In Philadelphia slip, trip and fall cases, injured victims (plaintiffs) may file personal injury lawsuits against responsible parties (defendants) and recover financial compensation for their injuries and damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Oftentimes, defendants present arguments that plaintiffs may not recover because they are at fault for their fall accidents, i.e., plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the fall. This is known as the comparative negligence defense.
However, Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws state, “contributory negligence does not bar recovery if claimant’s negligence is not greater than the defendant’s. But any damages allowed is diminished in proportion to claimant’s attributed negligence.”
In other words, injured fall accident victims may still recover financial compensation even if they were also fault, so long as their percentage of fault is not 50% or greater. If so, they are barred from recovering. If they are at fault less than 50%, they may recover. However, their financial recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault.
Consider the following fall accident example.
A pedestrian walking in Old City, Philadelphia trips over a broken sidewalk in front of a row home, falls and fractures her wrist. She requires surgery. Because she is a hairdresser, she cannot work for several months due to the wrist injury. She files a personal injury lawsuit against the homeowner, who knew about the broken sidewalk for several weeks prior to her fall. The homeowner was supposed to fix the sidewalk but failed to do so.
The homeowner presents a comparative negligence defense and claims that the plaintiff is barred from recovering damages because the fall was caused by her own negligence. The plaintiff was texting on her cell phone while walking and did not see the broken sidewalk. If she had not been texting, defendant argues that she would have seen the broken sidewalk, walked over or around it and not fallen.
The jury awards plaintiff $150,000 after trial, but also finds that she is 30% at fault. Thus, her award is reduced by 30%. Instead of recovering the full award of $150,000, she recovers $100,000.
On the other hand, if the jury found the plaintiff 51% at fault, she would not be able to recover even though her injuries and damages are significant.