimate reason still exist at the time of your accident? Could the object have been stored or placed in a way that would lessen the likelihood of someone tripping over it?
Could the property owner have taken precautions to lessen the likelihood of someone being involved in a trip and fall accident on his or her property? The less burdensome, i.e. removing trash from a demolition site, the less reasonable it was to not take the precaution.
Was there a problem with any of the surroundings, that were also under the control of the property owner, that contributed to the accident? I.e. you fell down a stairway that had no light, which had been burned out for 6 months prior.
Answering these questions in a way that favors your slip and fall claim, will give you a better chance of succeeding in your slip/trip and fall injury case. However, you still must take into account whether any of your own actions contributed to your accident.
In Pennsylvania the rule of comparative negligence is followed when it comes to slip and fall accidents. That means if you, in some way, contributed to your own accident, your award for your injuries and other damages may be lessened by the amount that you were comparatively at fault (this percentage is determined by a judge or jury). Furthermore, in Pennsylvania, claimants may not be more than 50% at fault for the accident if they hope to collect damages. Questions to ask regarding comparative negligence in a slip and fall accident:
Why were you on the owners property? Did you have a legitimate reason for being on the property owner’s premises when the accident happened? Should the owner have anticipated you, or someone in a similar situation to you, being there?
Would a reasonable person, in the same situation have noticed and avoided the dangerous condition, or handled the situation in a way that would have lessened the chances of accident (i.e. holding the railing when going down steps)?
Did the property owner give warning of the dangerous condition that led to your slip and fall accident (i.e. sign for wet floor)?
Did you engage in any activities that contributed to your slip and fall accident (i.e. running around the edges of pools, texting while walking etc.)?
The insurance company dealing with a slip and fall claim will evaluate these issues and more when looking at your claim. Remember, the insurance companies are not in business to help prove the validity of your claim, in fact, its the opposite. The best piece of advice I can provide is that if you are injured in a slip and fall accident that you do not wait, contact a Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer at once. Time is of the essence, and physical evidence and witnesses can be lost If you do not protect your rights immediately.