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  • A truck speeding on the highway on a sunny day crashes into a back of a car traveling in the same lane at the speed limit.
  • A truck speeding on the highway at night crashes into the back of a car traveling in the same lane at the speed limit. The car, which didn’t have functioning brake lights, had slowed down abruptly.
  • An elderly woman, while walking at night, falls when her cane gets stuck in a hole in the sidewalk.
  • A 12-year old trips and falls on an uneven sidewalk while texting.
  • A 19-year old skateboarder sustains a serious head injury when he uses a driveway entrance as a ramp to jump onto a neighbor’s sidewalk, which was riddled with cracks. The skateboarder was under the influence of drugs, and not wearing a helmet.

Who is at a fault in each scenario? That’s a question for a judge or jury.  Or, for opposing attorneys negotiating a settlement in a personal injury lawsuit. The “answers” to these questions can mean the difference between a substantial award or no award at all.


Personal injury cases, including falls and motor vehicle crashes, are usually based on the legal concept of negligence. “Generally speaking, negligence constitutes a failure to use reasonable care”, notes HKQ Personal Injury Attorney Michael Lombardo.  To prevail on a negligence claim, one must prove four elements:

  • The defendant owed a duty toward the plaintiff
  • The defendant breached his or her duty
  • The defendant's breach was the cause of another's injuries
  • The plaintiff suffered actual injuries for which damages may be claimed

All drivers owe each other a duty of reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle. For example, a driver must operate the vehicle at a reasonable speed. If there are hazardous road conditions, that speed may be substantially under posted speed limits. (Hence, the “conditions permitting” on signs.)

In the case of property owners, Pennsylvania law imposes a duty on the owner of real estate abutting the sidewalk to keep the sidewalk in good condition and repair. For example, the property owner must correct a known problem in the sidewalk, such as missing/broken concrete.

Contributory / Comparative Negligence

A defendant in a negligence case may claim that the actions of the person bringing the lawsuit contributed to the event that caused the injury. Prior to 1976, the doctrine of “contributory negligence” prevented a plaintiff in Pennsylvania from recovering monetary damages even if his or her negligence was minuscule compared to that of the defendant.

Because contributory negligence led to some inequitable results, a majority of states, including Pennsylvania replaced it with an alternative called “comparative negligence”. The doctrine of comparative negligence reduces a plaintiff's recovery by the percentage in which the plaintiff is determined to be at fault. For example, if the plaintiff is 20% at fault, the damages would be reduced by 20%. In Pennsylvania, the plaintiff's portion of fault must be less than 51% or he or she will not be able to recover damages. Comparative negligence can be extremely complicated in collisions involving more than two vehicles.

Special provisions come into play if the injured parties are minors. In Pennsylvania, there is a conclusive presumption that minors under seven years of age are incapable of contributory negligence. Minors between the ages of seven and fourteen years are presumed incapable of negligence, but the presumption is a rebuttable one that weakens as the fourteenth year is approached. Minors over the age of fourteen years are presumptively capable of negligence, with the burden placed on the minor to prove incapacity. In Pennsylvania, persons 18 or older are considered adults, and can be held liable for negligence or contributory negligence.

If you or a family member has suffered a serious injury, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529 to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Our personal injury attorneys are highly experienced in cases involving negligence and comparative negligence, and will help you get the justice you deserve.

About HKQ Law

HKQ Law is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine attorneys at HKQ Law were recently named to the 2019 Best Lawyers List and has been designated a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury, medical malpractice litigation labor law and corporate law in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history on behalf of injured clients. The firm was also recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A. Quinn is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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