One of the questions attorneys are asked most often is whether they are entitled to recover money damages for the injuries they have suffered as a result of falling in a grocery store, restaurant, or some other business. The answer to that question is a definite maybe … or, as we attorneys frequently like to say, it depends. For an individual to make a successful claim for money damages against a business owner for a slip and fall injury on their property, certain conditions must exist and some specific legal requirements must be met.
In order to develop a successful slip and fall case, an injured party must first establish negligence. Generally speaking, legal negligence in these types of cases occurs when the property owner failed to use reasonable care and that failure resulted in damage or injury to someone else. More specifically, Pennsylvania law states that property owners owe a “duty of care” to persons who are on their property; legal negligence occurs when that duty is breached by the property owner. It is also important to understand that there are different types of entry upon another’s property, and depending on the classification of the entrant (i.e the plaintiff), the duty owed to him or her differs significantly. Starting with the lowest level of care owed, the duty of care owed to a “trespasser,’ or a person who enters or remains upon the property without the property owner’s consent, is minimal. Conversely, an “invitee” or a person who is invited onto private property, expressly or implied, for the financial benefit of the owner (i.e. a restaurant’s or store’s customers), is owed the highest level of care.
After establishing that a duty of care was owed to the injured party (and determining which level of duty is owed), the next step in proving a viable slip and fall claim is demonstrating that there was a breach of that duty. For this step, Pennsylvania law requires a plaintiff to prove that one of the following existed – the property owner or his/her agent caused the dangerous condition that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury; the property owner or his/her agent had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to correct it; or, the property owner or his/her agency should have known of the dangerous condition. This last condition relates to the property owner’s required duty to “make or maintain a safe premises” and is most often the type of duty breach that attorneys use for the proof of negligence, as the dangerous condition which caused their client’s fall (e.g. wet floor, curb too high, unsecure railing) is very often not one of which the property owner had been given actual prior notice.
These are the very basics of what is involved in sustaining a successful slip and fall claim. There are many other variants to consider and possible roadblocks to overcome but if you are an invitee/guest of a business owner and you can show that you suffered an injury as a result of a dangerous condition that existed on the owner’s property, you have a very good chance at obtaining money damages for your injuries and losses.
If you have questions or need assistance with a slip and fall case, please give us a call. Our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys would be happy to provide a free consult regarding your potential claim.