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Snow and ice can be extremely hazardous for a number of reasons. In addition to the danger that it brings to drivers on the roads, winter weather can contribute to pedestrians slipping and falling and resulting in serious injury. What’s scary about slipping on snow and ice is that when someone is slipping and falling, they are falling on hard pavement. A fall like this could cause a number of injuries including fractures, lacerations, back or neck injuries, soft-tissue injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries.
These kinds of injuries require extensive medical treatment, which can result in exorbitant medical bills. Additionally, an injury from a slip and fall often takes a long time to recover, meaning the person may have to miss a lot of time working at their job. Clearly, anyone who slips and injures themselves has easily found themselves in a devastating situation. If there’s any way to alleviate the situation, it would be to have some financial help for all the losses incurred as a result of the injury. If someone slips on ice, this is possible. The reason being is property owners are obligated to maintain a level of safety. If snow and ice wasn’t removed from a premises in a reasonable amount of time, resulting in a person’s injury, that property owner could be at fault for not removing the hazard.
In New York State, property owners are obligated to clear their property of hazardous snow and ice in a reasonable amount of time. There is no strict time requirement behind what is considered reasonable, but an experienced attorney can help make that determination. Driveways, entryways, parking lots, steps, and ramps should be cleared in a reasonable amount of time to ensure safety for any pedestrians that are on the premises.
Additionally, public sidewalks that are in front of a property in the state of New York are not the responsibility of the property owner to clear snow and ice. This means no matter how much time has passed, a public sidewalk in front of a residence or business is not the owners liability unless it has been previously established specifically by way of a statute or ordinance. However, if a property owner has made a sidewalk more unsafe (for example by piling the snow on top of the sidewalk), then they would be liable if an injury occurs.
If the slip and fall happens in New York City, then the rules for the property owners are more strict. New York City has some very specific snow removal rules for buildings within its boroughs. The goal of these laws is to ensure the safety of the residents, employees and passersby. New York City’s Department of Sanitation requires that snow be removed no later than four hours after the end of snowfall, or not later than 11 a.m., if the snowfall ended after 9 p.m. the night before. This is due to the increased number of pedestrians in the city, making the risk of a slip and fall injury much more likely. They also cannot shovel snow into the streets, and if a hazardous area can’t be cleared, there should be warning signs to alert pedestrians.
If you slip and fall from winter weather on someone’s property, there’s a few things you should do in case you need to recover financial loss. First, report the incident right away to the property owner or property manager and obtain a copy of the report for your records.
Then, record as much information you are able to of the scene of the accident. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the slippery area you fell on. Take both photos and video footage including other areas where ice and snow are visible. Although photos and videos often automatically embed the date and time the photo took place, it’s good to state the day and time in a video on the day of the accident. These pieces of evidence can help establish where and how you fell and whether ice and snow accumulated in the area. In a personal injury case, these can be used along with weather reports to prove whether or not the hazard was cleared in a reasonable time. If you need to get to the hospital or the emergency room, ask a family member or friend to take the pictures and videos for you.
It is also a good idea to get statements from witnesses that support your account of the incident. Try and get their contact information. Testimonies from impartial witnesses carry much more weight than if the witness is someone that you know. Either way, the more witnesses the better.
You should then seek medical treatment right away for your injuries. The sooner you get medical attention, the easier it will be to associate the injury to the accident that caused it. It will also begin the process of recovery sooner. Keep track of all expenses that you have incurred as a result of the slip and fall injury. For example, if you had to make changes in your house to adjust to your injury or if you had to make copayments at doctors office visits, it’s important to keep track of these expenses.
Finally, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. Insurance company representatives will try to get statements from you to protect their own liability. Make sure you have a qualified slip and fall injury attorney representing you to ensure that these companies do not minimize the compensation owed to you.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.