Making A Case After A Slip & Fall on an Icy Sidewalk
Hey, it’s Drew from Champlain Valley Law. In this video, we’ll talk about whether you have an injury case if you’ve been hurt because of a slip & fall from snow or icy conditions on a sidewalk.
Winter in Vermont and the north country means snow, ice, and slippery conditions. Clipper systems and Lake effect snows can keep our roads and walkways slippery for days at a time.
Responsibility of property owners
That said, property owners and managers still have a responsibility to keep their walkways safe. In the winter, this means the property owners have an obligation to take reasonable precautions, to keep their walkways free from snow and ice whenever possible.
Falls due to unsafe walking surfaces in winter are the cause of tens of thousands of hospital visits every year.
And it’s not just the elderly who are affected, it can happen to anyone.
Who Is At Fault In A Slip & Fall?
If you were hurt because of a slip or a fall on an unsafe winter walkway, you may be wondering whether you alone should bear the consequences. The law says that both you and the person or business responsible for maintaining the walkway must use reasonable care.
So what does that mean?
Well, if a case is brought to court, the jury will hear about what the property owner did or didn’t do to keep the walking surface safe.
The first thing the jury needs to know is whether the property owner knew it was unsafe and had a chance to make it better.
Questions may come up such as,
- Did anyone complain about ice?
- How long had the snow or ice been building up before you got hurt?
These are important questions that need to be answered as part of evaluating who is responsible for the injury.
Now, the next question is, what did the property owner do with that knowledge?
- Did they inspect or clear the walkway?
- Did they salt or sand?
- How often?
- And did they do so recently?
The truth is there are no absolutes here.
The question for the jury is when you look at all the circumstances was the property owner careful enough?
What factors could hurt my slip and fall case?
Now the jury will also be looking at whether you were being careful at the time that you got hurt.
For starters, winter-appropriate footwear is a must.
It’s going to be really hard to make a case if you’re wearing tennis shoes during a Vermont or north country January.
The jury or insurance company will want to know if you were paying attention, and if you were generally trying to be careful when you got injured. The jury will want to know, did you try to avoid obvious icy patches? And were you walking deliberately or were you hurrying along, talking on your phone.
And believe it or not, it also matters to juries and insurance companies where you were going and why.
A fall outside a doctor’s office is going to be looked at differently by the jury than a fall outside the liquor store.
So these are all factors that will be taken into account when looking at the injured person’s responsibility and balancing the fault of the two parties.
So your takeaway here, is that under some circumstances, injuries from snow or icy conditions may be the responsibility of a property owner.
But juries and insurance companies will want to make sure that you were being careful too.
As a practical matter, it can be almost impossible to prove an injury case without photographs of the unsafe walking surface, showing the snow or ice as it looked when you were hurt.
And it’s also helpful to photograph your injuries.
Finally, you should also keep the shoes you were wearing at the time, and try not to wear them too much after the fall. So they stay in about the same condition.
But remember, every situation is different. If you want to know how this might apply to you, please be in touch. Contact information is listed in the description below. I hope you found this video helpful. If so, please give us a thumbs up and subscribe to the channel.