A slip and fall accident on the sidewalk can lead to devastating injuries requiring the assistance of an attorney. To recover in this type of case, the injured plaintiff must prove that someone else was at fault. Usually, that other person will be the owner of the area where the accident happened. When it comes to snow and ice on the sidewalk, the law can be very complicated. Fault can depend on when the snowfall ended and whether snow removal was performed.
Negligence in a Slip and Fall Accident
A property owner is at fault if they knew or should have known about the slipping hazard prior to the accident and did not remedy it. Sometimes, remedying the condition can include warning people not to walk in the area. Liability can also attach to the property owner if they tried to fix the condition but instead made it worse. Of course, that condition must have been the cause of the injured plaintiff’s fall and injuries.
The property owner in a slip and fall accident is held to a standard of “reasonableness” under the circumstances. The judge at trial will instruct the jury to consider if the owner took reasonable steps to either prevent or remove the condition that caused the fall. But remember: what is reasonable changes with the facts of each case.
This “knew or should have known” standard is called the “notice” provision under the law. The injured plaintiff does not have to prove notice if the owner created the condition that caused the fall. Confused? Lets think like a sidewalk slip and fall accident attorney and take a look at a fact pattern to make things clearer.
Sidewalk Slip and Fall Fact Pattern
It started snowing sometime in the early hours of Thursday morning – say 3 a.m. – and continued until Noon that day. John is a commercial property owner. He decides to start shoveling the sidewalk in front of his business at 6 a.m. because he has to get to work and will not be home until later that day. It is bitter cold. He shovels a path about a foot wide and puts down rock salt to clear any ice. John then packs up his shovel and goes to work. Along comes Tammy at 11 a.m. walking her dog. Tammy is walking along the sidewalk in front on John’s business when she loses her balance on a patch of ice and falls, breaking her arm. Think like a slip and fall attorney – is John responsible?
Well, under the ordinances of the City of New York, property owners must clear snow from their sidewalks within 4 hours of the ending of the daytime snow fall if that snowfall ends before 5 p.m. If the snowfall stops during the later hours – after 5 p.m. or during the night – then property owners have until 11 a.m. the next morning to clear the snow. Here, John cleared the snow before he was required to by law. He even put down rock salt. But the sidewalk slip and fall accident attorney’s analysis does not stop there.
So were John’s actions reasonable, or did John in fact create the dangerous condition that caused Tammy to fall? To answer this question, we would need to take a look at all relevant factors. These factors include the size of the path that John shoveled and the temperature between the time John shoveled and the time of Tammy’s fall (maybe the rock salt caused some of the falling snow to melt but then it froze over). Or, maybe if John had left the snow to finish falling until he got home, the icy condition would not have been present.
There are so many elements to a sidewalk slip and fall case that must be investigated. The sidewalk slip and fall accident attorneys here at The Platta Law Firm, use all of the tools available: weather reports, photographs, and witness statements, to name just a few. These tools help us win these cases.