In Boston warmer winters often mean icy conditions. Melted snow or daytime rainfall collects in pools and puddles that may freeze when temps fall at night. Unfortunately, these icy surfaces can spell disaster, especially in public parking lots, when unsuspecting patrons or visitors walk to or from their vehicles. During mild weather, people are less likely to anticipate icy surfaces. The majority of a parking lot may be covered in melted water, but an area shaded by trees or a building’s shadow may be a sheet of ice. What are your rights if you slip and fall on an icy surface? Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.
Property owners are responsible for exercising reasonable care with regard to ice and snow removal. It is their duty to remove ice from public parking lots, sidewalks, and walkways. While the property owner doesn’t have to be the individual actually removing the ice and snow, he or she is still responsible for making sure it gets done. Many property owners contract with snow removal companies to keep their sidewalks and parking lots clear. However, if a third-party contractor doesn’t show up to remove ice, and a patron slips and falls, the property owner will most likely be liable for any injuries or property damage. That is, unless the property owner can prove that he or she exercised reasonable care.
What is Reasonable Care?
When it comes to snow and ice removal, reasonable care refers to what is reasonable to expect of a property owner. For example, if heavy freezing rain has been consistently falling for five hours, it is impossible to expect that a parking lot or sidewalk can be kept entirely free of ice accumulation. This is what is known as the ‘natural accumulation’ rule. As long as the property owner doesn’t interfere with the natural accumulation, he or she is generally in the right. However, once ice and / or snow accumulation subsides, it must be removed within a certain period of time.
Much of what is considered reasonable is dependent on where the ice and snowfall is occurring. What is reasonable in northern Florida, for example, is much different from what is reasonable in Boston. This is because members of the public also have a duty to exercise reasonable care when it comes to icy and snowy surfaces. If a patron drives into a parking lot in Florida, he or she is probably not expecting to step out onto an icy surface. However, if a patron drives into a Boston parking lot after several hours of freezing rain, he or she will be more inclined to assess the parking lot’s surface before stepping out of the car.
Weather conditions can change rapidly. An extremely icy surface at the time of the incident may be no more than a pool of mud when you return to take pictures. If you have a smartphone on you at the time of the accident, take as many pictures as possible. If there are any witnesses when you fall, ask for their contact information in case you need to reach them at a later date. Jot down any details you notice at the time of the accident; the time of day, contact info of witnesses, and any other circumstances or details that might be relevant. The more information, the better. Continue reading