Owning a home or business comes with many responsibilities, including the duty to ensure the property is not hazardous to others. When you’ve been injured due to unsafe conditions at a private residence or commercial business, you are entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania’s premises liability law.
Premises liability cases are personal injury cases where property conditions are the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Common examples of premises liability cases include slip and fall accidents, dog bite attacks, and drownings.
Understanding the Responsibilities of a Property Owner
Property owners have a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for visitors and invited guests. This includes:
- Clearing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways
- Filling in potholes
- Addressing overhead hazards or falling debris
- Providing sufficient lighting
- Fixing loose flooring
- Having appropriate handrails on stairs
- Cleaning up spills promptly
- Securing swimming pools so they are not accessible to unsupervised children
- Keeping dogs in an enclosed area away from visitors
- Posting a “beware of dog” sign if a dog is known to be aggressive
- Posting warning signs when there are known hazards on the property that can’t be immediately fixed
Although the property owner is most often named as the defendant in a slip and fall case, there may be additional parties who are liable. For example, a tenant, work crew, landlord, security guard, or maintenance company could have created an unsafe condition that led to your injuries.
If your own actions contributed to your injuries, you are still entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania law. However, your settlement will be proportionately reduced to reflect your own financial responsibility. One common example of comparative negligence involves slip and fall claims where the injured party was running or engaged in horseplay.
Building a Premises Liability Claim
To have a valid premises liability claim, you must be able to prove the following:
- Duty of care. The defendant owed you a duty of care because you had a legitimate reason for being on the property. (Note that trespassers are not owed a duty of care unless the trespasser is a young child.)
- Breach of duty. The defendant’s actions or lack of action constitute a breach of the duty to keep you reasonably safe.
- Damages. You suffered an injury resulting in medical expenses and/or lost wages.
- Causation. Your damages were caused by the defendant’s breach of duty and not attributable to another cause.
A wide range of evidence can be used to build a premise liability case. This includes:
- Photos or video of the accident scene
- Witness testimony
- The clothes you were wearing at the time of the accident
- Photos of your injuries
- Medical records
- Property maintenance records
- Copies of any incident report filed with the owner of the property
To receive full compensation for your slip and fall damages, you must be able to provide proof of your medical expenses and lost wages. If you have been left permanently disabled, you will need expert testimony to estimate your future medical needs and/or loss of earning potential due to the accident.
Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations law requires you to file your premises liability claim within two years of the date of the accident causing your injury, with limited exceptions. However, acting quickly is in your best interests. Valuable evidence can become harder to locate as time passes.
Schedule a Consultation With Our Philadelphia Slip and Fall Attorney
At Heslin Law Firm, we believe you shouldn’t be forced to assume a financial burden due to another party’s negligence. Contact our Philadelphia premises liability attorney to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We’ll answer your questions and explain your options without any confusing legal jargon. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about your next steps.
Our office is located in Philadelphia’s Mayfair neighborhood and convenient to residents of Crescentville, Lawndale, Rhawnhurst, Tacony, Holme Circle, Holmesburg, Upper Holmesburg, Morrell Park, Oxford Circle, Castor Gardens, Burholme, Bell's Corner, Normandy, Summerdale, Bustleton, Parkwood, Somerton, Fox Chase, Modena Park, Pennypack Woods, Torresdale, and Winchester Park.