(a) General rule.--In all actions brought to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or injury to person or property, the fact that the plaintiff may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery by the plaintiff or his legal representative where such negligence was not greater than the causal negligence of the defendant or defendants against whom recovery is sought, but any damages sustained by the plaintiff shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.
In other words, the fact that injured victims (plaintiffs) may have contributed to their own accidents does not bar them from financially recovering from responsible parties. Rather, their recovery is reduced by the percentage they are at fault. However, the plaintiff's portion of fault must be less than 51% or they will not be able to recover.
To further explain comparative negligence, below are 2 PA trip and fall accident scenarios – one with comparative negligence law and one without.
Consider the following example: A pedestrian is walking in Center City, Philadelphia and trips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a home on a residential street. The pedestrian fell because the sidewalk was uneven and was a dangerous walking hazard for pedestrians. The accident occurred late in the evening when it was too dark for the pedestrian to see the condition of the sidewalk. The pedestrian fractures her arm as a result of her fall and requires surgery. The injured pedestrian files a trip and fall accident lawsuit against the homeowner.
PA’s trip and fall accident law requires homeowners to keep the sidewalk on their property reasonably safe from dangerous conditions. In addition, for the homeowners to be liable for pedestrians’ injuries and accidents, they must had notice of the dangerous condition.
There are 2 types of notice: actual and constructive. A homeowner has actual notice of a dangerous condition when the owner actually knew about the condition. A homeowner has constructive notice of a dangerous condition when the owner should have known about the condition. In other words, even if the owner did not have actual notice of the uneven sidewalk, an owner would have constructive notice if he walks by the sidewalk every day.
As it turns out, the owner knew that the sidewalk in front of his home was uneven and needed to be fixed. However, the homeowner never got around to calling anyone to fix it. In this situation, because the homeowner had actual notice of the dangerous condition on the sidewalk and failed to fix the sidewalk, he will most likely be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries and damages.
Using the same example, but only this time, the homeowner does call someone to come out and fix it. However, it would be a couple of days before the contractor can come out.
The pedestrian is busy texting on her phone while walking and does not see the uneven sidewalk. As a result, she falls due to the uneven sidewalk. The accident happened during the day.
In this situation, if the pedestrian sues the homeowner, the homeowner may allege that the pedestrian contributed to her fall and injuries. If she was not texting and looking down at her phone while walking, she would have seen the uneven sidewalk during the day and not have fallen.
In a subsequent trial, the jury awards the pedestrian $100,000 for her injuries, but also finds that the plaintiff contributed to her fall and was 40% responsible. Her award of $100,000 would be reduced by 40%; therefore, her recovery is $60,000.
However, if the jury finds that the plaintiff was 51% (or more) at fault, she would not be able to recover anything.
If you or a loved one was injured in a Philadelphia, PA slip, trip and fall accident, call the lawyers at White and Williams LLP to inquire about your legal rights. Daniel J. O’Brien, a personal injury lawyer licensed in PA and NJ, has been helping injured victims for 30 years. Call today to schedule a FREE consultation. 877.944.8396
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