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  • Slip and Fall Accidents

    A slip and fall accident involves stumbling, falling, slipping, or tripping that causes an injury or even death. Slip and fall accidents occur in many places, including stores, parking lots, restaurants, hospitals, apartment complexes, private homes, workplaces, and parks.  The owner and occupier of the property are responsible for a visitor’s safety. This means they need to clean up spills, provide good lighting, remove ice and snow, and make certain that there are no dangerous conditions that could cause injuries.

    If a person is injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, they may have legal grounds for pursuing a premises liability claim to pay for their medical bills and other related expenses. However, not all slip and fall accidents meet the qualifications for a legal claim.

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    Victims should reach out to the Philadelphia slip and fall accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP for expert assistance.

    What is Premises Liability?

    Slip and fall injury claims fall under the umbrella of premises liability, a legal term describing situations in which a person’s injury is caused by a dangerous condition that exists on a property. To win a slip and fall premises liability case, the plaintiff, must be able to prove the following:

    • The property owner or occupier, also known as the defendant, was negligent.
    • The defendant’s negligence was the cause of the injury.
    • The injury resulted in actual loss or damage.

    Actual loss or damage refers to the extent of injury or property damage. Persons who slip but are not hurt have little basis for a lawsuit. However, if a fall causes injury or property damage, plaintiffs must then be able to show that a dangerous condition caused the fall. If a dangerous condition did cause injury, plaintiffs must then prove that the defendant was negligent.

    What is Negligence?

    Negligence is the failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care. In premises liability cases, an injured party establishes negligence as follows:

    • The property owner or occupier knew or should have known about the unsafe condition.
    • The property owner or occupier failed to take reasonable action to fix the unsafe condition or at least provide adequate warning about it.

    The property occupier may be a store or other business that leases the premises from the property owner.

    Many dangerous conditions are a result of poor maintenance, including but not limited to the following:

    • Slippery floors
    • Damaged sidewalks
    • Snowy or icy sidewalks
    • Damaged stairways
    • Stairways without adequate handrails
    • Wet entranceways
    • Ditches or potholes
    • Cluttered floors or aisles
    • Inadequate lighting

    Other dangerous conditions may also cause injury, including the failure to secure a building from criminal activity. Landlords, as well as property occupiers, such as store, hotel, or restaurant managers, are legally responsible for remediating dangerous conditions as part of their duty of care to patrons, clients, and other visitors who enter the premises.

    What Types of Injuries Result from Slip and Fall Accidents?

    Some falls result in minor injuries that last only a day or so. However, seemingly innocuous injuries, such as a bruise to the head or a sore wrist, can develop into serious medical conditions. Persons who slip and fall on someone else’s property should always consider going to a doctor or urgent care facility as soon as possible to get a medical evaluation and follow-up. Senior citizens in particular are vulnerable to developing complications after a fall. Falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for adults over 65.

    There are many types of injuries that may result from slip and fall accidents, including the following:

    • Abrasions and lacerations
    • Ankle and foot injuries
    • Back injuries
    • Broken bones
    • Bruises and contusions
    • Dislocated shoulders or elbows
    • Knee injuries
    • Herniated disks
    • Hip fractures
    • Neck injuries
    • Spinal cord injuries
    • Sprains and strains
    • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

    Falling forward. Arm, hand, and wrist fractures are known as falling on the outstretched hand (FOOSH) injuries. A pain in the wrist that does not go away, or the inability to grasp objects, may indicate a fractured wrist. TBIs may also result from falling forward down a flight of stairs.

    Falling backward. TBI and other types of head injuries, as well as back, neck, and tailbone injuries, may result from falling backward. Acute back injuries, including strains on deep muscles in the back, are common after falling backwards on ice.

    Falling sideways. Hip fractures, dislocated shoulders, and knee injuries often occur when a person twists and falls sideways. Each year, more than 300,000 senior citizens are hospitalized for hip fractures, and 95 percent of these are due to falling.

    Certain injuries may require a visit to the hospital and follow-up care. Some, including fractures, spinal cord injuries, and TBI, can result in extended rehabilitation and lost time at work. In some cases, victims die because of fall- related injuries. Medical bills and other expenses can easily pile up, creating financial strain for victims. If a fall-related injury or death was caused by negligence on the part of a property or business owner, victims are legally justified in seeking damages to pay for these expenses.

    How Does a Lawyer Determine Negligence in a Slip and Fall Accident?

    An experienced lawyer will ask questions to determine negligence in a slip and fall accident case, including but not limited to the following:

    • Why did the dangerous condition exist, and how dangerous was it?
    • Were there any warning signs to alert others about the dangerous condition?
    • Was the victim aware of the dangerous condition prior to the accident?
    • How long had the dangerous condition existed before the accident?
    • Should the business owner or landlord have known about the dangerous condition?

    The longer the dangerous condition was present before remedial action was taken to address it, the more likely it is that the business or premises owner will be deemed negligent. Many times, it comes down to whether there were warning signs, and/or how long the dangerous condition existed before the landlord or business owner posted warning signs.

    Who is Liable in a Slip and Fall Accident?

    All businesses and property owners are legally obligated to maintain a safe premises for customers, business partners, vendors, and employees. In a business such as a retail store, either the store owner or the landlord may be held liable, depending on the type of dangerous condition that caused the accident. Many store owners lease their property from landlords.

    Business or store owners. Business owners are responsible for the safety of patrons coming and going, routine cleaning, addressing weather-related dangers in entranceways and inside the premises, and so forth. Examples of unsafe conditions for which the business owner would be liable include the following:

    • Wet floors due to spills
    • Snow or ice on pavements
    • Debris on floors
    • Lack of warning signs
    • Crowded aisles

    Landlords and property owners. Landlords and those who own property are typically liable for structural issues, including the following:

    • Poor lighting
    • Lack of handrails
    • Improperly installed or poorly maintained stairways or emergency exits
    • Water leaking from ceilings or pipes

    In some slip and fall cases, multiple parties may be held liable. Galfand Berger LLP achieved a notable settlement of $1.75 million in a premises liability case involving the tragic death of a young college student. The victim, who was 19 years old, fell down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking. He walked up a first-floor staircase on his way to a bathroom at the top of the steps. At that point, the young man grabbed a wooden slat that was part of the bannister, and when the slat came loose, the man lost is balance, fell backward down the stairs, and fractured his skull. Galfand Berger LLP was able to show that the landlord of the property was negligent for the following reasons:

    • A handrail on the stairs would have enabled the young man to catch himself and prevent his fall.
    • The landlord’s property had been previously condemned for building code violations, including failure to install a handrail for the staircase.
    • The property owner received building code violations for more than 10 years for various rental properties he owned.
    • Renters under the legal drinking age were told by the landlord that they could have alcohol on the property.

    What are Pennsylvania’s Laws Governing Negligence?

    In many premises liability claims, including the case of the young college student who died after a night of drinking, defendants will often argue that the victim’s own actions caused or contributed to the injury. The effectiveness of this argument may impact the settlement obtained by the victim. However, Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that any damages awarded will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault born by the victim. Some of the reasons why a victim may be deemed at least partially at-fault for a slip and fall incident include:

    • Improper footwear
    • Texting or talking on the phone immediately prior to falling
    • Intoxication
    • Running or other careless behavior
    • Entering areas marked as off limits for customers or visitors
    • Ignoring clearly marked warning signs or caution tape

    Depending on the circumstances, a premises liability claim may be denied for any of these reasons. Pennsylvania also has a two-year statute of limitations on premises liability claims. This means that a lawsuit or claim must be filed within two years of the negligent act that caused a person’s injury or property damage. Otherwise, a claim may be considered invalid. Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is the best way to preserve one’s legal right to collect damages.

    Slip and Fall Accidents on Government Property

    Different regulations may come into play when a slip and fall accident occurs at a public park or other property owned by the federal or state government. The Federal Tort Claims Act and similar state or municipal laws may include immunity provisions that protect the government entity from liability. These laws may also include stricter requirements for giving notice to the government entity about the premises liability claim. An experienced lawyer can help plaintiffs navigate these complex laws and determine whether they should file a claim.

    Who is Most At-Risk for Injury?

    Anyone can fall at anytime and anywhere. However, statistics show that the following persons face a higher-than-average risk for injury because of falls:

    • Senior citizens
    • Construction workers
    • Factory workers
    • Truck drivers
    • Hospital workers

    Of these, elderly seniors are most vulnerable. According to the CDC, more than three million senior citizens visit the emergency room each year seeking treatment for fall injuries. Healthy young workers are also at risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 700 workers die each year as a result of slip and fall accidents, and thousands more are seriously injured.

    Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicate that nearly one in four Workers’ Compensation claims arise from slip and fall accidents. Dangerous conditions in the workplace that cause slip and falls include the following:

    • Wet substances or spills on smooth floors or walking surfaces, including water, mud, grease, and oil
    • Dry substances or spills, such as dust, powder, granules, wood, and plastic wrapping
    • Sloped surfaces
    • Loose floorboards
    • Unanchored mats or rugs
    • Ramps without slip-resistant surfaces
    • Irregular surfaces, such as gravel
    • Muddy terrain

    Tripping accidents in the workplace may be caused by debris, uncovered wires, cables, extension cords, or clutter in aisles or walkways. All these hazards can be remediated by employers through inspection, training, and following safety protocols.

    Premises Liability Claims for Slip and Fall Accidents in the Workplace

    Employees who are injured in a slip and fall accident on the job are eligible for Workers’ Compensation, provided they notify their employer promptly after the accident. Workers’ Compensation prevents employees from filing premises liability claims against their employers However, injured workers may be able to file a third-party injury claim if someone other than their employer was at-fault for allowing a dangerous condition to exist.

    Galfand Berger LLP has won a number of settlements for workers injured in slip and fall accidents caused by the negligence of third parties, including $565,000 for a 43-year-old truck driver who suffered shoulder, head, and neck injuries after falling down improperly maintained steps. The client was hauling paper from the defendant’s premises to a newspaper company. After docking his trailer at the loading dock, he went down a set of steps that collapsed, causing him to fall four feet below onto the cement loading dock floor. Galfand Berger LLP demonstrated that the property owner was negligent in its maintenance of the wooden steps, which were not properly secured to the cement floor. The injured worker was unable to return to work for three years following the accident.

    What Should I Do When Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident?

    When a person gets into a car accident, police officers often arrive on the scene very quickly. However, when someone slips and falls in a grocery store, the victim or bystanders often wonder what the best course of action may be. Those who are injured in a slip and fall accident should take these following steps:

    • Take a photo of the dangerous condition and warning signs, or lack thereof.
    • If the accident happened outside or in an entranceway, make note of the weather conditions.
    • Ask witnesses for statements.
    • Alert the store or business manager and note their response.
    • Seek medical attention, even if the injuries do not appear serious.
    • Contact an experienced lawyer.

    After leaving the scene, accident victims should preserve all evidence, including the clothes and shoes worn at the time. If any personal items were damaged in the accident, such as eyeglasses, they should be kept aside as is. Victims should not repair or clean any evidence.

    Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is also critical for collecting and preserving evidence. A lawyer may request security camera footage from the property owner or statements from employees. Negligent parties may attempt to clean up or remediate the dangerous condition or destroy evidence, which can be instrumental in pursuing a successful premises liability claim.

    Galfand Berger LLP applies disciplined investigative procedures to determine liability after a slip and fall accident. For example, the firm obtained a $250,000 settlement for a client who slipped and fell while walking through a hotel lobby. The firm was able to determine that her fractured ankle and dislocated elbow were caused by slipping on a tiled floor that was wet with condensation. The condensation formed when humid outdoor temperatures came in contact with colder air conditioning near the lobby doors.

    Philadelphia Slip and Fall Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Help Victims Injured in Premises Liability Accidents

    If you or a loved one suffers an injury on someone else’s property, the experienced Philadelphia slip and fall accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can answer your questions about the validity of your claim. We are available to review your case and give you the assistance you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.

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    A Message to Our Clients About Coronavirus COVID-19:

    At Galfand Berger, LLP we view the safety and well-being of our clients, staff, and business partners as our highest priority.

    Our offices are now open. Visits are by appointment only. And, per state, municipal and CDC guidelines, all visitors to our firm must wear masks.

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    Should you have any concerns regarding an upcoming meeting with us, please call our firm at (800) 222-8792.

    Thank you and take care.