When temperatures drop in New York, snow, sleet, and ice become an everyday reality. Not only do the hazardous weather conditions affect roads and highways, but they also create risky walking surfaces for pedestrians upon sidewalks and passageways. If truth be told, many slip and fall accidents are the result of frozen surfaces, such as ice in and around entrance ways, sidewalks, parking lots, and other such places where people regularly walk. Not all winter weather-related slip and falls result in litigation, however. There are a lot of factors to consider before determining whether or not filing a lawsuit due to your NYC slip and fall is appropriate.
Under New York law, courts recognize an exception to the ordinary duty of care owed—that is, to keep the landowner’s premises reasonably safe of dangerous or hazardous conditions, which is known as the Storm in Progress Doctrine. According to the well known storm in progress rule, plaintiffs are precluded from recovering for injuries that occur on a landowner’s property and are caused by the accumulation of snow and ice. The exception shields landowners from liability where the storm is ongoing because shoveling snow while continuing precipitation or high winds are simply re-covering the walkways as fast as they are cleaned would render the effort fruitless. Thus, landowners are afforded a reasonable time following the cessation of a storm to remedy the dangerous condition the storm created.
Fault Considerations in Slip and Fall Accidents
As with all slip and fall instances, the first question is whether or not the property owner had the opportunity to treat or maintain the sidewalk or walkway. If a blizzard transforms a parking lot into a sheet of ice in a matter of minutes, the parking lot may become too slick for anyone to realistically tend to it safely. However, this does not remove or alleviate the owner’s responsibility to keep walkways clear of hazards. Legally, an owner whose real estate includes sidewalks must keep walking paths cleared. Otherwise, they may be charged with negligence in a slip and fall accident case. It should be noted that even if a business contracts with a plowing provider, and the provider does not do the job, the owner remains ultimately responsible if someone slips and falls due to a dangerous snow or ice condition that was not properly tended to.
Freeze, Thaw and Re-Freeze
Another thing that can occur is what’s called a thaw and refreeze situation. Imagine this: The owner of a home shovels the sidewalk in front of his house and throws the snow, with his shovel, onto an elevated parcel of his land. The next day, the sun comes out and starts to melt some of the shoveled snow and that snow melts onto the sidewalk previously shoveled. Then, it refreezes. This can be a situation where the homeowner may be held liable for not salting the refreeze if someone slips and falls on the ice.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident on Ice
Anyone who takes a spill on an icy sidewalk and becomes seriously injured has the right to recover damages from the property owner. The property owner will likely look to their homeowner’s insurance policy for defense and coverage. Many victims of slip and fall accidents in NYC look to retain an NYC personal injury lawyer to help them through the process. To make out a successful slip and fall case against a company or homeowner, the injured party will need to produce documentation to support the claim that the surface was not cleared to the best ability of the owner. Types of documentation often used in slip and fall accidents include photos of the sidewalk, witness testimony, medical reports, video surveillance footage, an expert meteorologist’s report and certified weather data. The more documentation there is supporting the victim’s claim, the better chance of receiving a settlement offer.