During winter, snow and ice can become treacherous. If you slip and fall due to an icy or snowy sidewalk, you may be entitled to compensation. Most icy and snow injuries involve a premises liability or slip and fall claim.
A property owner may be liable for premises liability if:
- A dangerous condition (such as ice and snow) exists on the property,
- The owner knew or should have known about the condition,
- The owner did not correct the condition or provide a warning, and
- You were injured by the owner’s negligence.
However, different standards of care are owed to different types of people. For example, a business owner has a greater duty to protect its customers than a private property owner owes a houseguest. Trespassers are typically owed very little protection.
Is it More Difficult to Bring a Claim if the Defendant is a City or Private Citizen?
Typically, it is more difficult to win a slip and fall case against a city or municipality. Governmental immunity may apply in these cases, unless this immunity has been waived. Your state laws may also reduce a government’s standard of care or duty to protect citizen against hazardous conditions.
Additionally, many state and city laws impose strict notice and filing deadlines in premises liability claims against a government. Sometimes, the notice deadline is as short as 30 days. If you fail to meet these deadlines, your lawsuit will be dismissed.
Finally, your compensation may be limited or capped in governmental premises liability claims. These rules vary from state-to-state. If you have questions about your community’s laws, contact a local attorney for assistance.
What Defenses Should a Plaintiff Expect?
Premises liability defendants have many defenses. Again, claims against cities and states often involve governmental immunity and strict procedural requirements. If you miss these notice and filing deadlines, you cannot receive compensation for your injuries.
However, the most common defense is that the ice and snow were “open and obvious.” If a reasonable person could recognize the hazard, a defendant may not be liable for its failure to warn or correct the condition. Depending on your case and state laws, ice and snow may be considered open and obvious. (An open and obvious defense may be unsuccessful in some black ice cases.)
Additionally, some states do not hold landowners liable for the “natural accumulation” of ice and snow. In these states, homeowners do not have a duty to remove ice and snow that accumulates naturally. However, the homeowner may be negligent if the hazard “unnaturally accumulated.” For example, the owner may be liable for ice that builds up near a gutter or downspout.
Lastly, contributory and comparative negligence may be defenses in an icy sidewalk claim. If a plaintiff’s behavior or negligence contributed to his or her injuries, damages may be reduced. If you have questions about the strength of your claim and possible defenses, contact a premises liability lawyer. An experienced lawyer can evaluate your case and guide you through the claims process.
What Remedies or Compensation May a Plaintiff Demand?
If you were injured due a city or property owner’s failure to remove ice and snow, you may be entitled to compensation for:
Damages are calculated on a case-by-case basis. Your entitlement to compensation will depend on the severity of your injuries, the degree of negligence, and the value of your out-of-pocket expenses.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Yes. A premises liability or personal injury lawyer can help you understand your state’s laws and filing requirements, investigate your claim, and file a lawsuit. A lawyer can also evaluate your damages, negotiate with the insurance company, and attempt to settle your icy sidewalk claim before trial.