With the snow and ice of New England winters comes an increased risk of winter weather-related slip and fall accidents. If you fall in a public place, due to snow or ice, what are your rights?
Most snow and ice-related slip and fall accidents occur on sidewalks and in parking lots. Property owners must exercise reasonable care in keeping these areas well maintained at all times, including during wintry weather conditions. A business or property owner who fails to promptly remove snow and ice may be liable if someone is injured. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident.
When it comes to public businesses, such as malls, grocery stores, and restaurants, property owners often contract with snow and ice removal companies to maintain their parking lots and sidewalks. Ultimately, it is up to the property owner to ensure that these areas are safe. If, for example, the contractor doesn’t show up with a plow during a snow storm, the property owner must still figure out a way to remove the snow. It might be time to call another contractor, or the property owner may just need to pick up a shovel.
All of that being said, customers and the general public must also use reasonable care when walking or driving in a snowy or icy area. If a customer – who wants to quickly get inside the warm store – sprints across the parking lot during a snow storm, he is not exercising reasonable caution. A Boston slip and fall accident attorney can help you recover damages if you have been injured by another’s negligence.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for a parking lot to be kept entirely clear of snow during a blizzard. A property owner’s responsibility, therefore, is not to keep walkways and parking areas free of snow and ice, but to keep them “reasonably” free of snow and ice. Some states have what is known as the “natural accumulation” rule, which holds that a property owner is not liable as long as she did not interfere with the natural accumulation of snow. This was also the case in MA until 2010, when the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) overturned a 125-year old rule, replacing it with the “reasonable person” standard.
The SJC made the following statement: “If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect against the danger.”
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident, it is crucial to document your case in as detailed a manner as possible. Photographs provide some of the most compelling evidence, and they should be taken as soon as possible following the accident. This is especially true when snow and ice are involved, as weather conditions can change quickly and without warning. If you have been injured, photograph your injuries and the scene of the accident. With today’s smart phones, most of us have a good camera at our fingertips at all times. If you are unable to take pictures, ask a witness if he or she could do so on your behalf. Also, be sure to ask any witnesses for their contact information, in case you need to ask them a question about the accident at a later date. Continue reading