During the 2020 quarantine, residents of Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties are increasing grocery store and big box store visits, while decreasing other daily activities like driving. People are also walking or exercising outdoors more, especially since gyms are closed.
When a serious trip and fall injury happens in a store or on a sidewalk, one of the most critical questions is whether the injured individual can file a claim for compensation. In this legal article, our Philly slip and fall accident law firm discusses the nuts and bolts of fall accidents.
Pennsylvania Trip & Fall Law
In Pennsylvania, fall accidents are some of the most common types of personal injury cases. You’re required to prove the following:
- The property owner/manager/business owed you a duty of care.
- The owner breached that duty (i.e., was negligent).
- That negligence caused an injury and damages.
Note About Negligence
In trip and fall accident cases, property owners owe different duties to different people. On the one hand, property owners typically owe zero duties to someone who was trespassing on their property. If someone who is trespassing on property trips and falls on a defective sidewalk, they would have no claim against the property owner. On the other hand, public businesses like a grocery store owe a higher duty to customers; this duty includes the duty to conduct regular inspections of property. A private property owner or homeowner owes a mid-range duty to people who are lawfully on the property including sidewalk that abuts the home.
How Trip & Fall Cases are Won (or Lost)
Trip and fall accidents often involve serious a dangerous condition, such as:
- uneven walking areas,
- broken steps or stairways,
- broken/uneven sidewalk,
- rugs or mats, or
- things that stick out into walking areas (like pipes).
Notice of a dangerous condition is the critical factor in any trip and fall accident case in PA. If you can’t prove notice, you cannot win your case. So, how do you prove notice?
Proving that a property owner or other responsible party had notice requires proof that they actually knew about the problem before the accident. Example: a Delaware County resident is walking around their neighborhood and trips over a tree root sticking out of a sidewalk in front of a home on a busy street. The homeowner knew about the root and had previously told next door neighbors to be careful of the protruding root.
If the owner didn’t actually know about it, the circumstances must be such that it’s fair to say the owner should have known about the problem. Let’s use the same example above, except that the property owner claims they didn’t know about the tree root. However, that section of the sidewalk is located right next to the owner’s mailbox, and the tree root is large. These two facts would show that the owner should have known about it. There’s a reasonable inference that by retrieving mail on a regular basis, the owner would have or should have seen the tree root.
What can you get compensated for?
Pennsylvania injury law allows injured trip and fall accident victims to make claims for any injuries and resulting damages that occurred as a result of the property owner’s negligence. This includes:
- medical expenses, bills, co-pays, deductibles,
- lost wages,
- out of pocket expenses, and
- pain and suffering.
Out of pocket expenses vary from case to case and often include things like household help or travel expenses. For example, an individual who breaks their right ankle in a trip and fall accident cannot drive for several months. In order to get to work, they have to arrange for private transportation, including Uber rides. Those costs can easily add up and would be part of the individual’s claim in the trip and fall accident lawsuit.
How long does it take?
With court closures and the resulting delay in the court dockets due to the pandemic, cases would take longer than the usual 1-2 years. However, even with court closures, new cases can still be filed, and litigation can still continue. In some cases, an insurance company representing the property owner or business responsible for the accident may agree to settle the case at any point before or after a case is filed.
It’s important to note that even with the court closures, cases must be filed in compliance with statute of limitations laws. In Pennsylvania personal injury cases like fall accidents, there’s a 2 year statute of limitations law which applies, and the clock starts ticking on the date of the accident. Local courts including those in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties require e-filing, which makes it easier than ever to file appropriate pleadings and court filings.