From cracked sidewalks to slippery floors, if property owners fail to keep their land and buildings safe visitors can suffer serious injuries. If you get hurt on someone else’s property, your injuries may result in substantial medical bills or missed time from work. Fortunately, a Montgomery County premises liability lawyer could evaluate your situation and help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Whether it is in your neighborhood, place of business, or retail shopping area, if you get hurt on another person’s property, you should seek legal representation. Our team of dedicated local injury attorneys understands this nuanced area of law and could provide experienced guidance for you every step of the way.
What Accidents Fall Under Premises Liability Law?
There are many types of property-related injuries, but the most common is the “slip and fall.” People often fall on sidewalks, in parking lots, grocery store aisles, decks, and in homes. Falling cases are generally related to snow and ice conditions, as well as slick or slippery floors.
Uneven sidewalks, dangerous stairways, or loose railings may also cause people to fall. Aside from the most common trip and fall premises liability cases, falling objects or collapsing structures also create dangers that can cause catastrophic harm. A Montgomery County attorney who routinely handles these kinds of premises liability actions could determine whether a landowner may be required to pay compensation.
However, there are situations when an injured person may be partially at fault for an accident. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence model. This means that even if the injured party’s negligence contributed to the accident, they are still entitled to damages if they are less than 50 percent responsible for the fall.
What is the Duty of Care a Landowner Owes?
A landowner is considered negligent under Pennsylvania law if they fail to meet the duty of care owed to others. In a lawsuit for compensation, an injured party must establish what the duty of care is, how the owner breached that duty, and that this breach caused their injury. Generally, an injured party falls into one of the following categories:
An invitee is someone on a property for business or public purposes. In Pennsylvania, a landowner owes an invitee the duty to inspect the property for dangerous conditions and protect and warn them of any dangers.
This is someone allowed on a premises, and the owner’s duty is slightly less than that towards an invitee. A landowner does not have a responsibility to inspect the property for licensees but must warn of and correct any dangerous conditions.
If someone is illegally on another’s property, the landowner generally owes no duty of care. However, they cannot intentionally endanger trespassers.
Does the Law Change for Trespassing Children?
If a minor trespasses on a property and is injured, there may be a duty owed to that child. The law recognizes conditions known as “attractive nuisances” on property. Children tend to be attracted to swimming pools, pits, trampolines, containers, and heavy equipment. A construction site, for example, can be an “attractive nuisance” to children, and the owner must secure anything that would invite children onto the property.
An attorney familiar with premises liability in the area could gather the facts that can establish the status of the injured party and, therefore, the duty of care owed by the landowner.
Proving Liability for a Dangerous Condition
Like in any other personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof in a premises liability case falls on the plaintiff seeking restitution for damages. In practice, this means the plaintiff must prove that the defendant property owner or manager owed them a duty of care based on their visitor status, that the defendant breached that duty through recklessly or carelessly failing to maintain their property, and that the plaintiff’s damages stemmed directly from the dangerous condition caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
Importantly, the existence of a hazardous condition on private property does not automatically open up a property owner to civil liability, even if it results in injury to a lawful visitor. In order for someone to bear fault for an accident on their property that impacts an invitee, they must have either known about a dangerous condition and neither warned the invitee about it nor taken any action to fix it, or the condition must have existed for so long that a property owner exercising ordinary care reasonably should have become aware of—and subsequently addressed—the hazard.
For example, if a customer slips on a spill in a store aisle just a few seconds after the spill first occurred, the store owner could not reasonably be expected to learn of that hazardous condition in time to prevent that customer from getting hurt, so they would not bear liability for that customer’s injuries. Conversely, if the store owner had known about the spill, or if the spill had been present for several hours, that owner might be liable for any injuries that hazard causes. With this in mind, a premises liability attorney in Montgomery County could explain whether circumstances leading to a particular injury might justify litigation.
Recoverable Damages Through a Premises Liability Claim
Assuming a property owner or manager is liable for someone’s injury on their property, the injured individual could seek financial compensation for any form of harm they suffered due to the defendant’s negligence, so long as the plaintiff suffered at least one physical injury that required professional medical attention. Recoverable damages can generally be split into two categories: economic damages with objective financial values, and non-economic damages with subjective financial values.
For instance, someone who suffered traumatic brain damage after being hit by a falling light fixture might have to pay for inpatient emergency treatment as well as outpatient rehabilitative care, miss out on work income while recovering from their injury, and experience significant physical pain. If their injury has permanent effects, damages they could expect to suffer in the future might include loss of capacity to earn income, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Time Limits on Filing Suit
Personal injury litigation in Pennsylvania—including premises liability claims—is subject to a filing deadline set by state law. According to 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes §5524, people who get hurt on someone else’s property have a maximum of two years following the date they first discover, or reasonably should have discovered, their injuries in which to file suit. Failure to abide by this time limit will almost always restrict a claimant from recovering any compensation at all.
Speak to a Montgomery County Premises Liability Attorney Today
A simple fall can cause substantial injuries, leading to missed time from work and expensive medical bills. Fortunately, if your injuries were due to the negligence of another, state law allows you to seek financial restitution. Our team is ready to assess the property owner’s responsibility and help you on the road to recovery. Reach out to our Montgomery County premises liability lawyers today.