If you’ve been injured in a slip, trip or fall accident and have been contacted by the store’s insurance company, you may have been told that you are “comparatively negligent” in causing the accident. Insurance company agents often throw this term around when handling a slip and fall accident case. An agent may tell the injured person that the insurance company is not liable because the injured person was comparatively negligent. In other words, the store will not pay on the claim because the comparative negligence of the injured person bars their ability to recover. This is inaccurate.
It is true that in many fall down accident cases, the injured party will be assigned some portion of negligence. That’s because Pennsylvania law recognizes the concept of comparative negligence. In any case, such as a slip and fall accident case, the parties’ respective negligence will be compared and assigned accordingly. However, this principle of comparative negligence does not bar a given claim, unless the person was over 50% liable for the accident. In most fall down accident cases, the negligence assigned to the injured party is usually between 20% to 30%.
How Does Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence Rule Apply to a Slip & Fall Case?
Under Pennsylvania law, people have a duty to watch where they are walking. That includes a pedestrian walking on a sidewalk, a grocery store customer walking in an aisle or a mall goer who is walking through a mall or department store. When a person slips and falls or trips and falls, it is highly unlikely that the person saw the particular defect before encountering it.
For instance, a person shopping at a mall who trips on debris on the floor or slips on water on the floor probably did not see what was on the floor in front of them; hence that’s why they fell. The person may have been distracted, talking on a cell phone or looking up. These factors can cause the fact-finder (judge or jury) to ultimately assign to that person some percentage of negligence.
In Most Slip & Fall Cases, the Comparative Negligence Principle Does Not Bar All Recovery
However, it is important to note that the person who fell and is ultimately deemed negligent in causing a fall accident, may still succeed in bringing a slip and fall lawsuit. Pennsylvania follows the modified comparative negligence rule. So long as the plaintiff, the party bringing the lawsuit, is no more than 50% negligent, they may still succeed in a slip and fall accident lawsuit and obtain financial recovery for their injuries. In other words, the person could be negligent up to 50%, but no more.
While the comparative negligence principle may come into play in a slip and fall accident case, it hardly ever defeats an injured person’s claim entirely. The 50% rule is usually an issue when the person was intoxicated and slipped or tripped. For example, let’s say someone at a bar slips and falls on water accumulating on the floor several feet from the bathroom door; the leak originates from a leaky pipe in the bathroom which the owner knows about yet does nothing. The water accumulation is plainly visible. Someone who is intoxicated and slips and falls on the water could be assigned 50% of liability because the water was plainly visible. A jury could find that the person’s intoxication was more a factor in the fall than the bar owner’s negligence.
Each case is unique and depends on the specific facts and legal circumstances. If you would like to discuss a slip and fall accident case, contact one of our Philadelphia slip and fall accident lawyers for a free consultation.
- Store Liability for Negligence in Pennsylvania
- Tips on What to do After a Slip and Fall Accident
- Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Law – Liability of Stores & Businesses
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