After any kind of slip and fall on someone else's property in Pennsylvania, it makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses, especially if it's fairly clear that the property owner's negligence led to the accident.
Whether you decide to file an insurance claim, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of Pennsylvania laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect your case. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit, and "shared fault" rules that can affect your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in the state's civil court system. The key thing to know here is that if you try to file your slip and fall lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the person you're trying to sue will bring that fact to the court's attention, and the court will almost certainly dismiss your case. (Note: In some rare situations the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your case started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in Pennsylvania.)
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations that applies to your slip and fall case is Pennsylvania Cons. Stat. Title 42 section 5524, which says: "an action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another" must be brought within two years.
Section 5524 also applies to "an action for taking, detaining or injuring personal property, including actions for specific recovery thereof." So, in rare cases where the slip and fall only resulted in property damage -- maybe you were uninjured in the incident but you broke a very expensive watch, for example -- any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of the damaged property must be filed within two years.
Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall.
You want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit, even if you're confident your injury claim will settle. At the very least, having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.
If you're thinking about making a claim for injury after a slip and fall, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened.
This tactic is a common one because of the impact it can have on your case if the property owner is successful in pinning some of the legal blame on you. Any settlement or court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been, or you may end up with no compensation at all if you're found negligent in connection with your slip and fall.
Now for the legalese: If your Pennsylvania slip and fall case makes it to court, the state's "modified comparative negligence" rule will determine how much compensation (if any) you can still receive from the property owner if you were at all negligent. In plain English, that means any damages award you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that's determined to be yours.
Let's say the jury finds that you are 10 percent responsible for your slip and fall. They also find that your damages (including lost income, medical bills, "pain and suffering" and other losses) total $30,000. That will leave the defendant on the hook for $27,000 (your $30,000 total damages minus your 10 percent share of fault for the accident, or $3,000).
It's important to note that, under Pennsylvania law, you can't recover anything at all from the property owner or anyone else if you're deemed more than 50 percent at fault for the accident.
So, what kind of arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Some common allegations include:
Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.