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Slip and Fall Accidents on Ice: Prevention and Liability

Dec 5th, 2023

Every winter, the dangers of icy sidewalks and driveways become a stark reality. Every year, slip and fall accidents on ice account for thousands of injuries and even fatalities–most of which could have been prevented by clearing or treating surfaces. Not only is it important to exercise caution on walkways when the roads freeze, but property owners also have a duty of care to ensure walkways are as safe as possible in these conditions.

 

The Threat of Icy Conditions

The physics behind icy slip-and-fall accidents involves a loss of traction between one’s shoe and the frozen surface. In many cases, snow melts during the day and refreezes on surfaces at night, creating slippery and dangerous ground conditions. The ice is often transparent and can’t be easily seen (a phenomenon called “black ice“). The friction between your shoe and the ice is significantly reduced, causing even the most sure-footed among us to slip and fall. Once someone loses their balance in these conditions, it is sometimes impossible for them to control how they hit the ground, often causing broken limbs or even traumatic brain injuries in the process.

 

Legal Responsibilities of Property Owners

In most jurisdictions, property owners have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This includes removing ice and snow from sidewalks, driveways, and other walkways within a reasonable time. Failure to do so could result in the property owner being held liable for any injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident.

The law recognizes that property owners cannot always immediately clear ice and snow, especially during ongoing storms. However, they are expected to act within a reasonable time after the cessation of the storm. What constitutes “reasonable” varies by jurisdiction and circumstances, but proactive, timely action is key.

 

Tips for Avoiding Slips and Falls on the Ice

Preventing these accidents begins with awareness and diligence. Here are some steps property owners can take to exercise a duty of care:

  • Regular inspection: Check your property regularly for icy spots, particularly in shaded areas that may not thaw as quickly.
  • Prompt removal: Clear snow and ice as soon as possible after a storm. If complete removal is not feasible, use sand or ice melt to provide traction.
  • Proper lighting: Ensure walkways are well-lit so that icy patches can be easily spotted.
  • Warning signs: If you cannot immediately address an icy patch, place a warning sign to alert others of the danger.

Moreover, individuals can protect themselves by wearing shoes with good traction, walking slowly and carefully, and avoiding distractions like mobile phones while walking on icy surfaces.

 

While icy conditions are treacherous, many ice-related slip-and-fall accidents are preventable. If you have sustained an injury from an icy fall where a property owner or proprietor was negligent with ice removal, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Our personal injury attorneys can evaluate your situation and work to help you receive an appropriate settlement. Call our offices to learn more.