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Winter Weather & Premises Liability – Fixing Safety Hazards

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on February 2, 2017

Premises liability cases result from incidents of personal injury or wrongful death caused by a dangerous condition on someone’s property. Premises liability accident victims may bring civil action against a property owner to obtain compensation for damages such as medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages from missed work, pain and suffering, and more. During the holidays and winter months, there are some potential hazards that are unique to this time of year to keep in mind.

Potential Winter Hazards

Many retailers see an influx of customers visiting their stores, and slip-and-fall accidents tend to rise. These are largely caused by wintry conditions, such as icy or snow-covered exterior entrances, and water accumulation on the floors from melting ice and snow that customers track in. Some winter accidents may result from inadequate lighting. In December, Seattle has only eight and a half hours of daylight, compared to 14 hours each day in May. This increases dependency on artificial lighting to provide for the reduced visibility of the surface conditions in our paths. The winter months also heighten the potential for fires due to holiday lights, Christmas trees, and the use of space heaters.

Sidewalk Snow & Ice Removal Duty

Per state law, Washington property owners don’t have a duty to remove ice and snow from their sidewalks. No liability exists unless the removal process is done negligently, resulting in a further dangerous condition. The City of Seattle’s ordinance states that a property owner has a responsibility to remove ice and snow in a timely manner, and, if practical, to prevent potentially dangerous conditions for those using the sidewalks.

Other Common Premises Liability Concerns

  • Drowning in swimming pools.
  • Dog attacks
  • Accidents where construction or remodeling projects are underway.
  • A collapse of a ceiling or balcony.
  • Accidents involving stairways or handrails

(3) Classifications of Those on Property

Washington has retained that the landowner duty of care varies among three classes of individuals:

  • Invitees: Those who were invited, such as for business, or because the property is open to the general public. They are owed the highest level of care by keeping the premises in reasonably safe condition.
  • Licensee: Their presence is permitted, but is not the result of an invitation or for a business purpose that is beneficial to the owner. The owner has a duty to warn or make conditions safe if they do not expect the visitor to notice a hazard.
  • Trespasser: They are not owed a duty of care for injuries unless they were intentional, willful, or maliciously caused.

Often property owners fail to maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner. When this irresponsibility causes a serious injury, they may be liable to compensate the victim in accordance with the laws of premises liability. The Seattle premises liability lawyers at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., have consistently defended the rights of Seattle area injury victims by securing large verdicts and settlements. Contact the office today at (888) 228-3860 to review your case.

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