Common Wintertime Premises Liability Cases
Between bad weather and darker days, accidents of all kinds are more common. This is particularly true for premises liability accidents. Things like ice and snow can exacerbate unsafe conditions and lead to people injuring themselves. For example, a broken sidewalk can be hidden under snow, while darker days can make areas with inadequate lighting all the more dangerous for visitors.
Common premises liability accidents that wintertime conditions can exacerbate:
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- Parking lot accidents
- Retail store accidents
- Inadequate security accidents
- Hotel accidents
When Is the Property Owner Legally Liable for an Accident?
Property owners have a responsibility to keep their property reasonably safe for visitors. This includes keeping the property in good condition as well as responding to hazardous conditions when they arise. For example, suppose something is spilled on the floor of a hotel lobby. In that case, it is the hotel’s responsibility to protect patrons and visitors from the active hazard (posting a sign or cordoning it off) and clear the spill as soon as possible.
A property owner may be found legally liable for an accident if it can be demonstrated that:
- The property owner owed a duty of responsibility to the injured party to keep their premises safe and free from hazards
- The property owner breached this duty
- The breach of duty resulted in the claimant’s injuries
It is also important to note that Idaho subscribes to comparative negligence or comparative responsibility in personal injury cases. With comparative negligence, the courts look at all parties’ potential responsibility in an accident. Suppose the other side can prove that you were partially responsible for the accident and resulting injuries. In that case, the compensation you are awarded may be reduced proportionately to the liability the courts determine you carry.
Additionally, if the courts determine that your responsibility/negligence was greater than the other party, you may not be able to recover any compensation at all.
Avoiding Slip & Fall Accidents
The most common premises liability accidents are those associated with slips, trips, and falls. In the winter, these accidents are even more common. The weather is bad, the streets and stores are more crowded, and holiday festivities often mean visiting new and unfamiliar places. Unfortunately, slip and fall accidents are a leading cause of ER visits, and injuries associated with a fall can be quite severe.
Examples of injuries frequently associated with slip, trip, and fall accidents include:
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Hip, knee, and ankle injuries
- Shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
While even the most careful person can still suffer a slip and fall, you can do a few things to help reduce your risk of an accident. In particular, if you can avoid going out in bad weather or before roads and sidewalks have been cleared after a storm, you can greatly reduce the risk of a slip, trip, or fall on sidewalks, walkways, and parking lots. However, if you must go out, it is recommended that you wear shoes with strong tread designed for walking on snow and ice that are in good condition.
Other tips for avoiding a slip-and-fall accident include:
- Avoid shopping at the busiest times of day
- Reduce distractions around you and pay attention to where you are walking
- Take extra care in unfamiliar settings
- Carry a small flashlight with you if you will be going out at night
Finally, if you notice any hazards or safety risks while visiting someone else’s property, such as a store, hotel, or another place of business, report the problem right away. By doing so, you can help protect other visitors as well as yourself.
What to Do If You Are Injured
If you are injured while visiting another person’s property, public or private, you should seek medical attention immediately. You should also consider speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney, especially if your injuries are significant. A skilled lawyer can help you determine if you have grounds for a premises liability suit and, if so, if pursuing a case is in your best interest. While filing a lawsuit may be daunting, it may be the only way to recover full compensation for your injuries, including covering all your medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
At May, Rammel & Wells, we have helped countless clients deal with difficult premises liability cases, and we are prepared to use this experience to help you. Call our office at (208) 623-8021 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.