Icy written in show on slippery sidewalkMany people enjoy the winter season. As wintertime begins to come into view, excitement is abounding. The cold weather often is associated with holiday celebrations, winter sports, and beautiful snow. Outdoor activities such as sledding, snowboarding, skiing, or merely enjoying nature on a on a winter morning after a snowfall are plentiful during this season. The winter months should be enjoyed by all those individuals who experience them.

However, along with the winter weather also comes icy pathways, walkways, driveways and roads. A “slip and fall” is the generic term used by lawyers for an injury that occurs when someone slips, trips, or falls. Typically, such accidents and resulting injuries occur as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. During the winter, particularly, people must be cautious of the paths that they are walking. Many times black ice is hidden and cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Although slip and falls may be considered more frequent during the winter months when ice likely increases the incidence of accidents, they can occur at any time and in any place. Common areas where slip and falls may occur include a city park, an acquaintance’s home, a store isle, a parking lot, and/or sidewalks.

Property owners are responsible for general maintenance of their property, including fixing or repairing any dangerous or hazardous conditions. If the property is rented, the landlord may be responsible for the slip and fall if it occurred in an area that the landlord had control over and was required to maintain.

Multiple parties may be responsible for slip and falls on commercial properties. The owner, renter or managing company of the premises may all be liable parties. Commercial properties include stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses. Business owners/renters owe a certain duty of care to the public, as all members of the public are invited guests onto the premises.

The government has more legal protection from slip and fall liability, such as on a city sidewalk or public park, when compared to home or business owners. However, the government still may be held liable if a person is injured and that person meets certain criteria.

Every year over 1,000,000 accidents are the result of slip and falls. Slip and fall accidents can have serious consequences. Injuries resulting from slip and falls may include broken or fractured bones, spinal cord injuries, head and brain injuries, paralysis, permanent disability and death.

Hopefully most property owners will take the requisite precautions to minimize the possibility of slip and falls. In the winter, this may consist of utilizing ice-melting solutions, proper plowing of sidewalks and roadways, and other techniques to ensure clear driveways, walkways and roads. However, if a slip and fall accident does occur, the person responsible for the dangerous conditions should be held liable for any consequent injuries. Innocent slip and fall victims should not have to bear the burden of their injuries, which could have been prevented by a landowner.

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Paul d’Oliveira

Attorney Paul d’Oliveira has been practicing personal injury and disability law for over 30 years. He started his personal injury law practice in 1989 with two offices in Fall River, MA and East Providence, RI. Today his firm has 16 offices in RI and Southeastern, MA.

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