The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year. People are continually on the go shopping for gifts, attending various concerts and events, and celebrating the season with family and friends. This is a very festive time of the year, but all this hustle and bustle also increases the risk of getting hurt. And one of the most common injuries that are suffered during the holiday season is a slip and fall.
Slips, trips, and falls happen all the time, and most of the time, we just get back up and keep walking. Minor bumps and bruises are usually nothing to worry about, but sometimes, you may end up with a more serious injury than you first believed. When this happens and you are on someone else’s property, you might be entitled to compensation under the legal theory known as “premises liability”.
Slips and falls cause moderate to severe injuries more often than most people realize. Millions of individuals in the United States are hospitalized or treated in the emergency room because of a fall each year, and thousands of individuals die from these types of injuries.
Slips and falls are especially hard on the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 800,000 older adults are hospitalized because of falls each year, and more than 3 million are treated in the emergency room. Overall, approximately one out of every five falls among seniors results in a serious injury.
Who is to Blame for a Slip and Fall Accident?
When someone is hurt after falling, determining liability is not always cut and dry. The accident could be the fault of the injured party, or the owner or caretaker of the property on which the fall occurred could be responsible. The parties may also share the blame, and if the fall happened at work, compensation should be available through a workers’ compensation claim, regardless of who was at fault.
If you are suing another party (or their insurer) for a slip and fall injury, you will need to demonstrate negligence by proving the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to take reasonable steps to keep their property safe;
- The defendant breached this duty of care by creating or knowingly allowing a hazardous condition to exist;
- This breach was the proximate cause of your injuries;
- Your injuries resulted in compensable losses (i.e., “damages”).
It is important to note that, in premises liability cases, the duty of care is different depending on the type of visitor you were when you were injured on the property. There are three general categories of property visitors:
- Invitees: An invitee is someone who has explicit or implied permission to enter a property, generally for the benefit of the owner or lessor. Examples may include patrons of restaurants, grocery stores, and retail establishments, hotel and resort guests, and residential or commercial building tenants. The highest duty of care is owed to invitees, and those who oversee the property have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep it safe and free of hazards.
- Licensees: A licensee also has explicit or implied permission to enter a property, but it is generally for his/her own purposes. Examples of individuals in this category include neighbors, social guests, postal carriers, and unsolicited salespeople. A slightly lower duty of care is owed to licensees. Owners are obligated to address any known hazards on the property, but they are not necessarily required to regularly inspect and uncover unknown hazards.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone with no legal right to be on a property, and as such, the lowest duty of care is owed to individuals in this category. The only obligation owners have is to refrain from willful and wanton conduct or entrapment that may cause harm to a trespasser. There is one exception to this rule in the case of children. Owners are required to exercise care to avoid a reasonably foreseeable risk that children may enter the property and get hurt.
Clearly, duty of care is much easier to establish for injured individuals who were invitees and licensees. Although not impossible, trespassers who get hurt face an uphill battle if they want to pursue legal action.
Once duty of care is established, you need to also show that the existence of the hazard which caused your slip and fall injury constituted a breach of this duty. This is where a defendant will often push back against what they may argue is a frivolous claim. For example, they may claim that the hazard was clearly marked or was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person. They might also claim that the injury was your fault because you are not watching where you were going, or because you were in an area of the property that was restricted or where visitors do not usually go.
To successfully pursue a slip and fall injury claim, you need to be ready to effectively address these arguments and persuade a court that you are entitled to damages. This will require sufficient evidence, such as photos of the hazardous condition, testimony of witnesses, and any video footage that is available. You will also need extensive documentation of your injuries by a reputable medical professional in order to accurately calculate the damages you suffered.
Because of the complications that are typically involved with slip and fall accident cases, it is highly recommended that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can put together the strongest possible claim for damages, take care of all the complex legal tasks, and negotiate a settlement directly with the other side for full and fair compensation. If the other side is not willing to be reasonable, your attorney will also be fully prepared to take your case to trial if necessary.
Speak with a Skilled and Knowledgeable Pennsylvania Premises Liability Lawyer
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a slip and fall injury in Pennsylvania, contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. for strong legal guidance. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.