“Slip and Fall Accidents on Ice in RI & MA” by a Personal Injury Attorney

December 14, 2013

Rhode Island Slip and Fall Accidents on Ice Rhode Island and Massachusetts winters are well known for plentiful thick snow, freezing rain, blustery winds, ice and sometimes sleet. These treacherous conditions cause hazardous road conditions as well as dangerous slippery sidewalks and parking lots for pedestrians.

Sadly, this type of weather often leads to slip and fall accidents in RI and MA. There is also a tremendous spike in car and truck collisions during snow storms. This is especially the case if there is black ice on the parking lots, entrance ways, streets or sidewalks. Sometimes, the worst winter weather can be a wintry mix because rain, sleet, and wet snow can quickly turn to ice or black ice when the temperatures get colder.

If a landowner fails to properly maintain property in a safe manner for guests, invitees and visitors and that negligence causes personal injury then a RI Personal Injury Attorney or a Mass. Slip and fall attorney should be consulted.

If you were injured in a Slip and fall accident in RI or Mass, please contact Attorney David Slepkow 401-437-1100 A MA or RI Premises Liability Lawyer is crucial to investigate a negligence claim and seek to collect damages against the entity or person responsible / at fault for your pain and suffering. Good Rhode Island Personal Injury Lawyers will help you get the compensation you deserve.

If Mother Nature dumps many inches of snow or even a foot or more or snowflakes in a nor’easter, blizzard or snowstorm, it is crucial for homeowners, business owners and employees to plow, shovel and sand / salt areas open to the public or utilized by guests.

Slip and fall accidents often occur at retail stores, construction sites, schools, parks and playgrounds, stores and restaurants and at private homes. Hopefully, residential homeowners and business owners have appropriate liability insurance to cover any lost wages, disability, scarring, medical bill as well as pain and suffering.

There are hundreds of different types of injuries including herniated disks, broken wrist or hand, hip fractures, traumatic head injury such as concussions, back and neck injuries, traumatic brain injury, broken / fractured legs and spinal cord injuries.

Elderly victims and senior citizens are even more susceptible to serious injuries, fractures or even death as a result of a fall on ice.

According to the National Safety Council “Falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency department annually (NSC Injury Facts 2011).

Adults 55 and older are more prone to becoming victims of falls, and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. The number of fall deaths among those 65 and older is four times the number of fall deaths among all other age groups.” http://www.nsc.org/SAFETYx_HOME/HOMEANDRECREATIONALSAFETY/FALLS/Pages/Falls.asp

If an employee is injured while working as a result of a fall he or she may have a RI or Massachusetts workers compensation claim and should contact a workers compensation lawyer.

Property owners and property managers in Massachusetts are now responsible to act reasonably to clear natural snow and slippery ice accumulations on their real estate. The MA Supreme Judicial Court sitting in Boston refused to distinguish between the duty of landowners to protect against natural and unnatural snow accumulations. This is a very significant and important Massachusetts Slip and Fall decision.

Decision here: Massachusetts Slip and fall Decision PAPADOPOULOS vs. TARGET CORPORATION http://www.rhodeislandpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2011/01/massachusetts-slip-fall-lawyer-attorney-ice-snow-ma-bostn/

“We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.” Id.

As far as Rhode Island Liability is concerned, the RI Supreme Court sitting in Providence determined that a “landlord or business invitor owes a duty to a tenant or business invitee to use reasonable care to see that the common areas are kept reasonably safe from the dangers created by an accumulation of snow and ice which is attributed to purely natural causes.” BERARDIS v. LOUANGXAY http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ri-supreme-court/1444484.html

The top Court in RI also decided that “The landlord or invitor, however, must be afforded “a reasonable time after the storm has ceased to remove the accumulation.”  Benaski, 899 A.2d at 503 (quoting Fuller, 108 R.I. at 774, 279 A.2d at 441).   Therefore, as a general rule, any duty to clear a natural accumulation of ice and snow is not triggered before a reasonable time after the storm ends.  Id.  Under unusual circumstances, however, the duty to remove the accumulation may arise before the end of the storm.  Terry, 732 A.2d at 717.” Id.

In the event of a wintry blast causing slick streets, highways and bad road conditions, a landowner is under a heightened obligation to shovel and clear snow accumulations and sand or salt entrance ways, ramps, stair ways, walkways, parking lots and other areas that people may visit.

Common sense tips if injured in a slip and fall:

If you were injured in an accident, it is crucial that you immediately take pictures and videos of the scene of the mishap. If possible, get the names, phone numbers and addresses of all witnesses to the slip and fall. Make sure that you report the accident to the owner, management or property management that is in control of the property.

Ice and snow present quandaries for restaurants, mall, shopping centers and supermarket owners and operators because snow, rain and water is often ‘trudged in’ causing floors to be slippery, wet or even shiny. Sometimes, the snow or water can mix with other substance and make a wood or tiled floor slimy.

In major metropolitan cities such as Providence RI and Boston MA, shoveling, sanding and salting sidewalks, entrance ways, streets and roads take on increasing importance. In some cities business owners are required to shovel and clear accumulations in front of their stores so that pedestrians are not forced to walk near traffic and automobiles. This will prevent car’s crashing into pedestrians causing serious injury or even death

Hundreds of accidents each year are caused by black ice that is sometimes hidden underneath snow or cannot be seen as a result of inadequate lighting. During snowstorms, cold weather and wintery conditions pedestrians must be especially careful to protect themselves from a harmful fall on snow or ice.
The mere fact that someone slips and falls on ice in RI and MA does not prove that the store owner, landlord, or residential property owner was negligent and therefore liable for the mishap. Business owners and stores are not insurers of their customer’s safety!

In the event of a blizzard, coating of snow or snowstorm, a landowner must act reasonably to shovel the snow and put down appropriate salt or sand to protect pedestrians from suffering serious injury on their property.

There are numerous common sense solutions to prevent an injury as a result of a slip and fall in Rhode Island and Mass. Some of these accident prevention solutions seem like common sense but nonetheless will be stated below:

1. If possible, go out of your way to go around the ice and snow rather than walking across it.
2. A good winter shoe or boot is essential for obtaining proper traction while traversing slippery ice or snow.
3. When walking up ramps, stairs or other places that have handrails, make sure you utilize the handrail to prevent falling down the stairs or sliding down the ramp. (If the landlord or owner of property fails to comply with applicable building codes and safety laws and as a result the tenant or visitor is injured in a stairwell or staircase fall then the owner may be at fault for the accident.)
4. Make sure your arms are helping you balance and ready to break your fall to prevent more serious injury. “Keep your hands out of your pockets. Hands in your pockets while walking decreases your center of gravity and balance. You can help break your fall with your hands free if you do start to slip.” http://www.placer.ca.gov/~/media/ceo/riskman/Safely%20walking%20on%20snow%20and%20ice

Some pedestrians are distracted by the cold bone chilling freeze that they are rushing to get to their destination further leading to slip and fall or trip and fall accidents.

5. After you walk through the wintry mess, make sure that you wipe off your shoes properly so that you do not fall inside.

Risk Management office stated: “During bad weather, avoid boots or shoes with smooth soles and heels, such as plastic and leather soles. Instead, wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice; boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles are best.” http://www.placer.ca.gov/~/media/ceo/riskman/Safely%20walking%20on%20snow%20and%20ice

If you are a property owner:
There is never enough sanding, salting and shoveling to protect your customers, guests, neighbors, family and friends from slipping on an icy surface.

People who are entering or leaving their automobile, truck or cars must use particular caution because plows and sanders often cannot sand in areas on the parking lot where motor vehicles were previously parked.

According to NOLO “Who is responsible for an injury resulting from a slip and fall accident? Many thousands of people are injured each year — some very seriously — when they slip or trip and fall on a dangerous floor, a flight of stairs, or a rough patch of ground. Sometimes the property owner is responsible for the accident, and sometimes he or she is not.” http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/slip-fall-accidents-proving-fault-29845.html
Also, at a mall a lot of snow on shoes can cause the escalator to be slippery causing someone to tumble or slip falling downward.

Inclement weather conditions can cause fatal traffic accidents. These motor vehicle crashes are often caused by slushy, icy or slick roads. A slip and fall in a parking lot or sidewalk involving an auto accident is more likely to be fatal leading to wrongful death litigation necessitating the need for a RI or MA wrongful death lawyer or pedestrian accident Personal injury Law Attorneys.

The City of Ann Arbor reminded its citizens that “All snow and ice which has accumulated on the adjacent public sidewalk prior to 6am must be removed by noon from non-residentially zoned properties. Immediately after the accumulation of ice on such a sidewalk it must be treated with sand, salt or other substance to prevent it from being slippery. ” http://www.a2gov.org/government/safetyservices/Police/Pages/SnowRemovalonSidewalks.aspx
Other Premises Liability Causes of Action

A premises liability cause of action usually involves the property owners or occupants failure to properly maintain the premises in a safe manner. A Massachusetts or Rhode Island Premises Liability claim can also involve a failure to fix an unreasonably dangerous conditions on the real estate of which they either knew or should have known about.

If a slip and fall accident is deadly than the executor or administrator of the estate of the person killed in the accident may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries

Other types of premises Liability Accidents:

Premises liability is not only slip and fall but also includes: trip and fall, dog attacks and dog bites, Inadequate security measures enabling criminal activity and assaults, defective or improperly maintained sidewalks, elevator and escalator accidents, poorly maintained or defective stairs, bouncer assaults, Inadequately lit stair cases, falling objects or merchandise, carbon monoxide leaks, construction accidents, electric shock due to exposed electric wiring etc.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.