It's officially snow season here in the Northeast, and that means the season where property owners neglect to plow, shovel, ice, salt. Needless to say this is a problem - especially if you've fallen and been injured because a property owner failed to clean up.
Snow and ice related injuries typically happen in one of two scenarios: 1) the individual falls during a snowstorm; or 2) the individual falls after a storm event has ended. When the accident happens can be significant.
What happens if I'm hurt during a storm?
When you are injured as a result of a fall that happens during a snowstorm, the property owner may be entitled to a legal defense known as the "storm in progress" doctrine. This essentially says that the law does not impose an obligation on the property owner to clear snow while a storm is ongoing.
There are, however, exceptions, such as a situation where the property owner failed to take steps to clear snow/ice after a prior storm, which has now accumulated under the new snow. If you fall because of this accumulated ice, you may be able to recover from the property owner.
What happens if I'm hurt after a storm?
Once a storm subsides, a property owner has a "reasonable" amount of time to clear the property of snow and ice. What's reasonable? There is no formal standard, but a couple of hours certainly seems like enough time.
For example: There is a storm on Monday that drops eight inches of snow, and Tuesday night you attend an event at a hotel. When you get out of your car in the parking lot, you immediately slip and fall because the lot has not been cleared. In this case, the property owner is likely at fault, and may very well be responsible to you for damages.
Typical snow and ice injuries
We would not be writing about snow and ice, and the liability of property owners, if the most common injuries were not severe. Unfortunately, however, experience tells us that slip and fall accidents in the winter tend to result in severe injuries.
We have represented clients who have suffered broken arms and legs, often requiring multiple surgeries. Injuries can also include traumatic brain or head injuries and, in worst case scenarios, death.
For this reason it is absolutely critical that you speak with someone soon after an accident. Among other things, property owners must be notified of the accident, and instructed not to destroy any evidence. In addition, if the property owner is a municipality or the State, a much shorter time period to bring a claim applies.
Contact us today to discuss your situation. We're happy to help.