Slip and Fall on Snow or Ice
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
Icy and snowy conditions are among the most common causes of slip and fall accidents. The hazards posed by snow and ice on outdoor steps, sidewalks and parking lots are exacerbated when they are not obvious to an unsuspecting pedestrian, such as when black ice forms. In addition to the potential of causing initial embarrassment, however, slip and fall injuries can be serious and often raise a number of legal issues.
Some jurisdictions have enacted what are known as natural accumulation rules, under which a property owner does not have a duty to remove or warn of potentially hazardous natural accumulations of ice, snow, and freezing rain, and is not liable for injuries caused by them. The rationale behind these rules is that natural accumulation of ice and snow is open and obvious. In line with this rationale, however, these rules usually have exceptions that apply in the event that the property owner knew or should have known that the ice and snow could have posed a greater hazard than the hapless victim could have anticipated.
An invitee who is injured in a slip and fall caused by natural accumulation, however, is not automatically entitled to recover compensation for the injuries, even if the accident took place in a jurisdiction without natural accumulation rules (for a legal definition of invitee, visit premises liability). An invitee must establish that the property owner was aware of the dangerous condition and that his or her actions or failure to act with respect to the ice or snow created an unreasonable risk of harm. The owner must be aware of the condition either by having received actual notice, constructive notice, or should have reasonably foreseen the dangerous condition, or created the dangerous condition (by, for instance, plowing or shoveling in a negligent manner).
In jurisdictions that have not adopted the natural accumulation rule, property owners are required to take reasonable measures to lessen dangerous conditions within a reasonable period of time after a natural accumulation of ice or snow or within a reasonable amount of time after the end of a snowstorm. Each such jurisdiction specifies what constitutes a "reasonable" amount of time.
In either case, a property owner is liable for injuries in a slip and fall accident caused by an accumulation of ice and snow he or she created (unnatural accumulation), or a natural accumulation he or she made worse. If, for example, a property owner shovels snow into a large pile that melts, and the runoff refreezes, he or she may be liable for injuries to someone slipping on the frozen runoff because said owner made the conditions more dangerous than those that would have occurred naturally.
All told, there are too many slips and falls on icy steps and sidewalks, let alone on those that are unduly dangerous as the result of someone's negligence. If you or your loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident on an icy or snow-covered surface, an experienced personal injury attorney can review your case and advise you on whether you are entitled to compensation.