Snow and ice storms have already pummeled certain areas of the United States and Canada, and if you’ve been spared thus far, that could change any time now that Old Man Winter is here.
Slip and fall injury claims are very common during winter months because icy sidewalks, parking lots, stairs, and walkways in and around buildings can be treacherous if left untreated. Business owners and homeowners have a responsibility to keep the areas around their homes and businesses clear of ice and snow to avoid slip and fall injuries.
Local, state, and in some cases federal governments also may be required to keep the area in and around their buildings clear of ice and snow during the winter, so if you have fallen at a courthouse, a municipal building, or a law enforcement office, you may be able to file a slip and fall personal injury claim against the applicable governmental agency.
“Slip and fall” is a term that’s under the umbrella legal term of “premises liability,” and these claims can be very complex because multiple parties may be held liable for losses incurred due to a slip and fall accident.
Falling on Ice or Snow: A Common Occurrence
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately one million people are injured in slip and falls each year, and many of those falls occur after snowstorms when sidewalks and parking lots have not been properly cleared in a timely fashion. If people have tracked snow and ice inside the building, it’s the responsibility of the business owner or manager to put up “Caution” signs on wet floors until they can be tended to and dried.
It isn’t always easy to tell who is liable when it comes to injuries sustained from slip and falls on icy surfaces. Determining who owns or controls the space where the fall occurred can be more complicated than you might think.
Regarding public and private sidewalks, here is the general rule: If the sidewalk is on public property, the local municipality holds the liability. With private sidewalks, the businesses are responsible for the sidewalks that are on their property. With regards to homeowners, if you slip and fall at someone else’s house, their homeowner’s insurance could be the deep pocket you need to cover your medical expenses. However, if someone is renting a home, the renters are typically liable for any injuries that occur due to their failure to keep their walkways clear of hazards.
Determining who’s responsible for keeping surfaces free of ice and snow is not always clear, and that’s why it’s imperative to have legal representation after being injured in a slip and fall on ice.
With stairways and entryways, just as in the case of sidewalks, whoever owns or rents the property is responsible for taking reasonable precautions to prevent injuries to people entering a building or facility. In the case of shops and businesses, that responsibility could fall to an individual business owner, facility manager, or both. Private homeowners have insurance, typically, to protect them against the liability costs of slip and fall injuries on ice.
In most states, liability for slip and falls on ice on a driveway is pretty straightforward. Typically, the property owner or renter is responsible for keeping these surfaces safe for people who come onto the premises. Falls on icy parking lots can be tricky, also as many parking lots are owned by shopping center facility owners or third parties. Whoever has been charged with keeping parking lots safe for visitors and customers is responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that their parking lots are safe in winter.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall case, find a personal injury compensation lawyer near you.