Slip and Fall Injuries

The winter of 2010-2011 will probably go down as one of our worst, especially for injuries caused by falls on the ice.  Falls can occur on sidewalks, driveways, parking lots – all of the public places where we walk.  Injuries from these falls can range from minor embarrassment to major debilitation.  Broken bones, back injuries and even head injuries are common.  Once your feet go out from under you you are at the mercy of gravity and usually a very hard landing area.

         Owners of real property have a duty to keep public spaces free of ice, snow, standing water and other dangerous conditions.  Landowners must act promptly after a snowfall or other weather condition to ensure that public areas are safe.  This requires that snow and ice be removed from public areas as soon as reasonably practicable after a storm.

  Pedestrians are not automatically entitled to recover for injuries sustained in a slip and fall on the ice, however.  Falling on the ice where a clear path was also available might prevent recovery.  Pedestrians still have a duty of care even when they are walking on or around ice or snow covered surfaces.

  If you are injured in a slip and fall incident, try to have pictures taken of the surface on which you fell as soon as possible after the incident.  Obviously this will be difficult if you are badly hurt, but it seems that everyone these days is carrying a digital camera phone or pocket camera.  Try to get contact information for any person who might have witnessed the incident.

  If you are a landowner it behooves you to do everything you can to make your property safe for pedestrians.  If someone does slip on your property, you will not be penalized if you immediately take additional measures to make your property safe in the area of the fall.  This is because evidence of subsequent remedial measures is not admissible in court.  In other words, if you take additional steps to make an area safe after someone has fallen this cannot be held against you.

  One final note:  Punxsutawney Phil says that spring is coming early this year.  I can hear the crocuses popping already.

– Kevin Palmer


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