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June 13th, 2016

Pennsylvania Fall Accident Law – Sidewalk Accidents Due to Broken Concrete

Broken concrete and uneven concrete often result in sidewalk fall accidents, especially in large cities like Philadelphia, where pedestrian activity is high both day and night. These types of fall accidents can result in serious injuries which require surgery. Broken hands, wrists and ankles are common. For example, a woman walking in the Art Museum neighborhood of Philadelphia trips over broken concrete on the sidewalk in front of a private home. She fractures her hand trying to break her fall and needs to have surgical placement of pins in her hand.

In many situations, the property owner may be held liable for negligence in failing to fix broken or uneven concrete. However, the success of these cases depends on two factors: liability and damages.

Liability – Is a Property Owner Liable for Broken Concrete Resulting in a Sidewalk Fall Accident in PA?

Pennsylvania accident law clearly allows an injured pedestrian to sue a property owner for a sidewalk fall accident. Being able to prove liability is key. PA law is complex when it comes to sidewalk fall accidents. That’s because both the status of the property owner (i.e., private versus public) and the status of the injured individual (i.e., invitee or licensee) determine what has to be proved in a sidewalk fall accident lawsuit. Read more about property owners and sidewalk fall accidents under Pennsylvania law.

Did the Property Owner Know About the Broken Concrete?

Using the example above, the injured woman must prove that the home owner knew about the dangerous condition for some period of time prior to the accident. Prior knowledge is key. In addition, the longer the home owner knew about the broken sidewalk, prior to the accident, the better. The length of time is important because it shows the extent of the negligence, which is usually defined as the failure to do something a reasonable person would do. If the owner learned about the broken concrete the day before the accident, then liability is weak. It’s not necessarily reasonable for a home owner to take action in 1 day. However, if the owner had learned about the problem several months or weeks before the accident, then liability is much stronger.

In order to prove liability, the injured party has to be able to show what the defect looked like at or near the time of the accident. Pictures and measurements of the defect are often necessary. These questions must be answered:

  • What did the broken concrete look like?
  • Where was the defect located on the sidewalk?
  • Was there a gap created by the broken concrete, and if so, what are the measurements of that gap?
  • What caused the break in the concrete?

The injured woman in the example would have a good case on liability if she is able to prove that there was a large gap created by the broken concrete and that the owner knew about the problem for several weeks prior to the accident. Assuming the claims for damages are proven sufficiently, the injured woman may be able to obtain financial recovery for her medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

For more information about Pennsylvania fall accident law by visiting the law library.

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