When you think of winter weather accidents in the Hartford area, your first thought is probably roadway crashes. However, sidewalks and outdoor entrances are dangerous during cold, inclement weather as well. Slip and fall injuries vary from minor to serious. They affect every age demographic and cause more than 1 million emergency room visits every year. Who is responsible if you slip and fall on someone else’s property? The answer depends on several factors.
What Is a Slip and Fall Accident?
A slip and fall is a form of personal injury case in which someone falls and is injured due to dangerous conditions on another person’s property. An injury must occur for a plaintiff to sue, and there is no definitive way to prove fault in a slip and fall case. It requires evaluating several factors pertaining to the situation and is often difficult to establish.
How Does Premises Liability Relate to Slip and Fall Accidents?
The allocation of responsibility in slip and fall cases is based on the theory of premises liability. This theory assumes that a property owner is responsible for keeping his or her property safe for others. In Connecticut, liability specifically lands on the occupant of the property. In the case of a rental property, the renter rather than the owner would be liable.
How Is Fault Proven?
The burden of proof often falls on the injured person in a slip and fall case. Plaintiffs must prove that the property owner knew that a dangerous condition existed and that it caused the injury. Plaintiffs also have to prove that they were not aware of the dangerous condition prior to the injury.
You can prove that the owner knew of the dangerous condition in three different ways:
- By proving that the owner had ample time to fix the dangerous condition before the injury occurred
- By proving that the owner was aware of the condition and failed to fix it
- By proving that the owner was responsible for the condition
Liability is also determined by foresight. If the owner could have foreseen that the condition might cause injury to someone, he or she is liable. Sometimes accidents just happen, and sometimes the injured person was just careless. In such cases, the property owner is not responsible for the accident.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations for a slip and fall case depends on the state. In Connecticut, you have two years to file a suit if you are injured from a fall on snow or ice. The time of the accident starts the countdown, and once the two years are up, you are no longer eligible to receive compensation for damages.
What Are the Laws Pertaining to Snow and Ice Removal?
Car accidents and slip and fall accidents are more common in the winter than in the summer. When a person is injured, determining the responsible party is sometimes very difficult. There are several factors to consider.
Who Is Responsible for Snow and Ice on the Road?
Policies regarding roadway snow and ice removal vary from state to state. State highways and city roads fall under different jurisdictions. For example, Connecticut state law does not mandate provisions on a local level. Towns and cities can choose to adopt state recommendations for safe travel or create their own local ordinances pertaining to clean up. However, the state is responsible for clearing state highways.
Proving negligence in a snow-and ice-related car accident case against state or local government is often difficult. You have to argue that the snow or ice on the road had been there for an unreasonable amount of time and was intentionally ignored by government employees. Winter in the New England area is brutal. Snow and ice accumulate at a rapid rate, and keeping up with it is difficult at times. Icy roads are almost never a result of negligence.
Who Is Responsible for Snow and Ice on the Sidewalk?
Snow and ice regulations for sidewalks and other walkways differ from the roadway. Clean-up responsibility typically falls to the owner of the property. Regulation details vary across municipalities, but most require owners to remove snow and ice or cover it with sand when removal is too difficult.
If you slip, fall, and are injured on an icy sidewalk in your neighborhood, you may have cause to sue the property owner who did not clean the sidewalk within a required timeframe. The same rules apply to walkways and parking lots for privately owned businesses. The municipality is responsible for snow and ice removal on sidewalks, walkways, and parking lots located on city-owned property.
What Are the Standards for a Snow and Ice Case?
State laws dictate the standards for a snow and ice case. In states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and others in the Northeast, where winter storms are often ongoing, the duty of care differs drastically from states where winter weather is mild and sporadic. Property owners are responsible for knowing their legal obligations and maintaining their property to keep others safe. Failing to do so risks applicable fines and potential lawsuits.
What Is the Duty of Care?
The principle of “duty of care” states that property owners have a legal responsibility to maintain their property and ensure that it is free of potential dangers to others. However, they cannot be expected to instantaneously remove all potential dangers due to inclement weather.
In Connecticut, Kraus v. Newton determined that property owners have a reasonable amount of time to have snow and ice removed following a snowstorm. The time allotted for removal amounts to a few hours after precipitation subsides. Snow and ice that accumulated before a storm do not apply to this doctrine. Connecticut also requires property owners to provide signage for areas that are frequently dangerous in common weather conditions.
What Should You Do if You Slip and Fall on Snow or Ice?
If you fall on snow or ice and are injured on someone else’s property, take the proper precautions to protect yourself.
- Document the accident. Take photographs and videos of the area. If your injuries are visible, take photographs of those as well. If you fail to document the scene immediately, the property owner could clear the area or spread sand over it. You would then lose potential evidence of fault.
- See a doctor. Accident victims often underestimate their injuries. Seeing a doctor immediately after an accident helps to treat even minor injuries before they become too serious. If you have cause to sue, documenting your injuries right away also helps your case.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury attorneys handle many types of cases, including slip and fall. If your injuries resulted in costly medical treatment, an attorney can help you determine who should pay. You could be eligible for compensation for economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
The circumstances surrounding a slip and fall accident are often complex. Attorneys understand the legal process. They can help determine if someone is at fault and if the injured person has the right to compensation for damages.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall, contact the attorneys at Gould Injury Law for a free consultation. We are always ready to support you and provide the advice you need.