Resources

Oct 17, 2019 - Premises Liability

Common Defenses in Slip and Fall Lawsuits

In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, slip and fall injury claims come under the umbrella of premises liability, which gives those who sustain injuries on another’s property the opportunity to sue and recover damages if their injury was caused by the defendant failure to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. Suppose, for example, that you are walking through the defendant’s store, and a defective tile suddenly breaks loose, causing you to slip and fall, injuring yourself.  Given these circumstances, you would very likely be entitled to bring an action against the defendant for damages. Though you may feel that you have a strong claim, it’s important not to underestimate the defendant in a slip and fall lawsuit.  Pennsylvania law affords slip and fall defendants a number of strategic defenses that can be used to avoid or minimize their liability.  In order to successfully recover damages, you’ll therefore have to understand how to circumvent or otherwise undermine these defenses. For clarity, let’s explore three of the most commonly encountered defenses in Pennsylvania slip and fall injury lawsuits. Open and Obvious Condition All premises liability claims — including slip and fall injury claims — require that the dangerous condition at-issue is non-obvious.  In other words, if the dangerous slip and fall condition would be hidden and unobservable by the average person (in similar circumstances to the plaintiff), then liability may attach.  If the defendant can show that you were aware of the dangerous condition, or that it was sufficiently obvious that you […]

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Oct 10, 2019 - Personal Injury

The Burden of Proof in Civil Litigation

If you have sustained injuries in an accident by the negligent or wrongful misconduct of another party, then you may be entitled to compensation pursuant to Pennsylvania law.  It’s worth noting, however, in order to successfully litigate your claim and recover the damages that you’re owed by the defendant, you’ll have to satisfy the “burden of proof” standard applicable to your case. You may have heard of the “burden of proof” concept, but what does it really mean?  Let’s explore some of the basics. What is Burden of Proof as a Concept? In civil or criminal litigation, the burden of proof describes a legal standard necessary to prove the claims being asserted.  As the plaintiff, you are entering the litigation process with the intention of introducing evidence that will prove the truth of your claims — for example, if you were injured in a car accident, you’ll want to introduce evidence that the defendant was texting and driving simultaneously (thus exposing you to an unreasonable risk of injury). The burden of proof is indicative of the dispositive value of the evidence being introduced.  In civil lawsuits, the burden of proof requires that the overall evidence you introduce prove that you are more likely right than wrong.  Evidence must therefore be considered in the context of the applicable burden of proof standard. Understanding the Different Burden of Proof Standards Criminal and civil litigation involve fundamentally different burden of proof standards. In criminal trials, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is […]

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Oct 3, 2019 - Dog Bite Injuries

Pennsylvania and Limited Strict Liability for Dog Bites

In Pennsylvania, the law is quite plaintiff-friendly with regard to dog bite injuries.  If you’ve been injured in a dog bite accident, you are practically guaranteed some amount of damages as compensation.  Still, those damages may be limited unless you can prove that the defendant’s dog was uniquely dangerous or that the defendant acted negligently, thus contributing to the injuries you suffered. Pennsylvania Employs a Hybrid Liability System Pennsylvania dog bite liability can seem rather complicated upon first impression.  Let’s break it down into its component parts for the sake of clarity. Strict Liability No matter what, if you are bitten by a dog and thereby injured, you will be entitled to damages for your medical expenses.  For example, if the defendant has their dog tightly leashed, but the dog suddenly and unexpectedly jumps at you and bites your hand, you would be entitled to whatever medical expenses you incur as a result, even if the defendant had the dog properly restrained and the dog did not have a dangerous disposition. Of course, medical expenses are not generally sufficient to cover all the losses associated with a serious bite injury.  Dog bite injuries can give rise to a range of damages that include wage loss, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. So, how can you recover the full range of damages that would properly compensate you for the suffered losses?  You’ll have to prove that the dog was dangerous — in other words, had vicious propensities — or that the […]

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Sep 30, 2019 - Allentown Car Accident Lawyer

Your Pennsylvania Personal Injury Claim is Subject to a Time Limit

If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else, you may have a legitimate claim for damages. However, it’s worth noting that you do not have an unlimited period of time to sue.  In Pennsylvania — and all throughout the country — the applicable statute of limitations sets a deadline by which you must file your claims against the relevant defendants in your case. Many injury victims do not realize the fundamental importance of the statute of limitations deadline.  In many cases, excessive delays can lead to a dismissal of an otherwise legitimate injury claim.  As such, it’s absolutely critical that you get in touch with a qualified Pennsylvania personal injury attorney who can evaluate your claims and bring an action against the defendants in a timely manner. How the Statute of Limitations Works In Pennsylvania, personal injury claims have a statute of limitations period that is currently two years from the date of injury.  If you do not bring an action against the defendants within such time and the deadline passes, then you are deemed to have “abandoned” your claims.  Following that, you will no longer have the right to sue the defendant(s) and recover damages in a Pennsylvania court of law.  Unfortunately, injury victims often ignore the consequences of a delay, perhaps due to the other challenges posed by their injury. For example, suppose that you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident.  You may even have suffered lower-body paralysis.  In the wake […]

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Sep 16, 2019 - Personal Injury

What is Reckless Conduct and What Does It Mean For My Personal Injury Claim?

If you’ve been injured due to the fault of another person or entity, you may have a claim for damages pursuant to Pennsylvania law.  Litigating your injury claim may seem like a straightforward matter, but depending on the circumstances, you may have to take additional issues into consideration.  These may include the nature of the defendant’s conduct and whether it constitutes mere negligence or recklessness. Reckless Conduct and Punitive Damages In Pennsylvania, reckless conduct is conduct where the defendant demonstrates a “reckless indifference” to the interests of others.  Recklessness requires a mental state in which the defendant consciously disregards the serious risk of danger that they pose to others. Reckless conduct is more than mere negligence.  Whereas negligence requires only the breach of the duty of care (and thus, a heightened risk of injury), reckless conduct generally involves more egregious or outrageous conduct, as well as a mental state in which the defendant knows of the risks they pose to others but — regardless — choose to continue acting recklessly. For example, imagine that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident.  The defendant-driver makes a mistake and enters your lane without signaling, causing a collision.  This is likely to be deemed negligence. Now, imagine another scenario where the defendant-driver is weaving between lanes at a high speed and is also failing to signal.  He or she is well aware of the risk of danger posed to others on the road, but the driver chooses to continue this behavior.  This […]

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Sep 2, 2019 - Allentown Car Accident Lawyer

Injured Plaintiffs Must Mitigate Their Damages

In Pennsylvania — and in other jurisdictions throughout the country — injured plaintiffs must act responsibly in the wake of an accident to ensure that their personal injury claims are preserved to the fullest possible extent.  Plaintiffs are not entitled to negligently allow their losses to accumulate without taking action.  There is a broad “duty to mitigate” that requires that plaintiffs exert reasonable efforts to minimize their losses. Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania Pennsylvania applies comparative negligence principles that allow an injured plaintiff to recover damages as compensation for their various losses, but only if the plaintiff is less negligent than the at-fault defendant. How does this work? Suppose, for example, that you have been injured in a car accident, and your damages total to $100,000.  You were also speeding at the time of the accident, however.  The court determines that you were 30 percent at-fault for your injuries.  Despite your own significant contribution of negligence, you would be entitled to recover the remaining 70 percent of the damages ($70,000).  You should also note that even if fault is deemed to be 50/50, you may still recover damages. On the other hand, if you were deemed 51 percent at-fault, then you would not be entitled to recover any damages. In a personal injury lawsuit, the duty to mitigate is fundamentally linked to the application of comparative negligence principles.  Failure to adequately mitigate damages (in the wake of an accident) constitutes negligence, and depending on the extent of such failure, it might […]

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Aug 30, 2019 - Car Accidents

Uniquely Vulnerable Plaintiffs Entitled to Full Damages

In Pennsylvania (and throughout the country), injured plaintiffs often worry about whether they are entitled to the compensation they seek.  This is particularly applicable to plaintiffs who have sustained “excessive” losses due to their unique vulnerabilities and fragilities. For example, suppose that you have a condition that makes your spinal column somewhat less rigid, exposing you to a greater risk of paralysis in the event that a significant impact force collides with the spinal column.  You are subsequently paralyzed in a low speed rear-end car accident that causes your weak spinal column to collapse and your spine to be severed. Now, the defendant might feel that it is unfair to impose such significant damages (long-term medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, etc.) on them when the accident was only minor. Fortunately for you (and perhaps unfortunately for the defendant), the law entitles plaintiffs to be compensated for their losses in full, even if they are suffering from a unique vulnerability that enhances their losses. How does this work?  Let’s take a closer look. Understanding the Fundamentals of Loss and Recovery in the Context of Personal Injury In personal injury law, the defendant may be held liable for the losses suffered for the plaintiff no matter the unique vulnerabilities of that plaintiff — this concept is known as the eggshell skull rule (referencing Humpty Dumpty, naturally!).  Simply put, it is the defendant’s responsibility to shoulder the cost burden of encountering a uniquely vulnerable plaintiff. If this seems unfair, […]

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Aug 23, 2019 - Personal Injury

Train, Bus, and Plane Accidents — Common Carrier Liability

Trains, buses, and planes all fit into the category of common carriers (under Pennsylvania law, a common carrier is essentially any person or entity that accepts money to transport passengers).  If you’ve been injured while traveling with a common carrier, or in the course of waiting/boarding/etc., then you could be entitled to compensation.  Common carrier regulations require that they provide a safe environment for passengers, and that they exert significant efforts in doing so. Curious about your claims?  Contact Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC to discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys.  We will evaluate your claims and work with you to identify a winning strategy for securing the compensation you deserve. The Standard of Care for Common Carriers Common carriers are held to the “highest possible” standard of care, though it’s important to note that they are not guarantors of safety.  Put simply, common carriers are expected to take significant precautions to ensure that they do not expose passengers to an unreasonable risk of harm. Importantly, the duty of care for common carriers not only applies to situations centering around the transportation of passengers (i.e., operating the vehicle), but also to the facilities in which passengers are picked up and dropped off as part of their journey. Confused?  Let’s clarify with a brief example. Suppose that you are assaulted at a bus station while waiting for a private coach to pick you up.  You suffer serious injuries as a result and bring an action against the coach […]

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Aug 16, 2019 - Personal Injury

Recreational Waivers of Liability Are Enforceable in Pennsylvania

Liability waivers are common in the recreational context and the sporting world, as a means of limiting the financial exposure of those who operate such enterprises.  These waivers often intimidating prospective injury plaintiffs, and for good reason — in Pennsylvania, liability waivers are generally enforceable. If you’ve signed a liability waiver and have been injured, it’s important that you evaluate the situation at-hand more closely.  The circumstances may be such that the waiver will not actually be enforced, so don’t resign yourself to a “lost” case from the beginning. Liability Waivers Must Be Clear and Unambiguous If you signed a liability waivers before engaging in the recreational or sporting activity that ultimately led to your injuries, then Pennsylvania law may prevent you from litigating the claims at-issue — the court may deem the liability waiver valid and enforceable and dismiss your claims on that basis. Fortunately, you may be able to show that the liability waiver — despite the fact that you signed it — is not actually enforceable.  In Pennsylvania, valid and enforceable liability waivers must: Be clearly-written and unambiguous with respect to its function and intent; and Be sufficiently obvious (visually) in the context of the signed contract. So, how might this affect your claims? Suppose that you are injured while attending a horse-riding class.  Before class began, you signed a liability waiver as part of the attendance contract.  The liability waiver language was not clearly-written, however, and used confusing and non-standard language.  Further, the liability waiver language […]

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Aug 9, 2019 - Slip and Fall

Assumption of Risk in Pennsylvania

Assumption of risk is a common defense utilized by defendants in the slip and fall injury context, and in many other personal injury disputes.  Essentially, the defendant is arguing that the plaintiff cannot hold them liable due to having knowingly and willfully accepted the risk of harm associated with an activity. Let’s take a closer look. Understanding the General Principles In Pennsylvania, a case can be dismissed entirely if the court finds that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury.  Whether the plaintiff assumed the risk is ultimately a question of whether the plaintiff knew about the risk (and chose to accept that risk). Without evidence of actual knowledge, the court may evaluate the obviousness of the dangerous condition or activity involved.  In doing so, the court will compare your actions to that of a reasonable person who is similarly situated to you.  For example, if you choose to jump off a cliff into murky water below, then that is a fundamentally dangerous situation (you don’t know if your trajectory will put you far enough away from the cliff, and there may be rocks hidden in the water) — it’s fair to say that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would not jump off the cliff.  Thus, the court would find that the dangerous condition was obvious and that you willfully assumed the risk of injury by jumping. Assumption of Risk as it Pertains to Slip and Fall Cases Slip and fall cases frequently involve a specific expression of […]

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