Suing a Neighbor for an Accident or Injury in Philadelphia
Question: My child was injured on a neighbor’s property. We live in Philadelphia. He was playing in their yard and tripped, breaking his arm. He said that he tripped over a large hole in the ground. Should we take legal action against the neighbor?
Answer: Lawsuits against neighbors can be uncomfortable, but are sometimes necessary, especially when a serious injury occurs. If the accident occurred due to the neighbor’s negligence, you should not have to pay medical bills, and your child has a right to be compensated for his pain and suffering. Below is a summary of how lawsuits against neighbors actually play out, the role of insurance, what to expect, etc.
The Role of Insurance
What most people don’t know is that homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies often come into play in these types of situations. Homeowners/renters’ insurance usually covers accidents that occur on the property, so long as the insurance policy holder was negligent in causing the accident.
These types of insurance policies often offer $100,000 or $300,000 of liability coverage for the insured neighbor’s negligence. Basically, while the legal claim is against the neighbor, the insurance company is on the hook to pay any financial settlement or judgement, up to the amount of liability coverage on the policy. In theory, the case would proceed with the insurance company as the point of contact, not the neighbor.
In addition, there may be a small amount of medical coverage. It’s worth noting that in a typical homeowners’ insurance policy in Philadelphia, there may be $1,000 or $5,000 of “med pay.” Usually, these benefits are available regardless of fault, i.e., it doesn’t matter whether the neighbor was negligent or not. Someone injured on the property can make a med pay claim.
Lawsuits Aren’t Always Necessary
In some instances, where the property owner admits fault or negligence, the insurance company may pay on a claim before a lawsuit is even filed. Your attorney may be able to find the insurance company and open a claim. After opening the claim, the lawyer would send documents proving the extent of the injuries and damages. The insurance company might evaluate the claim and decide to offer a financial settlement rather than face a lawsuit. If the insurance company fails to take the claim seriously, a lawsuit would be filed against the neighbor.
Liability or Fault is Key
It’s critical to establish fault at the outset. This helps the initial claims process and subsequent lawsuit. In this situation, the neighbor may be liable for creating the danger, failing to correct the danger or otherwise failing to warn of the danger.
Creating the Danger. The neighbor may have created the hole by digging in the yard. Allowing children to play near a large hole in the yard would certainly constitute negligence.
Failing to Correct the Danger. Even if the neighbor didn’t dig the hole, liability may be premised on knowing about the hole but failing to fill it in or otherwise prevent access to it.
Failing to Warn. Lastly, the neighbor may be liable for failing to warn of the danger, i.e., failing to take reasonable steps to warn others of the danger.
What if the Property Is a Rental?
Even if the property is a rental, the landlord and/or tenant may be held liable. Under Pennsylvania law, landlords may be held liable for injuries to a tenant’s guest.
What if There is No Insurance?
Without insurance, it often becomes difficult to pursue a tort case against an individual. Executing a judgement often takes time, and there are many laws which inhibit what you may assert a lien on. If there is no applicable insurance policy, it may not be worth pursuing because the costs would outweigh the benefits. You should speak to a lawyer about your specific situation immediately.
Considering an Accident or Injury Claim Against a Neighbor in Philadelphia?
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