If unsafe property conditions have caused an injury to you or a loved one, you may be able to recover money to compensate you for your pain and suffering, your medical bills, and other associated costs. At the Elderkin Law Firm in Erie, PA we help people who have suffered an injury because of a slip and fall or other accident resulting from dangerous property conditions. When an owner fails to maintain its property and injuries result, it may be held liable for the costs of those injuries.
Premises liability law provides different rights and protections depending on the injured person's status on the property. Our skilled personal injury lawyers will advise you about your options and rights after a slip and fall caused by dangerous or unsafe property conditions.
We know that accidents happen because of negligent maintenance or unsafe property. It may take months, or even years, of rehabilitation and physical therapy to correct your injuries caused by a slip and fall. We want to hear your case, we want to help you receive a quick settlement and focus on getting back to your everyday life. Call our Erie, PA offices at 814-456-4000, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out one of the contact forms. Talk to us, we can help.
It is important to know what caused you to fall. Look around and see if there is evidence of a wet or slippery spot, loose or broken pavement, or any other condition of the property. Also, see if you can determine what caused that condition. Is there a dripping faucet or clogged drain that resulted in an accumulation of water? If you have a cell phone, take a photo of the place where you fell, including any wet, broken or unusual condition of the property.
In slip and fall cases, it is particularly critical to preserve evidence of the condition that caused your fall. For that reason, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your fall, so that you can discuss if there are any further steps that should be taken to photograph or otherwise document the conditions at the location of the incident.
How should I report my slip and fall accident?
The first thing you need to do is identify who is in control of the property where you fell. Report the incident to whomever is in charge, and let them know you were injured. Many businesses will have an incident report form that they will ask you to fill out. Be careful, because sometimes these forms ask questions in a way that may not be fair to you, and may be calculated to protect the business. You do not need to fill out a written form and, in fact, you may want to let your lawyer be the one who provides any written documentation of your claim. Get name and title of the person to whom you reported the incident. If you do fill out a written report, make sure you get a copy.
If I'm renting property, is my landlord responsible for injuries that I have sustained on their property?
That may depend on your lease with your landlord. Most leases specify what areas the landlord will be responsible for, and what areas are the tenant's responsibility. In multi-unit bulidings, the landlord is usually responsible for what are known as "common areas," such as hallways, staircases, elevators, sidewalks -- areas generally used by all tenants in a building. Tenants remain responsible for areas under their exclusive control. So, if you are injured due to an unsafe condition of a common area, your landlord may be liable. On the other hand, if you or someone else is injured in the private space that you're renting, most likely that is going to be your responsibility.
If I am injured as the result of a slip and fall or fall down incident at a store or other business, is the business owner liable for my personal injuries?
Responsibility for falls or other injuries resulting from the condition of a business property depends upon the relationship between the parties. If, for example, you are a trespasser on the property, the owner of the property owes you little or no duty to protect you from harm. On the other end of the spectrum, a business owner who invites you onto its property for its benefit (such as a retail store, shopping mall, supermarket, etc.) owes you a significant duty. In such case, you are considered a "business invitee", and the owner or operator of the property owes you the duty to protect you from dangers that are not readily apparent, or at least to warn you about them so that you are not injured.
In many business situations, such as a shopping mall, an individual store operator may be renting the actual store premises, which may, in turn, be owned by a landlord. To make things even more complicated, sometimes a third-party is contracted to maintain the store premises, remove ice and snow or provide security or other services. It might not be easy to tell who had the responsibility to keep the store or its environment safe for its patrons. The leases or contractual agreements between the various interested parties might alter who would otherwise be responsible to you, the store patron, under the law. For example, consider someone who falls due to a buildup of ice in front of a grocery store in a shopping center. The shopping center, including the grocery store premises, may be owned by the landlord, and leased to the operator of the grocery store. The lease between them may provide that the owner maintains responsibility to clear ice and snow from common areas, such as sidewalks. The owner may, however, have contracted with a snow removal company to take care of the ice and snow on the common areas. Each of these leases and contracts may have provisions that shift the responsibility for responding to claims of injuries to patrons. Each of those contracts, as well as the law, must be consulted to determine which of the parties may be responsible to compensate you for your injuries.
Failing to sue the right party may result in the loss of an otherwise meritorious claim. Consulting an attorney early on will allow a proper investigation to be made, so that, if necessary, claims may be filed against the proper parties. This process will, in all likelihood, involve an investigation of the facts (including inspection of ownership records), review of all relevant leases and contractual provisions and an analysis of the applicable law.
Is my slip and fall covered by insurance?
It depends. If it occurs on residential property (such as someone's home), their homeowner's policy should provide coverage. If the fall occurs on a commercial property (such as a store or business office), a commercial liability or other policy may apply. In this situation, there may be several policies that may provide coverage, as there may be more than one person or business entity that has responsibility for the property. Many homeowners and commercial liability policies include a coverage that will pay at least some of the medical bills incurred by someone injured on the property, regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
Prudent homeowners and businesses buy insurance policies to protect them, and their guests, in the event of a fall on the insured premises. It is always important to investigate all possible insurance coverages, so that all sources of payment for your injuries are available. The investigation of such matters is something that an experienced attorney will address at the beginning of the claim process.
What if I'm partially at fault for the slip and fall?
In most slip and fall cases, the conduct of all of the involved parties is taken into consideration. Sometimes the person who falls is at fault for not paying attention to a condition that he or she should have seen and avoided, or for wearing shoes that are dangerous under the conditions. At the same time, the owner or operator of the property may be at fault for allowing a dangerous condition to exist. In such cases, the relative negligence of the parties is compared, and so long as the injured party is not more than 50% at fault, he or she may still recover from the property owner. The final award, however, will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the injured party.
A note of caution is warranted: Sometimes you may think you are at fault, but there may be factors at work of which you are unaware, but which actually have caused or contributed to the fall. For example, if you fall while descending a set of stairs, you might just think that you were just clumsy, but an investigation may reveal that the staircase was not built according to proper codes or standards that are designed to prevent people from falling. Uneven stair riser heights between steps is one example of how this can happen. It is always important to inspect the location of your fall to identify all possible causes. Usually this inspection should be done by an experienced engineer or building code or human factors expert, so that all relevant matters are taken into consideration. Elderkin attorneys are experienced in investigating these cases, and have experts and other resources available to make sure that no stone is left unturned in identifying the cause of your fall.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit for premises liability?
In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year statute of limitations for negligence claims, and most premises liability cases will involve a negligence claim. This means you must file a lawsuit at the Courthouse within two years of the date that the accident happened, and make sure that the parties you have sued are properly served with a copy of the paperwork you use to start your lawsuit. There are very strict rules about how the lawsuit must be filed and served. If these rules are not followed, the Court may dismiss your lawsuit. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident, to make sure that important evidence is not lost, that relevant persons are placed on timely notice of your claim and so you can know that your lawsuit has been commenced properly.