For the most part, liability for slip-and-fall accidents likely brings to mind images of people filing lawsuits after suffering serious injuries in tumbles inside shopping malls, big box retailers, movie theaters, office buildings and apartment complexes.
While this is certainly an accurate depiction, it's also somewhat limited in scope. That's because slip-and-fall accidents and the resulting liability on the part of property owners can also extend to outdoor areas.
In general, the law dictates that liability exists if the outside area where a person suffered some manner of injury in a slip-and-fall accident is part of the property owner's premises, and it can be shown that they failed to either 1) correct an issue that caused the accident or 2) take the necessary precautions.
Snow and ice
Even though spring is now officially here, it doesn't mean that we're immune from major snowstorms, or even the occasional blast of wintry conditions. Indeed, the truth is that we see these types of conditions for the better part of six months here in Maryland.
As to how the issue of snow and ice relates to slip-and-fall accidents, it might actually surprise people. Ordinarily, the there is no legal requirement for property owners to remove snow and ice that accumulates outside their building.
However, the property owner can be held liable for slip-and-fall accidents if conditions on the property permit the unnatural accumulation of snow and/or ice, and no remedial measures are taken.
By way of example, consider the following:
- The uneven surface of a parking lot causes melting snow to puddle and refreeze if the temperature gets too low, and the property owner does nothing to address this hazard.
- A clogged drain on the roof causes melting snow to drip onto the sidewalk and refreeze if the temperature gets too low, and the property owner does nothing to address this hazard.
It's important to note that if a property owner negligently removes snow and/or ice, they may also be held liable in the event of a slip-and-fall accident.
We'll continue this discussion in our next post, examining parking lots and sidewalks.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one has suffered some manner of trauma in a slip-and-fall accident, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for pursuing justice.