Winter Means More Slip-and-Fall AccidentsMost slip-and-fall accidents are caused by objects on the ground that trip someone, poor lighting in an area like a stairwell, or walkways in poor repair. During the winter, weather plays a large part in creating unsafe conditions. Falling rain, sleet, and snow often result in wet and slippery sidewalks. These conditions can make reasonably safe areas quite treacherous, and when combined with poor lighting or cracked sidewalks, present an even greater danger for pedestrians.
Common Injuries from Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Common injuries include bruises, scrapes, or cuts, and more serious falls can result in broken bones, as well as pulled or torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Hitting the ground the wrong way can result in spinal cord injury that causes difficulty moving, chronic pain in the back, neck, and shoulders, and even paralysis. If a person strikes his head when falling, this can cause traumatic brain injury, leading to cognitive impairments or death.
What Can Stores Do to Keep Customers Safe?
Businesses are expected to take reasonable steps to keep customers and pedestrians safe when on their premises. This can be done in a number of ways, and usually starts with using mats to help eliminate water on tile floors near entryways. Even if water is present, a mat shows that the business made an effort to reduce slippery conditions.
Businesses are also expected to shovel snow from walkways leading to and from the store, and to use salt to melt ice on pathways. Business parking lots should be reasonably clear of snow as well. However, businesses are not expected to keep areas completely clear during a snowstorm, and are allotted time after snow stops falling to clear areas and make them safe for people.
Keep in mind that most store responsibilities only apply during business hours, when people are invited to the store as customers. Anyone on private property without permission could be seen as a trespasser and might not be able to win a civil suit against the business. A certain degree of reason can be used, however, in considering what constitutes business hours. An injury that happens 5 minutes after closing time might be treated no differently than one that happens during posted business hours.
Store Liability for Injuries
If you slip on a slush patch inside a grocery store and break your hip, the store might be liable. You may bring a civil lawsuit against the business owner and try to recover damages for medical bills, missed work, and pain and suffering. This requires proving two things: negligence and liability.
Negligence means the business failed to make a reasonable effort to keep people safe from foreseeable accidents. Liability means that the act of negligence resulted in injuries or damages.
For example, a business might be negligent by failing to salt an icy ramp leading to the store, but if someone slips inside the store, that has nothing to do with the negligence. By contrast, a person who slips on the icy ramp would be able to hold the store liable, since the injury was directly caused by the store’s negligence.
Is the City Responsible for Clearing Snow?
While businesses and homeowners are expected to keep sidewalks adjacent to their property clear of snow and ice, the city is responsible for public areas; typically sidewalks around government buildings, such as a courthouse or a licensing agency. If you fall at such a location, that could leave the city liable for your injuries, as long as the city was in some way negligent. Just like private businesses, city agencies have a certain amount of time to clear away snow and ice, and must act in a reasonable way to keep Seattle citizens safe.
If you were injured in an unexpected icy slip-and-fall on someone else’s property, there may be compensation available for your injuries. Many businesses and homeowners have insurance for precisely these incidents, though they probably won’t volunteer it. Speak to our Seattle premises liability attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., at (888) 228-3860 in a free consultation to find out your rights and how we can help you recover.