The Old Farmer's Almanac released its predictions for our upcoming Michigan winter and it doesn't sound promising. With an estimated above normal snow fall, our fellow residents need to proceed with caution to ensure that they know what to expect and how to help avoid dangerous situations. Slip and fall accidents are sometimes just as unpredictable as car accidents. We rely on our cities, businesses and neighbors to keep our streets and sidewalks clear but there are always risks involved where ice is concerned. It is important to be aware of both weather conditions and your immediate surroundings when walking through snow or getting out of your car when you arrive at your destination.
A perfect example of a preventable situation occurred a few years ago in Livonia. A woman drove to her area gas station to purchase gift cards for her family. There had been a snow fall the day before but the roads were clear and the gas station had been plowed. When she stepped out of her car, there were melt pellets on the ground. Her last concern was ice. Unfortunately, the gas station attendant had not taken any preventative measures that morning to ensure that the customer walkways were clear of visible ice and any dreaded black ice. It was on account of this oversight that the woman slipped and took a bad fall. She severely injured her knee and right shoulder which required surgery to repair. During her operation, she suffered a mini stroke and has since caused her to have tremors in her right hand, thus inhibiting use. The owner of the gas station was found at fault for negligence and woman was awarded $305,000.
The following are common questions related to slip and fall accidents:
1) I slipped on black ice on someone else's property-should I document the incident?
Yes, take a look around yourself. Can you see the black ice? If you cannot see the ice, but you can feel that the ground where you fell is icy, immediately photograph the area if possible. Even cell phone pictures are helpful. If possible, immediately report the incident to the property owner. If you are unable to do so immediately, report the incident as soon as possible. Note the weather conditions and temperature.
2) How do I know who's at fault when I injure myself in a slip and fall?
A property owner has a duty to protect invited persons from hazardous conditions on their property or warn them of the danger. If you slip and fall on a hazardous condition that the property owner knows about or should know about or a condition created by the property owner, it may be their fault. Often, though, if the hazardous condition is so bad or "open and obvious" to the ordinary person, regardless of the state of the condition, no claim can be made, unless the hazard was unavoidable.
3) The business owner of the property I injured myself on wants me to fill out an incident report-is that typical? Should I retain a copy?
You should always fill out an incident report for the business owner, if possible. This notifies the property owner of the incident, records the conditions of the property at the time of the fall and should indicate any witnesses or employees that are present.
You should keep a copy for your own record.
4) Are slip and fall accidents covered by insurance?
Yes. If the property owner insures his property, then a slip and fall incident would be covered by any policy of insurance. Claims against individual homeowners, although filed in the name of the homeowner is usually covered by and defended by the homeowners insurance company.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact the law offices of Dan Romano to schedule your free consultation.
For more information on winter weather conditions, visit The Old Farmer's Almanac.