Winter-The “Slip and Fall” Season!
Although there is always a chance of a slip and fall, the winter season in Pennsylvania increases the risk. It goes without saying that all Pennsylvanians know that the sidewalks and streets are snow and sleet filled often.
Add to this the fact that the winter months are darker in EST time zones, with December 23rd being the shortest day of the year. This means that walking or working at night can increase the risk of slipping and falling because of poor visibility.
Prevention of Slip and Fall Injuries in Winter
The Mayo Clinic specifically addresses the higher risks in the winter. With a focus on preventing the most damage from a winter slip and fall, these suggestions are made:
- Avoid walking after dark, especially on uncleared sidewalks.
- Carry a bag of sand, salt, or even ice melt should you encounter a dangerous uncleared area.
- Carry a flashlight.
- Wear good heavy non-slip footwear, even cleats.
- Maintain good bone health to prevent serious injuries.
All these suggestions will reduce the amount of injury and even perhaps morbidity from very serious injuries.
Residential and Commercial Liabilities
According to the state of PA, all property owners and businesses must show a Duty of Care in removing snow and ice. This Duty of Care is the same as a doctor, or other service provider must follow. It simply means that reasonable care must be taken to not cause harm to others.
Ommissions count as much as commissions or covert acts as opposed to overt acts. A Duty of Care shows that the most care and caution must be taken to ensure sidewalks, walkways, and commercial docks are as free of hazards as possible during the winter months.
Ignoring the Duty of Care is Deemed Negligence
Municipalities can be liable if PA property owners do not comply within specified timeframes for the removal of snow and ice. Pedestrians and even delivery personnel and postal workers can be at risk.
Many counties and municipalities in PA, approximately 67, have implemented a Residential Rental License for landlords who, as the property owners, are indeed responsible.
Building Code is generally responsible for enforcement, and a municipality should have a Building Code Official onboard, even if sub-contracted. Wes is spelled out on the West Chester County site. Fines and penalties can be implemented, and a county/municipality can restrict the property owner/landlord from renting.
These Residential Rental Licenses (RRLs) generally also include a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) for a landlord to rent any houses or apartments. Yearly inspections may be mandatory for all commercial property or mixed-used property owners.
Mixed-use is a common designation for rental properties, as these exist in residential zones mostly.
Strictly Commercial Properties Have a High Standard
Any strictly commercial entity assumes a measure of safety for its employees. There are times, however, when a slip and fall can happen even if compliant with the Duty of Care.
Unseen snowstorms that erupt without warning and other unforeseen factors, such as an employee carrying a cup of coffee on a slippery slope while walking, would be examples.
Companies, however, that ignore icy and snow-covered entryways or have insufficient zoning applications, such as the slope of docks and placement of handrails, can be held accountable. The state of PA does ensure building and zoning compliance for purely commercial property usage.
The DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development) in PA does regulate all zoning requirements, and although municipalities/counties enforce them generally, the state requirements must be met.
Real-Life Application of Slip and Fall Standard of Care
These are difficult negligence cases to pursue, and only an attorney with much experience should be chosen. The reasons for the difficulty are simple:
- The Duty of Care applies to both the property owner and the injured party. Both must prove that a Duty of Care was carried out, and this can be difficult for a plaintiff who is an employee or a visitor to a commercial property.
- It can be difficult even for an individual who is a renter or visitor to a rental property.
- The insurance company of a commercial property or rental property will seek to place the blame for lack of Duty of Care onto the injured party.
Summary-Winter Slips and Falls Negligence Claims
As explained before, only a seasoned attorney such as Christian J. Hoey, ESQ, and the team of experts at HoeyLegal should be consulted if in the Paoli, PA, area and surrounding areas.
Great care in the documentation must be taken, and a victim of a slip and fall should never leave the scene but rather call for an ambulance so that injuries are documented.
All witnesses should be queried if possible, and even a police report can assist, especially in severe injury cases.
There will be much investigative work that follows to win these types of negligence claims, and accident investigation skills must be a top priority when choosing an attorney for negligent Duty of Care cases.
Financial recovery and medical expenses will only be covered if a case is won, and Christian J. Hoey, ESQ, has the skills and knowledge to effectively plead or arbitrate and negotiate these cases.