Pittsburgh Slip and Fall Lawyers
Falling or tripping can be embarrassing, but when you’re seriously injured after you fell it can be downright frustrating. You may have suffered an injury that put you out of work and cost you more than you can afford in medical bills. If you have been injured in a slip and fall that was caused by a negligent party, you may be eligible for compensation for your damages and injuries.
Recoverable Damages for Slip and Falls
The most typical damages you can receive compensation for include the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. You will be getting compensation for all those things in additions to something else that you might not be expecting. A damage that not many people think about is property damage. You can get that covered if you damaged any of your property during the slip and fall. If, for instance, your smartphone fell out of your pocket and shattered, that is included in your damages.
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What kind of injury you have may be significant to your case. Here are some of the most common slip and fall injuries:
- Concussion or head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones, most notably broken hips in the elderly
If these injuries prevent you from participating in your day to day life including playing with your children, getting chores done, hobbies, or sports, you can recover damages for loss of normal life. If you have any injury of any kind that is directly a result of your slip and fall, you may be entitled to compensation.
What we urge anyone who is hurt in a slip and fall to do is seek medical attention. This is really two-fold. You want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. You may feel a little sore after the incident, and maybe you’re in some pain, but you should never let that go. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Go see a doctor and find out what exactly is hurting you and seek treatment if needed. The last thing you want to do is make a broken bone worse and have to get it reset because you ignored it.
Secondly, if you do not seek medical attention, the insurance company will likely try to throw out your case because you don’t have any documented injuries. If a doctor cannot determine that the slip caused you an injury, the insurance company may say that there is no proof that you’re actually hurt. You don’t want this to happen to your case, especially if this injury has caused you to miss work or has caused you any damages whatsoever. Be sure to get your injuries looked at.
How Compensation is Awarded
Pennsylvania follows the rules of modified comparative fault. What that means is if you were at fault for the accident, you can get compensation so long that your percentage of fault is not more than 50%. If it is more than 50%, you will be barred from getting any compensation. It is important to be careful when talking to the insurance company because they want to pin you with fault that would prevent them from having to pay you compensation.
There is a con to being found with any percent of fault below 50%. If you have been determined to be at fault, your award will be reduced. For instance, if you are awarded $10,000 but you are deemed to be 10% at fault for the slip and fall, your award will be reduced to $9,000. The insurance company knows these facts and they will try to make this a reality in your case. If they call you after your accident and ask for a statement, do not give them one. They are trained to ask you questions that are loaded and will make you seem like you caused the accident. If they are trying to get a statement from you, you are allowed to tell them no. You can either direct them to your attorney to ask them any questions or you can tell them that you will be obtaining legal representation and you won’t answer any questions without your lawyer. That is the best thing you can do to ensure that you don’t have your compensation award reduced.
Common Premises Liability Claims
When you visit a supermarket, fast food restaurant, discount store, or any other public location, you expect to be able to walk in, shop, eat or visit, and walk out without encountering dangerous obstacles. When hazardous obstacles cause you to be injured, you may have a premises liability case against the property owner. Examples of premises liability claims include the following:
- Slipping on spilled liquid on the floor of a store.
- Falling into a hole that was difficult to see.
- Slipping on ice in front of a store’s entrance.
- Tripping on an uneven sidewalk.
- Falling down a dark stairwell in a parking garage.
- Falling from a height because of a broken or inadequate guardrail.
- Tripping on an unsecured or damaged rug in a movie theater lobby.
- Any other injury caused by owner negligence.
The existence of a hazard and a patron’s injury because of it are not enough to prove a premises liability claim, however. In order to prove liability, a few other conditions must be met.
The Property Owner’s Duty of Care
While a property owner does have an obligation to provide a hazard-free environment, he is not legally responsible for every potential hazard that exists on his property, nor does he owe a duty to every visitor to his property. In order to hold a property owner liable for a hazard, it must be shown that he knew or should reasonably have known that the hazard existed and failed to do anything about it. Legally, these are categorized as follows:
- Notice. When there is evidence that a property owner was notified of a hazard and failed to remove it, the plaintiff will have a very strong case for premises liability. For example, if an employee testifies that he informed the property owner of a broken handrail weeks before an accident, this would be considered notice.
- Constructive notice. While it is a little more difficult to prove, many premises liability cases are based on constructive notice. This means that an owner should reasonably have known that a hazard existed, even if he was not explicitly notified. For example, ice on the sidewalk in front of a store following a night of below-freezing temperatures is a reasonable assumption and one that a responsible property owner should be prepared for.
Property owners are not responsible for the safety of everyone who visits their property. In particular, they cannot be held liable when a trespasser is injured on the property, unless the trespasser is a child. A store owner, for example, would be responsible for the safety of shoppers, delivery people, and salespeople, but not for a burglar who trips on an extension cord while robbing the store at night.
Frequently Asked Slip and Fall Questions
What Should I Do After a Slip and Fall?
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, the first thing you need to do is get medical treatment and follow your doctor’s treatment protocol. The second thing you need to do is make sure you hire an attorney who’s handled many of these cases in the past. You cannot go to an attorney who just dabbles in personal injury they may not know what to do.
For instance, if you come to my office and you retain us as your lawyer in a slip in fall case, we will document what caused your injury by photographing it, videoing it, or speaking with witnesses right away. We’ll contact the insurance company, and put them on notice of the claim. Then we will make sure you are following your doctor’s treatment protocol.
On a monthly basis, we will follow up with you to make sure you’re doing everything you need to be doing and also getting a status on how you’re doing. We will collect all necessary medical records, medical bills, and wage loss documentation to prepare a settlement demand. We will also most importantly be preparing your case for trial at the same time in the event that your case cannot be settled.
How Do I Pick a Lawyer?
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident in Pennsylvania, one of the single most biggest determining factors on whether you’ll be fully compensated is the lawyer that you hire. Make sure the lawyer that you hire is a personal injury lawyer and is very experienced with dealing with insurance companies and preparing your case for trial. You cannot hire a lawyer who dabbles in personal injury. A lawyer who dabbles in personal injury will not know what the value of your case is, will not have that case prepared for trial, and will not know how to deal with the insurance companies.
What Mistakes Should I Be Trying to Avoid?
When people come to my office after they’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident in Pennsylvania, one of the biggest mistakes I see is they wait too long to get treatment. They wait weeks thinking that their injury is going to heal on its own and it doesn’t. Then what you have is a gap in treatment that’s going to affect the value of your case later on.
The second biggest mistake I see people make is hiring the wrong attorney. You can’t hire a friend who dabbles in personal injury just because he or she is your friend. In order to maximize the value of your case, you need to hire somebody who knows what they’re doing. You need to hire an attorney who does personal injury on a daily basis and who’s preparing a case for trial from day one.
An attorney who does this on a daily basis and who has handled these cases in the past will have a true understanding of the value of your case. When an offer is made by the insurance company, they’ll be better prepared to advise you as to whether to accept it or reject it. If you do reject it, they’d be better prepared to take your case to trial.
How Do Warning Signs Impact Slip and Fall Claims?
In my practice, we’ve had clients come to us when they’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident in a department store where there were wet floor signs out and they’re concerned that they cannot recover. That may or may not be the case. We have to investigate it to see whether the wet floor signs were properly placed. We’ve had cases in the past where we were able to recover for clients when there where wet floor signs out. Sometimes we weren’t able to, but it’s best to get advice from a personal injury lawyer who knows what to look for, knows what questions to ask of witnesses, and is familiar with the law surrounding this area of practice.
How much physical damage do I have to suffer in a premises liability accident to make it worthwhile to file a claim?
It depends. Slips and falls happen on a daily basis and often, they’re attributed to a victim’s own clumsiness or lack of attention. However, in some cases, slips and falls aren’t caused by a victim’s carelessness, but by a hazardous condition that a property owner failed to address.
In Pennsylvania, owners and managers are required to make their properties reasonably safe for visitors or tenets, or warn them of potential hazards.
Those who fail to maintain the safety of their properties may be held liable for accidents and injuries that occur as a result.
Simply being injured on someone else’s property isn’t enough to move forward with a premises liability claim, as victims and their attorneys must be able to show:
- The defendant owned, operated, or leased the property in question.
- The defendant’s failure to appropriately maintain the property—or to warn of potential hazards—amounted to negligence.
- The plaintiff sustained injuries.
- Those injuries were a direct result of the defendant’s negligence.
Even when slip-and-fall victims have grounds for a premises liability claim, they may wonder if their injuries are serious enough to warrant the hassle of going through the complex and often-frustrating personal injury legal process.
The answer differs for everyone. It depends on the severity of the injury and the effect it has on a victim’s life. For example, a minor injury such as a bruised knee or elbow that required little-to-no medical treatment or time off work may be uncomfortable—but it probably isn’t worth pursuing. Yet if the victim sustained a serious condition, such as traumatic brain injury, which requires extensive medical treatment and time away from work, moving forward with an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit may be beneficial.
Where do slips and falls commonly occur?
Slip-and-fall accidents are more serious than most people realize. In fact, they send over one million people to the emergency room each year, according to the National Floor Safety Institute.
Sadly, despite being almost entirely preventable, slip-and-fall accidents can happen just about anywhere people walk.
Some of the most common places that slip-and-fall accidents occur include:
- Public areas. When slips and falls happen in public places, such as on a sidewalk or in a park, restroom, library or other public building, the government entity responsible for maintaining those places may potentially be held liable for injuries and other losses. A knowledgeable premises liability lawyer can advise regarding the specific challenges of seeking compensation from a government agency.
- Parking lots and parking garages. Poorly-maintained parking lots and garages may have slip-and-fall hazards such as inadequate lighting; unsafe handrails or guardrails; puddles of oil or other vehicle fluids; and cracked or uneven pavement. When someone is injured in a parking lot or garage slip-and-fall, the property owner, manager, or person in charge of maintenance may be liable.
- Office buildings. Defective or worn floors, stairways, elevators or escalators—as well as slippery floors in break rooms and bathrooms—are just a few of the slip-and-fall dangers in office buildings. An experienced premises liability attorney can help clients determine who might be liable.
- Restaurants and bars. Spilled food and drinks are common in restaurants and bars, as are inadequate lighting and defective flooring. The restaurant/bar or property owner may be liable, or may share in liability.
- Grocery and retail stores. These stores can contain numerous slip-and-fall hazards, from wet and slippery floors to defective surfaces. A skilled attorney can help clients identify the appropriate party to name in a lawsuit.
- Homes. Slip-and-fall accidents can also occur in peoples’ homes. When they do, homeowners’ insurance may cover the victim’s injury claim.
What if I was injured due to defective construction?
Defective construction claims are premises liability cases involving injuries and losses that occur as a result of a property’s unsafe design or construction.
Injuries in these types of cases may be caused by:
- Structural defects
- Dangerous designs
- Defective mechanical or electrical systems
- Building code violations on the property
- Building materials with poor design or manufacturing defects
People injured because of construction defects may be eligible for financial recovery to compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
However, liability in defective construction claims can be complex, as these cases often involve multiple defendants. Potentially liable parties may include:
- Property owners. This entity should know of the risk, whether by observing the problem themselves, responding to complaints made by employees or visitors, or through routine building inspections.
- Companies and contractors who completed the defective work. The various architects, engineers, and contractors involved in the building’s construction may be liable if defects in their work lead to injury.
- Designers and manufacturers of defective building materials or components. If an investigation determines a faulty building component caused the injuries in question, a victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the product’s designer or manufacturer.
What if I Hurt Myself on Faulty Steps?
If someone comes to us in Pennsylvania due to an injury they’ve suffered because of faulty steps, it’s possible that they have an avenue for recovery. Steps need to be maintained. The landowner, or homeowner, or business owner needs to make sure that the premises are safe for anybody who happens to be on the premises. It’s best to consult with a lawyer who handles personal injury matters on a daily basis to see if you have a case or not. If the lawyer that you speak with does not handle personal injury on a daily basis, it’s possible that you have a case that may not come to fruition because of bad advice.
What If I Fell on Residential Property?
If you’ve been injured on a residential property in a slip and fall matter, the single most important thing to do is make sure you seek medical treatment and make sure that the incident was reported to the homeowner and their insurance company. Some of these insurance policies on residential properties have what’s called MedPay which will typically pay the first $5,000 or $10,000 of your medical bills regardless of fault. Even if it was your fault and you’re injured on somebody’s property, make sure you get the insurance company info for that homeowner and report the claim.
The third thing to do is speak with an attorney to know what your rights are. Make sure the attorney you speak with is a personal injury attorney who’s handled these claims in the past. This attorney will advise you as to whether you are entitled to compensation, whether you’re entitled to pain and suffering, and whether you’re entitled to have your medical bills paid.
He or she will also prepare your case for trial from the onset if there’s a good liability issue involved as well. The last thing you want to do is seek advice from an attorney who only does personal injury on occasion as he or she will not know what your rights are. I’m willing to venture out and say that this attorney will probably not even know that you’re entitled to have your medical bills paid for regardless of fault. Make sure you speak to the right attorney. That’s probably one of the most important things as well.
What If I Fell on Public Property?
In some situations, people come to us after they’ve been injured in a slip and fall on a municipally owned sidewalk, parking garage, or parking lot. They ask whether they can recover. The answer to that question is yes, you can probably recover, but maybe not from the municipality. They may have delegated that duty to someone else. If you’ve been injured on something that is municipally owned, the chances are you may be able to recover, maybe not from the municipality, but you will be able to recover.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
We’ve had people in the past who have asked us what the value of their case is after they’ve been injured in a slip and fall in Pennsylvania. Our answer to that question is always the same: it depends. It’s just too early to tell. The value of your case will be depending upon the injuries you’ve sustained, whether surgery is required, whether you will have ongoing treatment in the future, and whether you will need surgery in the future.
In some situations, you may need a knee replacement in 15 or 20 years, but you don’t know that initially. There are too many questions: will you lose time from work? What are your total medical bills? As the case progresses, the attorney will have a better understanding down the road, but initially, it’s impossible to tell.
What can I do if negligent security contributed to my injury?
When a person is injured by someone committing a physical or sexual assault, robbery or theft, or other violent act or crime, the perpetrator may not be the only person who can be held accountable.
If the injury occurred at a rental property or in a public place, a victim may have grounds to bring a negligent security claim against the property’s owner or tenant.
Rental properties may be homes, townhomes, apartments, or retirement communities. Public places include supermarkets or other retail stores, hotels or motels, performance venues, hospitals, office buildings,
or parking lots or garages.
A type of premises liability law, a negligent security lawsuit allows victims to seek a civil remedy for injuries sustained in a crime or violent act that occurred on someone else’s property. Examples of negligent security include:
- Absent, malfunctioning, or insufficient warning signs, lighting, alarms or locks, security cameras, or other safety equipment
- Absent or poorly-trained guards and surveillance personnel
- Insufficient security protocols
To prove a negligent security claim, plaintiffs and their attorneys must show that:
- The plaintiff was on the property lawfully and thus, the property owner or tenant had a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep visitors safe
- The property owner or tenant failed to consider the likelihood of third-party crime or to adequately warn customers or visitors of potential harm
- The plaintiff sustained injuries or other losses due to a third party’s criminal act that was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant
- The plaintiff’s injuries and losses occurred as a direct result of the defendant’s breached duty
In a comparative negligence state like Pennsylvania, victims can often collect damages, even if they were partially responsible for their own injuries, as long as they weren’t more responsible for the injuries than the defendant.
Also, there’s a good reason for bringing a claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred, rather than suing the perpetrator directly. Whereas the perpetrator may not have the funds to cover the plaintiff’s damages, the property owner likely carries insurance for situations like these.
What does premises liability mean in my personal injury case?
Premises liability is a legal theory of liability that holds businesses and property owners responsible when someone is injured on their properties. Like other personal injury cases, it’s based on negligence on the part of the property or business owner by allowing an unsafe or hazardous condition to exist.
If you were injured due to a property or business owner’s negligence, you may be able to hold the owner responsible for compensation.
Types of Premises Liability Claims
To have a claim for compensation under premises liability law, it’s not enough that you had an accident on another person’s property. You must show that a dangerous or unsafe condition existed; and that the owner knew or should have known about the condition, but failed to correct the problem or place warning signs about the danger.
Premises liability claims can arise out of a variety of negligent actions of business and property owners. Some types of cases include:
- Slip and fall accidents—the most common claim
- Inadequate maintenance
- Negligent security claims
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Amusement park and other recreational facility accidents
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Dog bites
Download Our FREE Slip and Fall Injury Guide
Compensation You Could Be Entitled to in a Premises Liability Case
After an incident, you could suffer long-term health issues, such as traumatic brain, back, and spinal injuries, fractures, and internal organ damage. These injuries can require months of medical treatments.
During this time, you may not be able to work. If your injury is serious enough, you may become permanently disabled. If you prove that a property or business owner’s negligence caused your injuries, you’re entitled to be fully compensated for your losses.
Your compensation may cover the following damages:
- Medical expenses. You’re entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of your past and future medical treatments, including hospitalization, surgery, doctor visits, physical and vocational therapy, prescription drugs, counseling, and more.
- Lost wages. This includes the wages you lost and will lose while recovering from your injuries. It also factors in vacation and sick time, bonuses, commissions, and other benefits of your position. If you must make a job change or are no longer able to work, you could receive future earning capacity damages.
- Pain and suffering. You’re also entitled to be compensated for the pain, suffering, and emotional trauma you suffered due to your accident and your injuries. An experienced premises liability attorney can help value this portion of your claim, which could be substantial.
- Wrongful death. If a loved one died as a result of a premises liability accident, you may be entitled to compensation for his or her lost support, advice, companionship, and more.
- Punitive damages. In rare cases where the business or property owner’s actions were grossly negligent, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the owner.
How Long Will My Case Take?
One question we are typically asked by people who have been injured in a slip and fall incident is how long it’s going to take for their claim or case to be resolved. It’s impossible to tell you how long it’s going to take. There are just too many factors involved.
How long will you be treating for? What is the extent of your injuries? Will you require surgery in the future? Have you missed time from work? How long have you been away from work?
All of these factors are taken into account. A claim is not resolved until you are done treating to get full value for you in your case. If you’re not done treating within two years, then a lawsuit needs to be started to protect the statute of limitations. It’s impossible for anyone to tell you how long your case is going to be settled until there’s a better picture of what your injuries are.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall in Pennsylvania, you have two years from the time of the accident to file a lawsuit, but it’s never a good idea to wait that long. For instance, witnesses will forget, the condition that caused you to trip or slip and fall will probably be different two years later than it was at the time of the incident. For that reason, you need to hire a personal injury lawyer right away. A personal injury lawyer who has handled slip and falls in the past will know what to do.
For instance, if it’s a trip and fall, the condition that caused you to trip and fall needs to be photographed and inspected by an expert right away. If the condition changes, you will have a much more difficult time proving your case in trial. The personal injury lawyer will hire the investigator or they may take witness statements themselves. If you wait too long, the witnesses will forget, and you’re going to have a much more difficult time presenting your case at the time of trial. Although you have two years to file a lawsuit, it’s best to hire a seasoned personal injury lawyer right away so that they can make sure that the right steps are taken to protect your case.
Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation
If you have been seriously injured by a slip and fall accident to no fault of your own, you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries and damages. Do not hesitate to call our Pittsburgh slip and fall lawyers today for a free consultation. You will be our priority. We will do all that we can to get you full and fair compensation.
Property owners have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for users of their property. This means keeping the property free of slip, trip, and fall hazards and providing adequate lighting and security. When a property owner fails in that obligation, an injured visitor may have cause to seek compensation from the owner for his injuries under a premises liability claim.