Contributory Negligence in a Trip/Slip and Fall

Picture this:  You are walking through a mall parking lot when you trip over a broken piece of macadam or a pothole.  Or lets say you are walking down a sidewalk and trip over a raised portion of the sidewalk.  You severely injure your ankle, need surgery and are out of work for 2 months.  Slam dunk personal injury case, right?  Wrong.  It is true that property owners have a duty under Pennsylvania law to keep their property free of dangerous conditions.  However, pedestrians also have a duty to watch where they are walking.

The Pennsylvania Courts have held time and again that a property owner has limited or no liability for harm caused to a pedestrian from a dangerous condition that is “open and obvious”.  In other words, if that pothole or raised portion of the sidewalk should have been obvious to a reasonably prudent pedestrian, your failure to see and avoid it may be deemed to be the sole cause of your harm, thereby depriving you of the right to recover any damages from the property owner.  In fact, if the dangerous condition was so open and so obvious your case may not even be allowed to go before a jury.

If your case does it make it to a jury, any award could be severely reduced or eliminated entirely depending on how negligent a jury determines you were in failing to see and avoid the dangerous condition.  Under Pennsylvania Law, a plaintiff’s award is reduced by the percentage of their own negligence.  In other words, if a jury awards a plaintiff $100,000 but finds that the plaintiff was 20% at fault for their accident, the award is reduced to $80,000.  If a jury finds that the plaintiff was 51% or more at fault, the plaintiff gets nothing.

If you have questions about a personal injury case call me today for a free case evaluation.