Now that winter is right around the corner, it’s time for business owners and homeowners prepare for and make arrangements to have walkways and sidewalks cleared and salted when ice and snow are in the forecast. As a business or homeowner, you owe it to customers and visitors to provide a safe path to your door, and, as a customer to someone’s business or a visitor to someone’s home, you need to exercise good judgment and take the safest path to your destination (or avoid travel altogether when snow and ice have fallen). One very common type of slip and fall accident occurs in winter on a sidewalk or walkway that is covered in ice or snow.
Who is Liable for a Slip and Fall on an Icy Sidewalk?
If you are injured after slipping on an icy sidewalk, you may think that whoever owns the property where the fall occurred is liable for your injuries, but that is not always the case. Slip and fall cases fall under the umbrella term of “premises liability” personal injury claims, and they are difficult cases to prove.
For instance, falling in front of someone’s house on an icy sidewalk does not make the homeowner automatically liable for your injuries and subsequent medical expenses. The homeowner may belong to a homeowners’ association, and he may pay a monthly fee to have snow and ice cleared from his driveway and sidewalks. In this case, if you fall outside of his home while walking through the neighborhood, the homeowner may have absolutely no legal liability. Instead, the homeowners’ association may be held responsible and ordered to pay damages should a premises liability claim be filed.
Duty of Care in a Slip and Fall
In order to win a slip and fall claim for an icy walkway or sidewalk, you must prove the property owner did something wrong (e.g. he knew about the icy sidewalk and did nothing). Property owners have a legal obligation to exercise care when maintaining their property, and that duty of care includes keeping sidewalks, driveways, walkways, and parking lots clear and safe. If a business owner hires a snow and ice removal company to clear his business’ surfaces, then it’s his responsibility to make sure this is done in a timely manner and to make sure visitors know what areas may not be safe if the snow and ice have not yet been removed.
In addition to the property owner having a duty of care, the public must also exercise reasonable care when visiting someone else’s property, whether it’s for business or pleasure. You should walk slowly and carefully over snow and ice-covered surfaces, and you should always look for a safer path and use that route if it’s available. Failing to exercise a reasonable duty of care may result in a reduction of the monetary award you receive or prevent you from ever receiving any compensation for a claim.
Breach of Duty
In order to win a premises liability claim for a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, the plaintiff must prove there was a breach of duty, which means you must show that the property owner owed you a duty of care (as a visitor or customer) and knew of the danger of his icy or snowy sidewalk or walkway and did nothing to fix it and prevent someone from getting hurt. When it comes to sidewalks and walkways outside of a home or business, applicable state and city laws govern who is responsible for damages and to what degree.
Contact a Premises Liability Attorney
A premises liability attorney with experience in slip and fall claims involving icy sidewalks and walkways will be able to examine the details of your case and advise whether or not you have a valid claim. Consultations with premises liability attorneys are free, and you have no obligation to hire the first lawyer you meet. However, considering there are statutes of limitation on premises liability claims, you should contact a qualified premises liability attorney in your area today to schedule a no cost, no-obligation consultation. The more time that goes by, the closer you get to the statute of limitations for your premises liability case.