Winters in western New York can be exceptionally fierce. They create frozen parking lots and slippery sidewalks that give rise to serious slip-and-fall injuries and premises liability lawsuits.
In the state of New York, property owners are legally obligated to take reasonable steps to protect their guests and visitors from hazardous conditions. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, speak at once with an experienced Rochester premises liability attorney.
WHAT ARE VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE ENTITLED TO BY LAW?
When a property owner’s negligence is the cause of injuries, victims are entitled under New York law to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. A good premises liability lawyer can review your case and fight for the compensation you deserve.
To determine if a property owner is liable for injuries associated with a snow and ice injury, the law in New York makes a distinction between the “natural” and “unnatural” accumulation of snow and ice.
WHAT ARE “NATURAL” AND “UNNATURAL” SNOW OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS?
A “natural” accumulation of snow and ice is entirely attributable to natural, normal events like snowstorms and freezing rain.
A property owner is not required to remove “natural” snow and ice accumulations during a storm in progress, but is responsible for snow and ice removal once the storm has passed because then the property owner will have time to properly maintain its premises (for example by removing the hazardous condition, or barricading off the hazardous areas) to make the premises safe.
Generally speaking, “unnatural” snow and ice accumulation means that the snow and ice create a potential hazard for reasons other than natural reasons.
Let’s say, for example, that the roof of your business overhangs a sidewalk, and that dripping icicles from your roof make the sidewalk slippery “unnaturally.”
Any “unnatural” accumulation of ice, snow, and/or water around drains, under gutters, in doorways, or on sidewalks can pose a hazard that potentially makes a property owner liable.
WHAT DO PROPERTY OWNERS IN NEW YORK NEED TO KNOW?
If you are the owner of a business property, you probably already remove ice and snow for customers and employees. The condition of your property and the way you remove snow and ice are important factors. Any mistakes can lead to injuries, liability, and lawsuits.
Commercial property owners must ensure that gutters and drains are functioning properly and ensure that water is directed or drained into a safe location. Accumulated water in a parking lot or on a sidewalk may create a hazardous ice patch.
Leaks can also create hazardous patches of ice. Businesses usually repair leaks right away in areas with public access, but leaks in other locations sometimes go unnoticed and create genuine hazards.
HOW CAN PROPERTY OWNERS PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM LIABILITY?
Let’s say that you are a gas station owner, and your station has a canopy to protect customers from bad weather as they pump gas. A leak in the canopy can create a dangerous and clearly unnatural ice patch. It’s the type of potential hazard that can be overlooked quite easily.
When you remove ice and water around a business, be certain that it does not accumulate in a pothole or a depression where it can re-freeze and create a hazard. Business owners should keep their anti-icing or de-icing equipment well-maintained.
While it’s unreasonable to expect property owners to clear snow and ice during an ongoing storm, it must be cleared quickly and in a reasonable period of time once the storm has passed
WHAT WILL THE COURTS LOOK AT IN A PREMISES LIABILITY CASE?
In a premises liability case arising from a snow and ice-related slip-and-fall injury, a court will take into account the weather conditions when the injury happened, the amount of time the hazard existed, the type of property, and the condition of the property where the injury occurred.
The injuries that are frequently sustained due to snow and ice accumulations include but are not limited to broken bones to leg, neck, back, and head injuries. Some slip-and-fall injuries cause permanent disability. Those victims will need the maximum available compensation.
HOW CAN YOU PREVAIL WITH A PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIM?
Sustaining an injury alone, is not enough to prevail in a premises liability claim, particularly if the case arises from a snow or ice-related injury.
To win damages, an injury victim must prove that the property owner:
1. knew or should have known that hazardous snow, ice, and/or water had accumulated
2. had a reasonable opportunity to remove the hazardous snow, ice, and/or water and failed
An injury victim must also prove that the accumulated snow, ice, and/or water was a direct cause of his or her personal injury or injuries. Your accident attorney may need to call on medical experts and/or accident reconstruction specialists to testify or provide statements on your behalf.
HOW SOON WILL YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH AN ACCIDENT LAW FIRM?
Winters can be quite enjoyable in western New York, but you need to be aware that after it’s been snowing, the possibility of becoming injured is heightened. If you’re injured by slipping on a snow or ice accumulation, take your case at once to an experienced Rochester premises liability attorney.
You’ll need to speak with an attorney right away – as soon as you’ve received medical treatment. If you don’t, evidence could deteriorate or disappear, and the memories of witnesses can fade rapidly.
Although the statute of limitations in New York generally gives you three years to file a personal injury lawsuit, there may be very short timeframes which govern, for example, if the premises owner is a municipality.
Regardless of the time allowed by statute to commence an action, you’ll want to speak with an attorney right away. Putting your attorney on the case at once is absolutely imperative.
WHAT WILL IT COST AN INJURY VICTIM TO SEEK JUSTICE?
If you’ve been injured by slipping on snow or ice, and if you believe that a negligent property owner should be held accountable, it doesn’t cost anything to learn more about your rights and options. An injury victim’s first consultation with an injury attorney is free.
If you and your attorney move forward with legal action, you’ll pay no attorney’s fee until you are compensated for your losses. By working on a contingent fee basis, personal injury attorneys provide a way for everybody – even those in modest circumstances – to have their day in court.
If you’ve been injured because a property owner was negligent, you are entitled to compensation. A good premises liability lawyer can help you get the recovery you deserve.
If you’re injured by negligence in New York, exercise your right to compensation. Do not wait. Nothing is more important than your health and your future.