Slip and Fall Accidents: How to Avoid Premises Liability This Winter
Injuries from slip and fall accidents are one of the most common reasons for personal injury lawsuits based on premises liability. Our latest article shows how you can avoid liability by ensuring the safety of visitors to your property.
An unexpected blast of winter weather in places that don’t regularly experience snow, sleet, or ice can dramatically increase accident risks. Each year, both the number and the severity of motor vehicle accidents rise sharply in the winter months. The same tendency can be observed with regard to slip and fall accidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, “there were 42,480 workplace injuries and illnesses involving ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate”.
If you are a property owner or manager – be it a residential property such as your house or a commercial property related to your business – you are, to a certain extent, responsible for the safety of the people using it. For instance, you are legally obliged to prevent injuries by taking reasonable precautions to eliminate known hazards and ensure safe conditions on the property. Under premises liability law, a failure to do so would constitute negligence and could make you liable for any injuries other people sustain while on your property. In this article, we will explain what you can do to keep free of liability even if unexpected winter conditions and adverse weather strike this year.
Shovel Snow Off Your Sidewalk
Snow-covered sidewalks are one of the main causes of slip and fall accidents in winter. According to New Mexico Statutes, the owner or occupant of any premise are required to “to keep the sidewalk, along the premises, free from any snow or other obstruction”.
Therefore, if you neglect to shovel snow off the sidewalk in front of your home or business and a pedestrian slips on it and gets injured as a result, you may be liable for the injury. It is important to recognize that New Mexico laws don’t specify how frequently you need to clear snow off your sidewalk; neither do they impose a time limit within which to do so. For that reason, in order to avoid liability, it is important to conscientiously remove the snow, especially during continuous or repeated snowfall.
Ensure Safety on Icy Driveways and Walkways
Like snow-covered sidewalks, icy driveways and walkways can pose a similar – if not greater – hazard and a risk of injury. In order to ensure safety, use salt to melt the ice and sprinkle sand to add more traction. Before the winter season, it’s important to inspect your premises for any existing water leaks and fix them as soon as possible. No leaks can help ensure less ice will form on the property and its surrounding areas such as driveways and walkways.
Use Caution Signs
Caution signs can be useful both inside and outside the buildings. People entering premises may bring in the snow that, when melting, may cause the floor to become slippery. Similarly, ice and snow melting outside can cause dangerous conditions on sidewalks and driveways along the property. While using caution signs doesn’t relieve a property owner or manager of the responsibility to ensure safe condition on the premises, it can be a useful defense in the case of a potential lawsuit.
Provide Sufficient Lighting
With shorter days and less sunlight in the winter months, it is equally important to provide additional lighting to illuminate dimly lit spaces. Some critical areas that may require additional light are parking lots, paths, and walkways. Automatic sensor lights may help ensure these spaces become sufficiently illuminated as soon as soon natural light begins to diminish.
Adverse winter conditions, especially if they come suddenly and unexpectedly, can cause a serious safety hazard that may open you up to liability. More importantly, however, they can pose risk to your safety as well as those of your family members and friends.
Ron Bell Personal Injury Lawyers would like to encourage our readers to take all reasonable precautions to stay safe this winter season – regardless of the weather.