Snow and Ice Slip and Falls: How do I Prove my Case?

With the winter affecting the Hudson Valley, we have been receiving significant accumulations of snow fall as of late with more snow in the forecast.  These accumulations of snow and ice make travel dangerous for everyone, whether they are in motor vehicles or walking outside.  With the repeated heavy snowfall, many property owners are beginning to become lax as to their snow removal policies.  Whether this is because they are tired of the winter storms, or simply trying to stretch their snow and ice control supplies, sidewalks, stairs, and parking lots can become very dangerous places to walk on. 

New York law places a duty on all property owners, possessors, and maintainers (collectively “owner”) to use reasonable care under the circumstances to remove dangerous hazards and make safe the premises.  The law requires that owners to take reasonable precautions to prevent foreseeable harm to foreseeable entrants and users of the land.  This duty extends to all entrants on the land, whether the entrant is a business customer, social invitee such as a party guest, or even a foreseeable trespasser.

Therefore, if you are on the property of another and are injured in a slip and fall accident on accumulated snow and ice, you may be entitled to compensation because the owner breached his or her duty owed to you which caused your injuries.  To establish entitlement to compensation, you will also need to prove that the owner had notice of the dangerous or hazardous condition.  There are different types of notice which an owner could have.

First, there is actual notice.  Actual notice is just what it sounds like.  It is where the owner had been told of the dangerous condition or had seen the dangerous condition prior to your slip and fall accident.  This could be established by a complaint by another person, or if the owner or employee walked over the dangerous condition prior to your fall and knew such condition existed there.

Second, there is construction notice.  Constructive notice is more complicated of an assessment, and is usually a decision for a trier of fact—such as a jury—to make.  Constructive notice is when the dangerous condition has existed on the premises for a reasonable period of time to be discovered and remedied.  With snow and ice, this is generally a few hours long after the accumulation or formation of snow and/or ice.  What is reasonable could vary depending on the circumstances.  But the general point is that an owner could be liable for snow and ice which has accumulated for formed on the property if it has been on the premises for a period of time long enough for the owner to discover it and remove it. 

Another type of constructive notice is based on a recurring condition.  This means every time a condition occurs, it could give constructive notice to an owner even if the owner did not know about its presence.  A common example is if water freezes on a sidewalk because a gutter leaks melting snow water onto the sidewalk every day.  If a person slips and falls on a sidewalk with this freezing water, then the owner may be liable for the injuries.

Third and final, there is notice if the owner created the dangerous condition.  While this is not technically notice, but it could be classified as actual notice, any time the owner or his or her employee, contractor, or other agent creates a dangerous condition, the owner will be liable if that condition causes a slip and fall injury.  An example would be if water from a car wash travels down to a sidewalk and freezes, the car wash owner would be liable for causing the slip and fall injuries.

The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle slip and fall cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.