Falls Caused by Snow and Ice – How To Best Prepare Your Case
With the winter months approaching, the White Plains accident lawyers at Worby Vecchio Edelman turn the focus to fall down cases caused by the accumulation of snow and ice. The law on this type of case is well-settled.
Slip and Fall Accidents
By their nature, falls due to snow and ice are generally “slip and fall” (as opposed to “trip and fall”) cases. As in all fall down cases, the plaintiff must identify the cause of the fall; as we have mentioned in previous columns (December 2020, Steps to Take After a Slip, Trip, and Fall Down Accident) the fact that you fall on someone else’s property does not in itself impose liability upon the property owner. Proof must be provided that the property owner knew that the condition existed (the legal term is “actual notice”), or, in the alternative, that the condition existed for a sufficient length of time such that the property owner should have known that the condition existed (“constructive notice”). Proof must also be provided that a reasonable amount of time has passed, in order to give the property owner an opportunity to remedy the dangerous condition.
Proof of Constructive Notice
It’s pretty difficult to secure an admission that a property owner knew that there was a dangerous condition on the property, which is why the law permits proof of constructive notice. Proof as to the duration of an accumulation of ice can include the general condition of the ice. Does it appear dirty, and uneven (which might mean a melt and refreeze condition)? If you fell on snow, is there debris within the pile?
Storm in Progress Rule
As usual, there are exceptions and complications. For example, the “Storm in Progress Rule” provides that a certain amount of time must pass from the cessation of precipitation (generally about four hours) before a property owner can be liable for a failure to clean the snow or ice condition. For that reason, it is essential that an accident victim take note of the obvious – was it still snowing at the time of the fall?
The complications arise in cases where someone slips during a snowstorm, but the cause of the fall is ice present before the precipitation started. In such instances it is helpful if the client can offer information about the condition, in order to prove that the fall was caused by a previous condition. As an example, did you feel ice under the snow pile?
Take Note of the Surrounding Area
Any type of fall is a shock to the system; one second you’re walking, and a second later you’re on the ground, probably dazed, and often in significant pain and unable to move. Your first thought probably won’t be to take note of the surrounding area, but try to do so. If you’re with someone, ask that person to approximate the size and appearance of the condition.
We also want to discuss created conditions. Even when accumulated snow is properly cleared, it is often left in a pile, against a fixed object, such as the exterior wall of a building. At some point, that snow pile will begin to melt – snow can even melt in freezing temperatures if there is direct sunlight onto the pile. Invariably, the water will trickle down if on a decline, or pool somewhere. That water will then refreeze, and result in a new hazard. Created condition cases can be successful if the client is able to provide the proper foundation to support that theory.
We cannot overemphasize how important it is to acquire information about the condition which caused you to fall. Take a look around you, and take pictures, not just of the specific condition, but of the surrounding area. Where did the ice come from? Did it leak from a snow pile? Is it dirty or smooth? Does it appear to have melted and refroze?
Contact our White Plains Accident Lawyers
The White Plains accident lawyers at Worby Vecchio Edelman have years of experience in fall down cases. We know you’ve been hurt – falls can and often do result in serious fractures, which require surgery, and extensive rehabilitation. Information that you provide can help us prove that the property owner is liable for your accident, which will permit us to secure a recovery on your behalf.
Call us, at (914) 686-3700, if you have been injured in a fall down accident, or in any type of accident. We’ll get all the facts, and we’ll let you know if we think you have a case. We offer a free, no obligation consultation, and we only charge a fee if we recover money for you.