The winter of 2018 has already seen unprecedented snowstorms and ice storms in Massachusetts and throughout the East Coast and the United States. Along with snow and ice, inevitably many people will suffer injuries from slipping and falling.
Common injuries sustained include bruising, broken bones (particularly broken arms and wrists used in trying to soften the impact of a fall), and head injuries. Head injuries can result in lacerations, concussions, and even traumatic brain injury. They can also result in death.
As a snow and ice injury lawyer, if you been injured in a slip and fall on ice or snow on the property of someone else, here are some important things that you should know. For more information, please also see Snow and Ice Injuries.
Store owners and lessees may be responsible for damages and injuries suffered in a slip and fall under what is known as premises liability. Premises liability means that in general, property owners and lessees are under a legal obligation to reasonably make their property safe in order to prevent injury.
Premises liability does not automatically make property owners and lessees responsible for all injuries on their property, including slips and falls. The legal standard for liability is that a property owner or lessee will only be liable if they should have reasonably known of an unsafe condition on their property, and if they fail to take adequate measure to make their property safe from the unsafe condition.
With respect to snow and ice, commercial property owners will clearly be aware of major snowstorms and ice storms. They should, therefore, take adequate precautions to clear sidewalks and parking lots of snow and ice.
Usually, this will entail shoveling or using snowblowers to remove snow, and often using salt on icy areas. In areas where there is the most foot traffic, such as immediately outside a grocery store, more attention should be taken to making such areas safe than other areas, such as the far areas of parking lots, where there may not be any foot traffic four days.
Homeowners also have a duty to keep their property safe so that accidents can be avoided. They too are under an obligation to take reasonable precautions to keep sidewalks and areas leading up to their front door free of snow, ice, and other potential slip and fall hazards.
If a homeowner fails to take such action and a person is injured, such person may also sue the homeowner for all damages sustained in a slip and fall, including pain and suffering.
It is important to understand that nearly all homeowners who have a mortgage are required by their lender to maintain property insurance to protect the homeowner’s and the lender’s property interest. Property insurance will typically provide what is known as comprehensive general liability, which will protect the homeowner (and thus also the interest of the lender) from lawsuits (such as slips and falls for dog bites) up to the limits of the insurance.
As a result, in representing a client injured on another homeowner’s property, one of the first tasks will be to determine whether the homeowner carries property insurance, and, if they do, the amount of coverage provided by such insurance. If there is insurance, a demand can be made directly to the insurance company with respect to the injury that occurred. In many cases, a settlement is possible with the insurance company without the need to initiate a formal lawsuit.
With respect to all lawsuits, there is what is known as the “statute of limitations” which provides that an injured person must bring a lawsuit within a specified amount of time; otherwise the right to seek damages and compensation will be lost. Additionally, if you or a family member has been hurt in a slip and fall or as the result of some other mishap, it will also be important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible so that an attorney can examine the scene of the incident before the scene dramatically changes. In some cases, owners and lessees will make changes soon after a slip and fall in order to prevent further injury; in these cases, it may be difficult to ascertain the true conditions that existed at the time of the slip and fall.