Understanding Slip and Fall Liability

February 19, 2018

In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, those who possess or otherwise control a given property can be held liable for their failure to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises in a safe condition for those entering upon such premises.  Premises liability governs a category of claims that include a range of accident scenarios, such as slip-and-fall, and attaches liability to those who are negligent in their maintenance of property, thus exposing entrants to a significant and unreasonable risk of injury.

Unfortunately, many injured persons are not aware of their right to recover — under Pennsylvania law — with regard to slip-and-fall accidents.  For the sake of clarity, let’s explore the basics of premises liability in Pennsylvania, first.

Premises Liability Basics

Pennsylvania law imposes substantially different duties on the possessor of land depending on the “type” of visitor that is injured on the premises at-issue.  For example, a trespasser is owed the lowest standard of care under the law, where the possessor of land will only be held liable for injuries if he has engaged in willful or wanton misconduct.  By contrast, a standard business invitee — a customer at a retail store, for example — is owed the highest standard of care under the law.  Given the enormous range of premises liability law, there are unsurprisingly diverse consequences.

Generally speaking, however, most injury claimants will fall under the category of licensee or invitee.  Both licensees and invitees have the consent of the possessor of land to enter and remain upon the property.  Where the possessor of land must actively inspect and discover dangerous conditions of their property so that they can warn invitees of such dangerous conditions, the possessor of land need only warn licensees of dangerous conditions that are known to them, or obvious.

This may all seem a bit complicated, so let’s simplify.

As the injured plaintiff in a slip-and-fall (or any other premises liability) case, you are entitled to recover if you can show that the possessor of land:

  • Knew or should have known about the dangerous condition at-issue; and
  • Failed to correct the dangerous condition, or notify the plaintiff of the danger so that it could be avoided.

Dangerous conditions of property are those that present an unreasonable risk of injury to the premises entrant.  For example, a rough patch of grass may not constitute a dangerous condition of property, but a shattered jar of oil in a restaurant (spillage) would very likely constitute a dangerous condition of property due to the risk of a slip-and-fall injury.

It’s important to note that obvious dangers do not expose the possessor of land to liability.  The danger must not be obvious or known to the injured plaintiff.  For example, if you are aware that there is a spill on the ground, and you choose to walk over the affected area anyway, you cannot thereafter hold the defendant liable for your slip-and-fall injuries.

Slip and Fall — Specific Issues

Slip-and-fall injuries often involve questions of inspection and removal.  Remember, all premises liability (and by extension, slip-and-fall) claims require negligence, at minimum.  As such, you must show that the defendant violated their duty of care, thus leading to your injuries.  The mere fact that a spill occurred on the defendant’s property and that you slipped and injured yourself due to the spill is not — in and of itself — sufficient to hold the defendant liable.  You must demonstrate that, under the circumstances, the fact that the spill remained was due to the negligence of the defendant.

Whether the spill (or any other “slippery condition”) should have been cleaned up by the time you slipped and injured yourself depends on the circumstances.  For example, if there has been a spill in a restaurant, and you slip hours later, then it could be reasonably argued that the owner had sufficient time to inspect the floors and correct the dangerous condition.  Failure to do so constituted negligence.

Contact an Allentown Personal Injury Attorney Today

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have over thirty years of experience serving as aggressive legal advocates on behalf of injured claimants throughout the state of Pennsylvania, and in a range of litigation, including those involving slip-and-fall incidents.  We believe that open, honest, and engaged communication with our clients is critical to successful litigation, and to that end, we keep clients apprised of case developments as they arise.

Call (888) 777-7098 today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Allentown personal injury attorney here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC.  During the initial consultation, we will evaluate your claims and identify next steps for securing maximum compensation.