Fall accidents include slip and fall accidents and trip and fall accidents. They can also occur due to collapsing stairways or shoddy construction work.
Individuals injured in these kinds of accidents often want to know whether they have valid lawsuits, and in most situations, the answer depends on proof of negligence and whether the damages are sufficient to warrant proceeding with a lawsuit. For instance, bringing a lawsuit for a minor injury like a sprained ankle, even though fault or liability is clear, will not be cost effective.
Below is a discussion of 3 lawsuit scenarios involving fall accidents at a shopping mall. It is important to note that the following liability and lawsuit scenarios apply not only to shopping malls and stores, but also to:
- restaurants, and
- other retail stores.
Slip-Fall Accident Inside a Shopping Mall
Someone shopping at their local mall slips on water on the floor. The water has been accumulating on the floor due to a leak in the roof. Mall management knows about the problem, yet on that day, fails to place warning cones around the leak. The individual suffers a broken ankle and head injury and has to have surgery. The head injury results in a brain injury that causes a permanent disability.
Here, the individual would have a valid slip and fall lawsuit against the following parties:
- mall owner,
- mall operator, and/or
- mall management company.
Liability is relatively clear in this situation. The mall management office knew about the problem beforehand, but simply failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the accident.
Trip-Fall Accident Outside on the Sidewalk
Someone walking into the mall trips on a broken piece of sidewalk and suffers serious knee injuries. The broken piece of sidewalk was previously reported to the mall maintenance company which had intended to fix the sidewalk the following month. However, in the interim, no one marked the sidewalk or otherwise posted signs warning customers of the risk.
Here, like in the first situation, liability is clear because the mall maintenance company had prior knowledge about the problem, but failed to take appropriate actions to prevent the fall accident. The injured individual would be able to file a lawsuit against the mall maintenance company and potentially the mall operator or mall management company.
Trip-Fall Accident Outside in the Parking Lot
Someone parks their car at a shopping mall and walks through the parking lot. They trip over a pipe protruding from a nearby drain and break their wrist. There is no direct evidence that the mall owner or parking lot management company had prior knowledge that the pipe protruded from the ground to such a degree as to constitute a tripping hazard. However, evidence reveals that the drain had been built 2 years prior to the accident.
Liability in this scenario is different than in the 2 scenarios above. Here, the theory of liability will be based on constructive knowledge, i.e., the mall should have known about the problem. In Pennsylvania, businesses open to the general public have a duty to conduct reasonable inspections of the properties to identify hidden dangers. In this scenario, a pipe protruding from the ground is a tripping hazard that could have been discovered with reasonable inspections of the parking lot walking areas.
Damages Recoverable in a Fall Accident Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania tort laws, injured individuals may obtain fair and reasonable financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, other economic losses and pain and suffering. In addition, claims may be made not only for past expenses and losses, but also for future expenses and losses. For example, the individual in the first scenario who suffered a brain injury that resulted in a permanent disability may be able to make a claim for future wage loss.
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