As fall turns to winter, ice, snow and other inclement conditions will dominate the weather, as well as increased chance of a slip and fall injury. With over 800,000 individuals hospitalized yearly for slips and falls, winter conditions increase the likelihood of getting hurt.
Businesses, shopping centers, apartment complexes and other places you frequent may neglect their winter maintenance or just not have a plan for dealing with ice and snow. Salting the ice and moving snow out of access areas make it safer for people to walk and visit. Managers and facilities maintenance personnel have a requirement to make a reasonable effort to reduce the dangers to visitors and the public or warn of unsafe winter conditions. But if they fail to do so, and neglect causes a slip and fall accident, the owner will be held liable for injuries and any associated costs.
West Virginia law requires that sidewalks and the areas underneath them are to be properly maintained. Owners are required to clear all snow and ice from a sidewalk they own that the public may use. Uneven surfaces that might be hidden under ice and snow can be particularly hazardous, so preventative maintenance is important, but may be neglected during winter.
Should you slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, you may be able to recover damages and receive compensation for your injuries. Determining who owns the sidewalk is key to finding the correct entity to file your claim.
Many elderly individuals don’t have the footing they used to. They aren’t as steady on their feet, and are particularly vulnerable to injuries from dangerous slips and falls on ice and snow. Once an elderly individual takes a tumble, they may be afraid of subsequent falling. Many avoid walking and moving too much for fear of another fall, and become weaker, increasing their chances of falling again.
What To Do If You Have A Winter Slip & Fall Injury
Should you become injured, here are a few things you need to do:
1. See a doctor (or visit the ER if necessary) to attend to your injuries
2. Document the details of your case—location, weather conditions, time of day, and anything else relevant while you can easily remember it.
3. Take pictures of the area where the injury occurred
4. If there are witnesses, get statements and contact information if possible
5. Document your medical information and billing, as well as lost wages and any other damages suffered
6. Contact a personal injury attorney, and have all your information available when you visit
NOTE: do NOT give a recorded statement to any insurance company about your case. Your attorney will speak to the insurance companies for you and will update you on how your case is proceeding.
Statute of Limitations
West Virginia allows two years for a plaintiff to file a slip and fall lawsuit. If you don’t file within two years of the accident, you will lose the ability to file. This is separate from an insurance claim, which should be filed separately and as soon as possible. If you don’t file your suit in the two-year window, you might not be able to collect on an insurance claim, either.
Modified Comparative Fault
If you are found to be partially responsible for your accident, you will be assigned a percentage of fault. If you are partly at fault, this will work against you in a claim/settlement. If your percentage is greater than 50%, you will not be able to receive damages from the other party.
Winter Ice & Snow Fall Prevention
West Virginia winters can be dangerous. While we can’t protect ourselves and our families from everything everywhere, we can take precautions to reduce the chances of injury from slip and fall accidents in ice and snow. The University of Idaho offers these recommendations:
1. Take small steps, focus on your walking. Walk slowly, carefully and stay aware of the surface conditions.
2. Chose your path carefully, and avoid icy conditions wherever possible.
3. Avoid sudden movements on hard surfaces. Melting snow can create puddles, much like rain, and turn very slippery very quickly. Most places take precautions to remove puddles, but they can be anywhere.
4. Watch your feet on icy and uneven surfaces, especially if you are carrying articles.
5. Remove snow from your footwear when entering buildings to avoid slipping or creating more puddles.
6. If you find sand containers available, consider spreading some to prevent injuries both to yourself and others. Report icy surfaces to building managers or other facilities personnel.
7. Select appropriate footwear—rubber soles with deep traction grips are best.
8. Leave earlier. It takes time to walk safely on frozen surfaces, so take that into consideration when heading out.
9. Be very careful exiting your vehicle, holding onto the car door for safety.
10. Avoid shortcuts—use cleared spaces and walkways, and exercise care on steps. Don’t step on a curb, step up over it onto a flat surface.
Call For A Free Consultation
Slipping and falling on icy surfaces can be a painful and expensive experience, especially if you require hospitalization. But if you or a loved one has had a slip and fall injury on ice or snow due to negligence, we’re here to help you recover damages so you can heal and get on with your life. Call us today at (304) 344 5683 and we’ll help you with your case. We’re one of Charleston’s premier personal injury law firms and can work on a contingency fee basis to work on and settle your case.