Injuries from accidents like slipping and then falling are common in Pennsylvania retail stores, government buildings, medical settings and other surroundings where visitors must go but where they have little control.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can change a life in an instant. In some cases, a civil lawsuit can help put life back on track.

Comparing everyone’s degree of fault

Accidents or injuries are not always one person’s or business’s fault. Often, the injured person had at least a little to do with injury, and so did the business. For example, a business owner may carelessly allow a dangerous condition on their property, and the customer fails to watch where they are going.

Each state chooses has laws regarding fault in civil lawsuits, and it is known as comparative negligence.

Pennsylvania courts determine fault by assigning percentages of fault. The owner may, for example, be found 75 percent responsible for the damages the victim suffered, while the customer was 25 percent at fault. In the end, when the amount of damages the victim experienced is decided, the person in this case would be awarded 75 percent of the amount.

Not much time to think about filing

Pennsylvania law is clear about how long you have to file a lawsuit for an injury of this kind.

You have two years after the date of the injury. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it is not a guideline or suggestion. Once this deadline passes, your opportunity to seek compensation in the civil courts of Pennsylvania is gone.

Expect the unexpected

Be prepared to defend your claim in detail, not only with evidence but also by fending off suggestions that you were more at fault than you believe or even that you are being less than forthcoming.

Also, be prepared not to see a courtroom scene of any kind. It is not unusual for those being sued, or their insurance company, to decide you have a valid case or that, valid or not, they would rather not fight it. There may be back-and-forth negotiations.

In such cases, the calculation of fault, the statute of limitations and other issues in Pennsylvania law remain important, since the chance of taking the suit into a real courtroom is likely to hang over the negotiations until they end.