Premises Liability — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, the owner-operator of a particular parcel of property is required to keep the property in reasonably safe condition for all visitors. If the owner-operator fails to keep the property in reasonably safe condition, or — alternatively — knows or should have known about the presence of unsafe conditions of property (and other hazards), then they may be held liable for injuries that are caused by such unsafe conditions. For example, if you slip and fall in a defendant’s shop due to spilled liquid that has not been cleaned up, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries due to the defendant’s failure to correct the slipping hazard or to warn you of the hazard.
If you have suffered an injury on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation pursuant to Pennsylvania premises liability law. Premises liability cases are not always straightforward, however, and frequently involve muddled circumstances where the facts are difficult to parse. Successful litigation of your premises liability claim will require the assistance of an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney who has a track record of securing favorable results in premises liability cases in Pittsburgh, Erie, Beaver, PA, and everywhere else in Pennsylvania. To connect with one of the skilled Pittsburgh premises liability attorneys here at Goodrich & Geist, P.C., call (412) 766-1455 today or fill out our online contact form.
Q: What is an unsafe condition of property?
A: An unsafe condition of property is essentially a hazard that exposes visitors to an unreasonable risk of harm. What constitutes an unreasonable risk of harm is a matter that often depends on the circumstances. For example, if the front stairwell entrance to a restaurant is poorly lit, then it may constitute a hazard (as the visiting public may include the elderly and others who have difficulty spotting the steps in such lighting conditions), whereas a back entrance to the kitchen that is poorly lit may not rise to the level of an “unsafe condition” (as users are likely to be those more familiar with the steps and the lighting conditions).
Q: Am I entitled to recover damages if I noticed the hazard?
A: It depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, if a hazard is non-obvious — in other words, if a premises entrant should have noticed the presence of a hazard — then the defendant cannot be held liable for injuries resulting from such hazard. In certain circumstances, however, a hazard may be unavoidable, and if a visitor is injured, recovery may be possible despite the fact that the hazard was known or obvious to the visitor.
Q: The defendant says that he was not aware of the injury-causing hazard and thus could not correct the hazard or warn visitors about it. Can I still recover?
A: Absolutely. Even if the defendant did not know that there was an unsafe condition on their premises, that does not shield them from liability for your injuries. Owner-operators in Pennsylvania may be held liable for injuries caused by unsafe conditions (i.e., hazards) that they knew or should have known existed. For example, if you tripped down a flight of stairs on the defendant’s property due to damage on the steps (chipping damage), you could potentially hold the defendant liable even if they did not know about the stair defect. The defendant arguably should have learned about the unsafe condition by inspecting the stairs.
Q: What instances of negligence can lead to a premises liability claim?
A: A premises liability claim can arise from a variety of negligent acts and failure to act. These acts include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
- Negligent security
- Negligent or inadequate inspection of premises
- Failure to warn
- Inadequate lighting
- Presence of slipping, tripping, and falling hazards
- Inadequate signage
- Failure to install safety devices
- And more