Fall accident cases are some of the most challenging tort or injury cases in Philadelphia. That’s because they are generally disfavored. People, especially average jurors, have a natural distrust of these types of cases. Oftentimes, people think of the banana peel case. However, the reality is that fall accidents can cause serious injuries, and it is often true that businesses forgo safety considerations due to simple negligent or neglect.
Every day, individuals are injured in fall accidents in Philadelphia area stores, restaurants, etc. Those with serious injuries may be contemplating a lawsuit and naturally want to know what their case is worth. This article will discuss one of the key factors that affect the value of a fall accident case in Philadelphia—evidence of negligence.
Case Value Depends on Evidence of Negligence & Extent of Damages
Case value depends on the main factors: 1. evidence of negligence, and 2. extent of the damages (i.e., severity of the injuries). The strongest cases have both sufficient evidence of negligence and serious injuries necessitating major medical treatment.
Evidence of Negligence
Under Pennsylvania law, businesses which are open to the general public are required to ensure that the premises is reasonable safe. Any hidden defects or unreasonably dangerous defects must be dealt with in a reasonable manner. Either a defective condition has to be corrected, or the business must take reasonable steps to warn customers about the condition.
Is There Sufficient Evidence of the Defendant’s Negligence?
Under Pennsylvania law, commercial businesses can be held liable if there is evidence of notice. Notice can be actual (defendant actually knew) or constructive (defendant should have known). The type of evidence in a given case, actual or constructive, can make a large difference in the case value.
Case value is often dependent on the strength of the defendant’s negligence, i.e., is there sufficient evidence of the defendant’s negligence? If not, the case may be valued lower than if there was sufficient evidence. Below are two examples which explain this point.
Fall Accident Example 1 – Defendant Had Actual Prior Knowledge of the Defect
A woman is shopping at a retail store in downtown Philadelphia and trips on her way down a flight of stairs. The carpeting on the stairway had ripped and separated from the landing area. Her heel gets caught and she falls down the entire flight of stairs. The injuries are serious. She breaks her femur in two places and needs reconstructive surgery with extensive physical therapy. She is out of work for 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.
Investigation reveals that in the weeks prior to the accident, employees had noted the ripped carpet. Two service tickets had been written documenting the carpet defect. One of the tickets is dated a month before the accident; the other ticket is dated 2 weeks before the accident. However, management simply did not take steps to call in a contractor to fix the carpeting. Also, no warning tape, signs, etc. were posted to warn customers of the carpet.
Related Philadelphia Fall Accident Case Result: Philadelphia Sidewalk Fall Accident Lawsuit Settles for $350,000 [In this 2014 fall accident case, a man fell on the sidewalk outside of a drugstore in the Philadelphia suburbs. He suffered serious injuries and also had to take time off of work. Laffey, Bucci & Kent attorney Brian Kent handled the case.]
Here, the dated service tickets are sufficient to prove that the store manager had actual notice of the defect prior to the accident. Given that the defect posed a high risk of injury, because it was at the top of the stairs, a contractor should have been called immediately. Thus, the store’s simple neglect caused the accident. Because the evidence of negligence is sufficient, the case value would not be affected negatively and instead would depend entirely on evidence of the damages and injuries.
Basically, case value is an assessment of the following question, “what are the odds you’d win at trial.” In this example, the odds are probably around eighty-twenty, in plaintiff’s favor, hence the higher case value. fifty-fifty or sixty-forty.
Fall Accident Example 2 – Defendant Had Constructive Notice of the Defect
Using the same example, let’s say there was no evidence that employees, customers, etc., had noticed the ripped carpet or otherwise complained about it. There are no service tickets showing that employees had noticed the condition. In addition, there are no reports that customers had prior accidents. However, there is evidence that no one at the store conducted any type of formal inspection of the premises for defective conditions. Instead, the store employed a mentality shared by many smaller stores — “it’s every employee’s job to be on the lookout for dangerous conditions.”
Here, there is no direct evidence that the store knew about the ripped carpet prior to the accident. Instead, there is an argument that the store should have known about the ripped carpet, but didn’t because it failed to conduct any type of formal inspection. Because the evidence of negligence isn’t strong, the value of the case is negatively affected. In this example, the odds are probably around fifty-fifty.
Comparing both examples, it’s clear that the first example is stronger and thus the case value would be higher in the first example than in the second.
Comparative Negligence in Philadelphia Fall Accident Cases
It’s important to note that comparative negligence is almost always at play in Philadelphia fall down accident cases. Is the plaintiff to blame in any way for causing the accident? Pennsylvania courts have found that pedestrians and store customers have a duty to watch where they are walking. Therefore, the plaintiff’s negligence, if any, is compared to the negligence of the defendant.
If the plaintiff’s negligence approaches 50%, the plaintiff can still proceed with the case. However, the plaintiff’s monetary award at trial will be adjusted to reflect the percentage of negligence assigned to the plaintiff. This only applies up to a certain point. Once the plaintiff’s negligence reaches 51%, the plaintiff’s case is barred altogether.
For more info, please contact our Philadelphia fall accident lawyers. Our office is located on Walnut Street, just blocks from City Hall. 215.399.9255
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