Winter Wonderland Turns Nasty With Ice!
Snow is a beautiful winter event that coats the world with white fluff, making everything seem beautiful and new – for a while. But the winter wonderland can turn terrible quickly.
Danger develops on walking surfaces due to ice in its various forms. Ironically, many times walking areas become more dangerous after they are cleared of snow, especially if no salt or ice-melter is applied. Ice on walkways, parking lots, and sidewalks is very hazardous, frequently causing people to slip and oftentimes fall to the ground with serious consequences such as broken ankles,arms and even hips. Back and head injuries are common as well. Ice can be very sneaky, sometimes looking clear like water, sometimes hiding in the shadows, or under a dusting of new-fallen snow.
Because ice is so dangerous, property owners, who in general are required by the law to use due care in the maintenance and upkeep of their properties, should be extracareful in winter. This means not only removing the snow from walking surfaces and spreading salt, but also making sure to inspect these areas often where ice reasonably may be anticipated to form. The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure certainly applies to icy walkways.
One of the most dangerous types of ice is the so-called “black ice”. It is very difficult to see even when walking carefully.
Danger spots are near snow piles of shoveled or plowed snow as typically are located at walkways, driveways and parking lots. As the air warms up, snow piles start to melt, but once the air temperature drops to freezing, ice can quickly form from the run-off water. Because of this the morning hours are particularly dangerous in the winter when temperatures drop overnight.
It is very frightening when your feet suddenly slip out and you fall so fast you don’t know what happened! And when you hit the ground nasty injuries can happen.
There are many things you should know if you suffer such an unfortunate injury as a result of a property owner’s neglect. Important items:
DO Make A Report
Report the incident to the property owner or manager at the scene if you can. This serves two purposes: it provides evidence that you did in fact slip on the ice at that property location, and this also alerts the owner to correct the condition so someone else doesn’t get hurt.
When you report the accident, you must be careful about it though. Keep it simple! Describe just the basic facts, for example, “I slipped on ice and fell down. It happened on the walkway to the parking lot.” The only things relevant for you to say in a report of an accident to the property owner is that you fell due to ice on the property, where it was and that you were injured. If you say more than this you inadvertently may give ammunition to the property owner’s insurance company to use against you! Of course, if you are taken to the hospital by ambulance, you probably won’t be able to do this. That is alright, because the ambulance company records the location it is sent to, and an ambulance at the property usually alerts the owner or manager that something happened.
DO NOT Give a Written or Recorded Statement to An Investigator or Insurance Adjuster
Do not give statements to the owner’s insurance company or investigators if they contact you. They are only trying to get evidence to protect themselves, not to help you. You are not obligated to give statements about your injury. You may think that it cannot hurt if you just tell the truth, but there are many ways your truthful statements can be misconstrued and used against you. Many people feel they must offer some explanation for why they slipped on the ice, and often use certain common phrases to explain how they wound up on the ground in a split second.
Avoid Certain Phrases
Here are some examples of phrases people use that wind up hurting them.
“It happened so fast I don’t know what happened!” What the person really means is that he or she did not know in that split second what was happening because it was so fast and unexpected. This is a common manner of speaking. In actuality, the victim probably realized within seconds or minutes after recovering from the initial shock of the event that he or she slipped on the ice. Many people ruin their cases against negligent property owners because they say something like this. Insurance adjusters will misconstrue it. If the injured person cannot say that the ice caused the fall, then the negligent property owner may be off the hook and possibly not be required to compensate the victim for the injury suffered. The insurance company will argue that maybe something else made the injured person fall.
“I wasn’t paying any attention.” People sometimes say something like this to mean they didn’t see the ice before they slipped, often because they were watching out for other things as well, such as passing vehicles or people nearby, or other situations in the vicinity. A person may very well have good reasons to not notice the ice, but “I wasn’t paying attention” will be misconstrued to mean that the injured person alone was negligent, and that the property owner is not responsible. Saying “I wasn’t paying attention” can have the effect of shifting the blame from the neglectful property owner onto the victim of that negligence.
So the lesson to be learned is that you should not make any statements about your accident. If you are contacted, simply tell the investigator or insurance adjuster to contact your lawyer. Don’t worry about attorney fees, because injury lawyers accept negligence cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not pay any attorney fee unless and until there is a settlement of money.
Take a Lot of Pictures of the Scene From Different Angles – Some Close Up, Some From a Distance and Some With Landmarks
Get pictures as soon as possible. Make sure some of the pictures are close up to show the character of the ice, some from a distance that show both the icy condition as well as landmarks nearby to demonstrate the whole area. Close ups of the ice are important but not sufficient. Nearby objects can help prove the location and the size of the icy area and put it in context. Even if the ice has melted, pictures can still be helpful to show the location and may give some information as to where the ice came from, for example a dripping gutter that caused the ice.
Look for any surveillance cameras in the area that may have recorded the incident. If so, it is important to notify the proper party (which may be someone other than the property owner) to preserve the video, not only for the incident itself, but also for the days leading up to it to show how the dangerous condition arose. Fast action is required because the recordings are usually erased within weeks, and then the video is lost forever. It is best for a lawyer to send this notification to preserve so it is correctly worded and sent to the right person.
Hire a lawyer if your injury is serious. Your lawyer will take the important steps to fully protect your legal right to be compensated for your injuries. The sooner the better, because you will need advice right away. Your lawyer is an invaluable guide to help you through this process to gather evidence, contact the property owner, get your medical and wage loss records, and deal with the insurance company and investigators, hire experts if needed, among many other things.
Lawyers Stanley Tomkiel & Matthew Tomkiel
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