With winter upon us, slip and fall injuries due to ice and snow are likely to be on the rise. Home and business owners have a legal duty to keep their properties safe for guests and others lawfully on the premises. This obligation includes keeping the grounds clear of snow and ice. However, the law concerning slip and fall hazards is somewhat complex. Recovering damages from property owners is not easy, even where they appear to be in violation of the law.
Most municipalities have ordinances requiring property owners to keep pathways clear of snow, ice and other weather related walking hazards. New York City has such a provision in its administrative code, but the code recognizes the “storm in progress” doctrine. That is, a property owner has no duty to clear snow and ice hazards during a storm. The code requires owners to begin clearing pathways within four hours of the storm ending. However, the four-hour rule is suspended between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The code does not specify how much time an owner is allowed to finish clearing snow and ice. The code only requires that the effort be completed within a reasonable amount of time.
Weather-related slip and fall cases often involve ambiguous issues of fact and law. For example, a storm may be considered “in progress” when the precipitation is intermittent or there is a lull in activity. However, it can be difficult to assess whether there was just one storm that subsided or there were actually two or more storms passing through in short succession. Also, the question of what constitutes a reasonable amount of time to complete clearing snow and ice is subject to interpretation.
A person injured in a slip and fall is not always entitled to compensation even when the property owner may have breached the duty to remove snow and ice. The injured party also has the burden of proving causation. The victim is required to show that his or her falling was attributable to the weather hazards on the property and that the injuries suffered were a direct result of the fall. Defense counsel for property owners often make the case that a victim’s injuries were unrelated to the fall and the weather event.
Slip and fall injuries can be serious. Victims often suffer broken or fractured bones, dislocations, contusions or concussions. Some injuries can be permanent or even result in complications with pre-existing medical conditions. In addition, the associated medical bills, lost wages and other damages can seriously impact the victim’s finances. Thus, it is important to protect your rights and financial interests after a slip and fall accident by consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.
Goldberg, Sager & Associates in Brooklyn is one of New York City’s premier personal injury firms. If you or a family member has been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, feel free to contact us online or call 718-514-9516 for an initial consultation.