During the winter months, snow and ice often create slippery and hazardous walking and driving conditions throughout the New York area. Icy and snowy conditions are common causes of slip and fall accidents and frequently can be prevented by a responsible property owner or management company.
Slippery surfaces on sidewalks, steps and parking areas can be hazardous for drivers as well as pedestrians. Black ice (which is nearly invisible), has been responsible for a variety of slip and fall injuries and auto accidents in and around New York. Black ice often forms on bridges and overpasses, in shaded areas, in low-lying areas, and on hilltops exposed to wind and cold temperatures.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received hundreds of reports of fatal crashes due to snow and ice with many occurring in the New York metropolitan area.
Who is Responsible for Unsafe Slip and Fall Conditions?
The laws regarding who is responsible for removing snow and ice conditions are more complex than one would think. Every landowner or tenant is under a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to maintain the property in a safe condition, considering all of the circumstances including the purpose of the person’s presence and likelihood of injury.
Liability for snow and ice conditions may be predicated upon occupancy, ownership, control or special use of the premises. There may be County, Town and/or Village laws enacted that address snow and ice clearing directives.
New York City and Nassau County codes may vary with respect to the responsibility of adjacent landowners. Different rules may apply to commercial premises, multiple apartment dwellings and absentee landlords. Owners who undertake to clear, salt and sand must use reasonable care in snow removal operations so as not to increase the natural hazard by haphazard cleaning methods. A partially cleared area may, in effect, invite the unwary passerby to enter a very dangerous area.
A further concern in a winter such as the one we are experiencing now, where there have been numerous storms, is old ice under new snow. In our 35 years of practice, we have seen that the injuries sustained in snow and ice falls are especially serious and life altering, because they often involve broken hips with surgery and arm fractures with displacement and complex operations.
We have been very successful in obtaining compensation for these parties injured as a result of slips and falls on snow and ice.
Motor Vehicle Accidents on Wet or Slippery Surfaces
A motorist is required to maintain control of their vehicle. Most drivers don't do everything they can to avoid slipping and sliding on icy or snowy road conditions. There are different kinds of icing conditions, but the most deadly is "black ice", which is nearly invisible, and even more so at night.
Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Remember: speed is not your friend in icy conditions so be sure to slow down.
Increase the distance between your vehicle and others.
Never slam on the brakes - use gentle, even pressure and remember that anti-lock braking systems don't require pumping.
Practice defensive driving - you never know when surrounding drivers may lose control.
Avoid spinning your tires and digging your vehicle into a rut.
The best advice is: if you don't have to go out in the snow, then you should stay home.
What Should You Do?
Your first concern should be focused on the health and safety of the injured party(s).
As such, it is important to seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or local emergency room. Injuries on snow and ice can be severe, although the extent of injuries may not be immediately apparent. Fractures, head injuries, back injuries and other forms of physical trauma are often caused by unsafe conditions which cause innocent victims to slip and fall.
Take photos of the immediate area with your cell phone or other available camera. Often conditions can change rapidly making it much more difficult to prove your case in the event of litigation.
Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all witnesses to the accident. Their account of what happened can be beneficial if there is a subsequent dispute.
Report the accident to the property owner and if applicable, to the police. Be sure to request a copy of the police report.
Do not sign anything from an insurance company or for the property owner.
Do not agree to give a recorded statement on the telephone to the insurance adjuster without receiving guidance from an experienced personal injury attorney.
Keep any damaged property or torn clothing in a safe place as it may provide useful evidence if you have a subsequent case against the owner and/or their insurance company.
It is vital that you make sure that the nurse or attending physician correctly describes the details of the accident and that you confirm this before leaving the hospital.
Hill & Moin, LLP has extensive experience handling cases for individuals who have suffered personal injury as a result of slips and falls on snow or ice.
You have the right to receive proper compensation for injuries that are caused by a negligent property owner!