Snow, Ice, and Freezing Rain Can Cause Slip and Falls in New Jersey
New Jersey residents understand just how unpredictable the weather is during the winter months. One day it snows, the next it is 50 degrees outside, and the day after that it can be below freezing. The fluctuation in temperatures often creates icy and dangerous conditions, making it ripe for slip and fall injuries in both residential and business districts. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident on a slippery sidewalk, in an icy parking lot, or otherwise while trying to get around during winter weather conditions in New Jersey, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Victims of slip and falls may recover damages if it is proven that the property owner had a duty to maintain the safety of the premises for visitors and patrons, and failed to exercise a reasonable duty of care in ensuring the safety of the property for these individuals. This can be particularly true when snow, ice, freezing rain, and falling temperatures create hazardous conditions for anyone attempting to safely walk or otherwise travel from place to place. If you are wondering about a claim after being injured in a fall incident due to winter weather, call our skilled team of personal injury attorneys at We Can Help Law with offices in New Jersey at (732) 303-7857 for a free consultation. We are available immediately to discuss your case and explain your legal rights and possible options.
How Winter Weather Creates a Risk of Falls in NJ
During the winter months, it is not uncommon for the weather in New Jersey to be vastly different from day to day. As such, anyone who has ever been outside understands that they must be cautious when traversing any sidewalks, roadways, storefronts, walkways, or any paved or relatively flat surfaces. Unfortunately, ice is not always visible to the naked eye, which can increase the risk of slip and fall accidents for unsuspecting individuals who are simply living their daily lives. Often, the higher and lower temperature fluctuations can cause liquid to freeze overnight, paving the way for a severe fall for even the most aware person.
If it snows on Monday and by Tuesday, the temperature rises and causes the snow to melt, the liquid may pool in certain areas. These wet surfaces are often found near sidewalks, curbs, drain pipes, driveways, near sewers or where slopes in the pavement are located. As the temperatures dip to below freezing, especially during the night, the air becomes too cold to absorb the moisture from the melted snow or rain. The inability for the atmosphere to absorb the moisture forces it to freeze, thereby creating a physically hazardous condition for people navigating any of these surfaces.
New Jersey property owners should know and understand the ever-changing weather, as well as their duty of care in ensuring the safety of those utilizing their properties. There are distinct rules that apply to different types of property owners in New Jersey. For example, residential private property owners do not owe the same duty of care as commercial property owners or owners of rental apartments, condos, or other rental communities, when it comes to maintaining the safety of their premises, including removal of ice and snow.
Duty of Care when Dealing with Icy Walkways
Quite obviously, icy conditions can cause pedestrians to slip and fall. These slippery surfaces are not always visible, which makes it even more dangerous to walk from place to place. Patrons and visitors may have difficulty foreseeing the varying conditions of specific surfaces, which is why the law imputes a duty of care that must be provided by businesses and commercial property owners. Essentially, those conducting business or maintaining a property for the purposes of commerce, must keep their land in reasonably safe condition so as to limit any potential harm to visitors. This is even more true during the winter months, as slippery conditions increase the risk of accidents.
When it comes to a business, the property owners must take certain steps to assist in the safety of their guests and cannot negligently cause injury to others. For example, if a gutter is full and leaks, thereby causing water to collect in the surrounding area, the owner must fix the gutter and eliminate the risk that someone might fall. If perhaps the condition cannot be fixed right away, the property owner should warn visitors of the condition and take steps to melt the ice in the meantime. In the case of an icy path or parking lot, one thing that the owner can do is to keep watch of the area and pour salt over the ice to minimize the risk of falling. The owner can also continue to check the area throughout the day to make sure that the situation is not dangerous. Further, the owner may put up a sign that says “slippery,” or “be careful of ice.”
The owner of a property cannot simply fail to act without running the risk of being found liable for injuries if an accident occurs. A property owner that ignores a dangerous condition or fails to inspect the property regularly, may be found to have breached his or her duty of care and may be liable for any injuries caused to an unsuspecting patron or visitor. If the owner is found to be negligent, the injured victim may obtain compensation.
Injured from a Fall in Winter Weather? What to Do
If you have been injured due to slip and fall on ice, snow, or a frozen surface, there are things that you can do to assist in your claim. For instance, you can make a report of the injury, call an ambulance, and/or go to the ER or your doctor. You can also collect witness information if possible, take pictures of the condition of the property and your injuries, and maintain documentation of your medical condition, as well as any dates you have missed work due to treatment or pain.
All of the above information may assist in obtaining a financial recovery from a responsible party. If another party is liable for your injuries, you may seek compensation for medical bills and physical therapy, as well as any future medical care. You may also recover damages for any missed work or loss of income, both in the past and in the future. The law in New Jersey also allows for compensation due to pain and suffering in a personal injury case. It is important to note, however, that there are time limitations when seeking to file a claim. Specifically, the statute of limitations for slip and falls and other personal injury claims is typically two years from the date upon which the accident occurred. For this reason, it is highly advisable to seek knowledgeable legal counsel as soon as possible after you or a loved one suffers an injury.
Lawyer Help for a Slip and Fall from Uncleared Ice or Snow in NJ
No matter the severity of your injuries, you should not forego a consultation with an attorney after falling in an icy parking lot, on a sidewalk, or anywhere else where the ground was frozen. Some injuries worsen over time and if you do not file a claim within the statute of limitations, you may forever be barred from pursuing a recovery. Protect yourself and find out if you may have legal avenues available to you by contacting our local New Jersey office today. You can reach a member of our legal team by calling (732) 303-7857 for a free consultation.