Question: I fell in the parking lot of my local drugstore in Philadelphia and broke my wrist. Is the drugstore liable for my accident?
Answer: It depends on what caused the accident and whether there is sufficient proof of the store’s negligent conduct. Under Pennsylvania injury law, stores such as drugstores and grocery stores can be held liable for fall accidents which occur in the parking lot. The key is proving what caused the accident to occur. Many accident cases fail because of the inability to properly document what caused the accident. That’s why it is important to obtain evidence early on, such as pictures or video.
Parking lot accidents often occur due to inclement weather conditions, like accumulation of snow/ice or failure to perform regular maintenance which leads to problems like holes, uneven areas, or other conditions such as slippery spots.
If the accident happened due to ice or snow, the drugstore may be liable if the ice/snow accumulated to an unreasonable and dangerous degree and the store failed to take appropriate action (i.e., shoveling/salting within a reasonable time after the last snowstorm). It is important to be able to identify the levels of ice and snow; therefore, pictures of the immediate area will be helpful.
If the accident happened due to a hole or uneven area, the drugstore may be liable if there is evidence that the store knew about the problem at some time before the accident at issue. If the store didn’t know about the problem, there must be evidence that the store should have known about the problem. It is also important to obtain evidence of the defect, i.e., a picture or video showing the nature and size of the hole or uneven area.
Under Pennsylvania accident law, stores are liable for fall accidents if there is evidence that the store had prior knowledge of the problem (direct knowledge), or should have known about it (indirect knowledge). In order to prove direct knowledge, also called actual notice, there must be evidence which proves that at some point prior, the store knew about the problem. Incident reports, maintenance reports, etc., will be helpful in proving actual notice.
In order to prove indirect knowledge, also called constructive notice, there must be evidence which shows that the store should have become aware of the problem. Maintenance logs and store policies and procedures about conducting regular maintenance are often helpful in proving constructive notice.
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