Holding Property Owners Accountable for Accidents and Injuries
premises liability over broken sidewalk | scartelli olszewski

Premises Liability in Pennsylvania: Holding Property Owners Accountable for Accidents and Injuries

Rachel Olszewski
Rachel Olszewski

Slips, trips, and falls sound like minor hazards, but they can be deadly in many instances. Over 1,000 workers die from falls each year, and others incur countless mild or serious injuries. Some of these falls were preventable, and many of those that didn’t end in death ended in serious injury. When you’re left unable to take care of yourself as you once did because of a fall that wasn’t your fault, you may feel hopeless. That’s where premises liability in Pennsylvania comes in.

Getting hurt on someone else’s property through no fault of your own can be overwhelming. Besides being physically and emotionally scarring, these unexpected accidents can ruin your finances as you struggle to care for yourself. We’re talking about medical bills, lost wages, and lost earning opportunities.

Understanding Premises Liability in Pennsylvania

Accidents and injuries can fully upend a victim’s life and livelihood. But things don’t have to be this way. Learning about premises liability in Pennsylvania can help you protect yourself from these dire circumstances.

What is Premises Liability?

Pennsylvania landowners, occupiers, or managers are responsible for ensuring their property is safe for visitors and residents. Consequently, they must warn outsiders of dangers on their property if they are unable to fix them.

If an unrepaired hazard on the property results in an accident, it may call for a premises liability case. Broadly speaking, premises liability comes into play when the owner’s negligence inflicts harm on a legal visitor to the property.

But, what exactly is a legal visitor?

Premises liability in Pennsylvania follows a status-based approach. In this regard, whether the property owner is liable for injuries depends, at least in part, on the status of the victim.

#1. Trespassers

As a rule of thumb, owners have no duty to make their property safe for most trespassers. However, they might need to establish special protections for children and refrain from creating abnormally dangerous conditions on their land. If someone who is unable to read signs (such as a child) is not also kept off unsafe property through structures like fences, a property owner can be held responsible.

#2. Licensees

Licensees is a term for non-business visitors who have the owner’s permission to be on the property, such as a guest or friend. Owners must warn licensees of a dangerous condition on their estate, especially if they are not likely to discover it themselves.

#3. Invitees

Invitees are invited to the property for a business purpose, such as customers in a store or clients in an office. The occupier owes invitees the highest duty of care and must take proactive measures to remedy/warn them of any known dangers.

That said, please note that these are general principles, and there can be exceptions/variations based on the facts of each case. It’s best to consult our premises liability attorneys for specific legal advice.

Common Hazards Leading to Premises Liability Claims

Premises liability claims come in all shapes and sizes. A few common situations that can lead to a lawsuit are as follows.

#1. Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents are notoriously commonplace, resulting in over 1 million emergency room visits each year. They are also the most common of all premises liability claims. Dangerous conditions that often lead to slip and fall accidents include:

  • Sleet, ice, and snow accumulation
  • Loose, cracked, or broken floors
  • Foreign substances like food or liquid on the floors
  • Stairs not built to code
  • Unsecured rugs or carpets
  • Hidden cords

Slip and fall accidents can cause devastating injuries like broken bones, torn ligaments, and even death. Our premises liability lawyers will go the distance to ensure you’re reimbursed for your medical expenses, so you can have a fair shot at recovery.

#2. Inadequate Maintenance and Repair

Improper or negligent maintenance can lead to hazards like broken steps/handles, loose tiles or carpeting, malfunctioning elevators, and faulty electrical wiring. These hazards can all cause deadly accidents. It’s up to the property owner to assess their surroundings and ensure things are in order before they let invitees/licensees in.

#3. Insufficient Security

Property owners must provide security where tenants, customers, or visitors usually face (or risk facing) criminal activity like assaults, robberies, or thefts.

For instance, most shopping malls and nightclubs have security guards posted at the door, outside, and in the parking lot to prevent violence.

A few examples of inadequate security measures are:

  • Broken locks
  • Lack of surveillance cameras
  • Weak lighting in common areas

Proving Liability and Seeking Compensation

Assigning blame in a premises liability case isn’t straightforward. There are plenty of working parts to the process. Here’s a quick guide on what you can expect.

Burden of Proof

The fact that you were injured on someone’s property does not immediately confirm that the owner was careless. You must prove that the property owner failed to take action despite knowing their premises were unsafe, or should have known the premises were unsafe.

It’s crucial to present proof supporting your claims and convincing the court of the defendant’s negligence. This evidence can include testimonies, documents, photographs, videos, medical records, expert opinions, and any other relevant information that helps establish the necessary elements of the case.

Negligence aside, there are other elements you should substantiate in a premises liability claim.

  • The property owner owed you a duty of care
  • The breach of duty was directly responsible for your injuries
  • The injuries resulted in damages

Steps to Take After an Accident

When you’re injured on someone else’s property, you must take measures to protect your well-being and preserve your legal rights. Here’s what to do.

  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Even if you believe your injuries aren’t severe, get checked by a medical professional as soon as possible to prevent hidden or delayed complications.
  • Report the Incident: Notify the property owner of the accident promptly. Be sure to provide them with a factual and accurate account. You can also obtain a copy of the report for your premises liability case.
  • Document the Scene: If you can, document the scene of the accident by taking photographs/videos of anything that might have contributed to your injuries.
  • Save the Receipts: Maintain a record of all expenses related to your injuries, including medical records and bills for any out-of-pocket expenses.

Seeking Legal Representation and Filing a Premises Liability Claim

Injuries caused due to negligence can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Fortunately, you have the law on your side. Pennsylvania’s premises liability guidelines hold businesses and individuals liable for the injuries they cause, so you can pursue fair compensation for your damages.

Depending on your claim, you may be entitled to:

  • Wrongful death damages
  • Economic damages
  • Non-economic damages
  • Possible punitive damages

As per Pennsylvania law, anyone wishing to file a premises liability case has two years from the incident date to do so. Any later, and you might lose your right to a lawsuit.

Contrary to popular belief, a premises liability claim does not guarantee success. You need an experienced attorney in your corner to anticipate and resolve problems before they can affect your case. Our skilled premises liability attorney can make all the difference to your case. We will:

  • Review all available evidence and consult experts to validate the causes of your injuries.
  • Draft a demand letter outlining your injuries, damages, and proposed settlement amount.
  • File the lawsuit if initial negotiations fall through.
  • Demonstrate the ways the injury has impacted your life.
  • Prepare a persuasive case and negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.

Talk to A Seasoned Premises Liability Attorney Today

Premises liability cases can lead to serious, life-altering injuries. You might have to fight an uphill battle to seek compensation for all the damages. But with an experienced premises liability attorney in your corner, you can rest easy, knowing your case is in good hands.

Do you have more questions about premises liability? Talk to the team at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. We can answer all your questions and offer sound, personalized legal counsel. Contact us today.

Rachel Olszewski
Rachel Olszewski

Rachel D. Olszewski, an attorney at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., is a dedicated advocate for clients who have suffered unjust harm. Following the legacy of her esteemed family members, Rachel specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense. She is actively involved in professional associations and serves on the board of the Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation. Rachel is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania state courts and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Linked In - https://www.linkedin.com/in/olszewskirachel/