I was recently involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, since it was my first accident, I was scatter-brained and anxious. What I did not realize at the time was that the actions you take immediately after the accident can affect a personal injury case and the outcome of that case. I wanted to find a way to share my experiences and mistakes with other. Since the Internet is so popular, I figured this would be a great way to do so. While you likely aren't planning on being in an accident soon, if you are, hopefully you remember some of the tips I share on this website.
As winter approaches, sidewalks and outdoor stairs become amateur skating rinks if they are not cleared in a timely manner. Cracked concrete walkways and poorly maintained stairs present a year-round safety hazard for pedestrians. Who is responsible for slip and fall accidents on private property?
Slipping and falling on snow and ice
Property owners' responsibility for snow removal is usually mandated by local ordinances that provide a specific time period in which a public walkway must be cleared. It may be several hours for a minor snow occurrence or several days for a major snow event.
Ice presents a different issue, because it can recur daily from accumulated snow melting from roofs and snowdrifts and refreezing overnight. Property owners must then maintain public areas through the use of road salt or ice melting chemicals. They may also use sand or cat litter to provide traction for walking on thick ice that will not melt quickly, or block off access to hazardous areas of walkways and stairs until then ice can be removed.
Slipping and falling on poorly cleaned and maintained walkways
Property owners are responsible for hazardous conditions such as cracked or broken walkways and loose or broken stairs. Liability is more easily determined when these issues are ignored or remain uncorrected by the owners.
They must also keep their public access areas clean and clear of liquid spills or rubble that may present slipping or tripping hazards. However, property owners cannot be reasonably expected to maintain constant vigilance over their property, and may not be liable for a dropped fast food wrapper or a deposit from a dog with an irresponsible owner.
If a walkway or stairs can be shown to be consistently unclean, with trash and spills remaining untouched for extended periods, then the owner may be held liable. This would require actions such as taking pictures of the location of the slip or fall on subsequent days following the incident to show neglect.
What are your responsibilities if you slip and fall on private property?
If you are physically able, you should use your cell phone to take pictures of the location and the hazardous condition that caused your fall. You should also take pictures of any minor injuries, such as cuts or scrapes, as well as pictures of the shoes and clothes that you were wearing, to prove that your fall wasn't caused by tripping in stiletto heels or drooping pants.
You must also document what you were doing when you fell. If you were texting, making a call, or otherwise distracted, you may have a more difficult case. Get names and contact information from witnesses if possible.
While you can choose to seek compensation in small claims court by yourself in order to avoid legal fees, you are more likely to be successful and receive a larger settlement if you hire a personal injury law firm (like Halverson & Sheehy, PLLC) to represent you in court.