As winter arrives, the cold weather brings with it hazards that significantly increase our risk of personal injury due to icy conditions, poor visibility, and a lack of precautions.These injuries can be serious! Winter fall-related injuries include not just bruises and sprains, but also more serious injuries, such as spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injuries.
The Property Owner’s Duty of Care During Winter Weather
Commercial Property Owners
Winter weather related slip and fall accidents typically happen in parking lots or on sidewalks in commercial areas.
It is almost universally true that property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care when it comes to maintaining the safety of areas where the public (and especially customers) can reasonably be expected to be. That duty includes the periodic inspection of the property, and the removal and/or salting of snow and ice within a reasonable time, to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. The failure to fulfill this duty can amount to negligence.
Often, property owners will have contracted with a third party to deal with snow and ice removal. However, whether it is the owner performing these maintenance and cleaning activities, or a company hired by the owner, there is a duty of care to anticipate the dangers posed by snow and ice, and to maintain the property accordingly.
However, members of the public also have a duty to exercise reasonable care when walking in an area they know (or should reasonably expect) will be snowy and/or icy. Failing to act with reasonable care can reduce your recovery in a potential lawsuit or bar any recovery completely (i.e. not wearing proper footwear).
Government Liability for a Slip and Fall
If your fall occurred on government property (such as a city street or city sidewalk), you can’t usually take your time to get medical attention, gather evidence and file a personal injury lawsuit against the government. Specific time limits must be observed when making a claim for a slip and fall injury against a city or municipality. For a claim against a municipality, the time limit may be as little as 30- 60 days unless there are reasonable explanations for why you were unable to meet the deadline.
Moreover, when sued for negligence public bodies enjoy a defense that private citizens and businesses do not, namely the policy defense. Actions taken pursuant to a good faith policy decision can shield a public body from liability in circumstances where a private defendant would be held liable. Moreover, in most jurisdictions, you’ll need to follow a strict claim filing procedure with the government agency that will probably include a requirement for the claim to be made in writing and to contain certain specific information.
To determine whether a business or a municipality is responsible for a slip and fall accident due to uncleared snow or ice, it is best to speak to a personal injury lawyer.
What You May Recover
If you slip and fall, you may be able to recover the cost of your medical treatment by suing the property owner and perhaps even the contractor who was responsible for clearing away snow and ice. You could also recover lost wages if you can demonstrate that your injury caused you to miss work—or to work less than you otherwise would. In addition, you may be able to recover for the pain and suffering that the injury caused you, plus any negative impact on your regular activities, such as exercise, chores, or leisure pursuits. All of these components make up your personal injury claim.
Documenting Your Case
Because weather conditions can change quickly, it is important to document as much as you can about the accident and the characteristics of the area where you fell. If you can, take photos or send someone to take photos of the area as it looked around the time of the accident. Snow and ice are typically cleared on a regular schedule, so you want to make sure you can give your lawyer an idea of how the area looked when you were injured. As soon as possible after your accident, write down everything you can remember about what happened, including the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the accident or who arrived on the scene afterwards (i.e. ambulance, concerned citizens, business employee, etc.).
Get Legal Advice From Hoogbruin & Company
Even if you do everything you can to prevent slip-and-fall injuries, they do happen sometimes. If you sustain an injury in a slip and fall accident due to another party’s negligence, you can seek compensation. Call Hoogbruin & Company today for more information and a consultation.