Premises Liability

Pennsylvania law holds an individual or company in possession of the land responsible for certain injuries suffered by people who are on the property. Owners of businesses and owners of private property have a duty to keep their premises in a safe and hazard free condition. This duty extends to the people entering the property or working on it. If an owner acts negligently by failing to fulfill this duty, the visitor may be entitled to damages for the resulting injuries. The lawyers at Warren & McGraw are successful and experienced in handling premise liability cases, and are dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve.

What are Common Types of Premise Liability Cases?

Premise liability incorporates a wide variety of lawsuits. Some of the most frequent include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Failure to maintain the premises allowing, liquid, debris or ice to accumulate
  • Dog bites and animal attacks
  • Sidewalk or roadway defects
  • Poorly lit stairs, steps, or parking areas
  • Falling debris or hanging hazards
  • Carbon monoxide leaks
  • Ice covered steps or walkways
  • Negligent security or maintenance
  • Amusement park accidents
  • Construction site accidents
  • Unsafe elevators & escalators

If you feel you have been injured due to any of these situations, or are unsure if your injury falls into one of these categories, call one of the lawyers at Warren & McGraw to discuss your rights.

What is Negligence?

In a premise liability case, the plaintiff must establish the defendant acted negligently. This is done by showing:

  1. The person in possession of the land had a duty of care to the injured party. (The level of care depends on the visitor’s reason for being on the property.)
  2. There was a “breach” of or failure to fulfill that duty.
  3. The breach of the duty caused harm.
  4. The harm resulted in actual damages.
How Do I Know If the Owner/Possessor had a Duty to Me?

There are three main categories of individuals who enter land. The type of visitor determines the duty owed.

Trespasser

A trespasser is a person who enters or remains upon property that is the possession of another, without their consent to do so. In the case of most trespassers, the owner generally owes no duty of care. The owner need not make the premises reasonably safe for a trespasser. However, a property owner must refrain from intentionally, willfully, or wantonly inflicting injury on a trespasser. An owner cannot be indifferent to the fact his property may attract trespassers into a dangerous situation. Children are owed a higher duty of care, regardless of whether they are considered trespassers. A landowner’s duty to warn is also heightened with respect to children.

Licensee

A licensee is a person who enters a property, with the landowner's permission, for the visitor’s own purposes rather than for the landowner's benefit. A higher duty of care is owed to a licensee than to a trespasser. For example, a social guest visiting friend or family is considered a licensee. A property owner has a duty to warn licensees of dangerous conditions on the property that create an unreasonable risk of harm if the property owner or occupier knows about the condition and it is not likely to be discovered by the licensee.

Invitee

The highest duty of care is owed to an invitee. An invitee is either a public invitee or business visitor. A public invitee is a person who visits a property as a member of the public for a purpose that the land is opened to the public (museum, church, airport, etc.). A business visitor is invited to enter the premises for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the owner’s business (customers, delivery people, and employees). The owner of such public and business properties must maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

Is The Only Person at Fault The Owner of The Property?

No, there may be more than one person or entity that may be held responsible for your injuries. Potential liable parties include the owner, a tenant, a work crew, the landlord, a security guard or company charged with patrolling or maintaining the property, and people whose intentional, criminal actions caused your injuries while on the property.

Can a Business Owner Be Held Liable If a Person Is Injured By a Criminal Attack by a Third Party on The Business’s Property?

Possibly. If you are injured by a criminal attack on the property of a commercial business, that business is generally not liable for your injuries unless the business should have reasonably foreseen the crime occurring. If the attack could have been foreseeable, the business owner has a duty to use reasonable care to protect invitees.

What Type of Damages Can I Recover In a Premises Liability Case?

You may be able to recover damages for medical bills, including doctor visits, treatments, surgery, the cost of prescription drugs, physical therapy and medical equipment. You may also be able to recover lost wages or for loss of future earning capacity. You may recover damages for pain and suffering, mental distress and physical impairment.

If Workers’ Compensation Benefits Already Cover my Accident, Can I Collect Other Damages?

In situations such as construction accidents, most injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, these benefits do not cover all losses and expenses incurred by the worker. Workers compensation does not compensate an injured worker for pain and suffering. Workers compensation replaces actual lost wages for a period of time but it often does not compensate loss of earning potential over a lifetime. In the unfortunate case of death, workers compensation pays a modest benefit to the workers dependents but does not cover all of the devastating economic impact of such a loss.

My Injury Happened a Year Ago, Is There a Time Limit on When I Can File a Complaint?

Personal injury claims must generally be filed within two years from the date that the injury occurred. In certain exceptional circumstances, Pennsylvania's "discovery rule" applies. Then, the time period is extended to two years from the date the individual knew or should have known that he or she was injured that the injury was caused by another's negligence. In other situations, claims must be brought prior to the two years. Notice is required within six months of an injury when bringing claims against government bodies in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania premises liability claims must be brought promptly. Contact a lawyer at Warren & McGraw in order to ensure your claim is presented pursuant to all appropriate time requirements.