The recent storms in Wisconsin and the Midwest along with the cold temperatures quickly reminded me how dangerous it can be to not only drive, but something as simple as a walk to the mailbox can be life changing.
Of course, it is best that property owners take care of their property to avoid slippery, dangerous conditions. It is also necessary that pedestrians use caution and pay attention to what they are walking on to avoid accidents and injuries. There are things property owners can do, as well as pedestrians to avoid these accidents.
First, although responsibility for injuries is similar, slip and falls that occur outside are treated differently by most insurance companies as well as judges and juries than accidents that occur inside a store. Generally, when a slip and fall occurs inside a store or business, determining who is responsible is generally assumed to be the store and/or building owner. When the accident occurs outside determining responsibility is more difficult. I will focus on the outside slip and falls throughout the rest of this blog.
Whether you are a business owner or home owner you should pay careful attention to your sidewalks and driveways. If your sidewalk or driveway is slippery to you, imagine what it is to a visitor or a passerby who does not have that knowledge. The best defense to a slip and fall is to remove ice and snow as quickly after a storm as possible. Of course, ice is not always as easily removed, and salt and/or sand should be applied on a regular basis until the ice is gone. Once the temperature warms up, braking up and removing the ice is essential. One problem is that even a clean and smooth surface such as a parking lot can suddenly become very dangerous after the sun has an opportunity to melt the snow and then forms “black ice” as the temperature drops. Usually, this occurs later in the day after the sun goes down. Not only is “black ice” difficult to see in day light it is even more difficult in the dark. Property owners need to be aware of the situation and be ready to remove the snow that is causing the run off as well as applying salt and sand over the area to make sure it is not slippery.
The law requires an owner to take reasonable efforts to make their property safe. As long as reasonable efforts are taken, the law in Wisconsin does not require property owners to have their sidewalks, parking lots and/or driveways free from ice or snow at all times. On the other hand, for example, if it snowed three weeks ago and the temperatures have risen above freezing and you still have ice and snow on your property, it would be reasonable to conclude that you did not take reasonable efforts.
On the other hand, if you are a pedestrian, please pay careful attention to your surroundings. As you enter a driveway or a parking lot of a business or home, observe the condition of the driveway, parking lot and/or sidewalks before you exit the car. Avoid those areas that look dangerous and take your time. Perhaps that cellphone call or text can wait until you are safely inside so that you can pay attention while you walk on slippery surfaces?
If you are older or have difficulty walking you should take efforts to avoid dangerous and slippery situations. Most things can wait a day or two until the conditions change so think twice if you really need what you are going to the store for, before taking a chance and risking serious injury.
Although property owners can take precautions they do not always do so. In the event you do fall on snow and/or ice please immediately seek appropriate medical attention. Also, if at all possible, pay attention to your surroundings after the fall and try to determine what caused the fall. If you, a friend or family member can take a photograph it is even better. Many times I have seen cases end poorly because we were unable to prove what caused the fall.
Also, if at all possible either yourself or someone on your behalf, should notify the property owner of the incident. Ask them to fill out an incident report and let them know the date, time, as well as the area and/or what caused the fall. This information can be very helpful in the future when it comes to determining the cause of your fall.
Hopefully, if you have fallen on slippery ice and/or snow you were not injured. However, if you or someone you know has been injured in a slip and fall one of the most important things you can do is immediately retain the services of an experienced injury attorney. Snow and/or ice melts quickly. Sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways are reconstructed and/or repaired on a year round and regular basis making it sometimes difficult to show the condition of the area at the time of your injury. Obtaining witness statements and putting the appropriate property owners on notice is essential and is one of the many benefits of retaining an experienced slip and fall attorney.
We have been representing people injured in slip and falls for over 30 years. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis so you never owe any fees unless and until there is a recovery. Initial consultations are free and we are glad to talk with you should you have any questions about an injury case.
Please feel free to call us at 1 (866) 455-2993, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website at Kh-law.net. We are here to help.
At Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC, We Listen, We Care, We Get Results!