Parking Lot Slip, Trip & Fall Accident Injuries – Pennsylvania Law
Law of Parking Lot Maintenance in Pennsylvania
Parking lot fall accidents usually involve wintery or wet weather dangers, like icy areas or crumbled or uneven areas of a walkway. In many cases, parking lot owners or managing companies may be liable for fall accidents that happen in all types of businesses including retail stores, grocery stores, apartment complexes, etc.
Winning a parking lot fall accident lawsuit in Pennsylvania depends on many variables and complex legal factors. At the outset, the two most critical factors are: 1. identifying the owner and managing company, if any, and 2. proving that the defendant (owner/operator) had knowledge of the defective condition.
Identify the Parking Lot’s Owner or Managing Company
Parking lots are often owned and maintained separately. In other words, the legal owner of the parking lot doesn’t assume maintenance duties of the parking lot. This is especially true of large buildings, like shopping malls, shopping plazas and apartment complexes.
For instance, for a shopping plaza in Pennsylvania, the parking lot and the adjoining shopping plaza may be owned by a large company. However, the owner subcontracts out maintenance of the shopping plaza building and parking lot to another company, usually a leasing company or leasing management company. That company may then contract out everyday maintenance of the parking lot to another company. In the winter, snow and ice plowing companies may also be involved.
The key is conducting a thorough investigation immediately to identify all potential parties who may be liable. Legal responsibility for the parking lot where the accident happened often depends on the contracts between the parties.
Negligence for a Parking Lot Fall Accident
Under Pennsylvania fall injury law, an injured plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant had prior knowledge of the defective condition. Knowledge can be actual or constructive.
Actual Knowledge Example
A shopper walking through a parking lot is injured when he trips and falls due to an uneven area of asphalt in the parking lot. The roots of a nearby tree have grown into the adjacent parking lot asphalt, creating a large horizontal break. Prior to this incident, the store manager had documented the problem in maintenance reports. However, no action had been taken to correct the defect or warn customers about it.
In this example, the maintenance reports clearly show that the owner had previous and actual knowledge of the problem. Other types of documents that may show prior, actual knowledge include incident or accident reports, maintenance logs, service logs, inspection reports, etc.
Constructive Knowledge Example
Under Pennsylvania law, any business open to the public is required to maintain the business premises (including store grounds, walkways and parking lots) in a reasonable, safe manner. This includes a duty to conduct reasonable inspections to identify dangerous conditions that pose an unreasonable risk of injury. So, a business that doesn’t conduct these inspections can be held liable for a defect. The key is proving that the defect existed for such a length of time that it’s reasonable to say the owner should have known about the problem. This is constructive knowledge.
Consider the following: A shopper drives into the parking lot of a large shopping mall. She opens her car door and steps out. The parking space is next to a raised concrete divider surrounding a planted area. The concrete divider and pavement underneath it has crumbled significantly, creating a large hole. Her foot gets stuck in the hole and she breaks her ankle.
Here, the injured plaintiff has to be able to prove that the crumbling concrete and pavement existed for such a period of time that the parking lot owner/operator should have seen it. So, pointing to the company’s internal policies about regular inspections and details about the concrete, pavement and hole will be important. How large was the hole? How often was the planted area maintained (weeded or watered)?
It’s important to note that the duty to conduct inspections of property to find dangerous conditions doesn’t apply to private property owners, even if it’s a business. For instance, a tire supply warehouse that isn’t open to the public owns a lot where it stores tires. The lot is fenced off and posted signs indicate that the lot is private property. An individual who enters the property and trips and falls isn’t going to have a valid claim that the warehouse owner had a duty to inspect the premises for dangerous conditions.
Pennsylvania Injury Lawyers – Parking Lot Injuries
Contact Namerow Law for a FREE CONSULTATION in a parking lot injury case. Namerow Law represents clients throughout the Pennsylvania area including Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. (215) 985-0777
Page last updated: June 7, 2020