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A Complete Guide to Slip and Falls on Ice or Snow

a-complete-guide-to-slip-and-falls-on-ice-or-snow
Slip and falls on ice or snow are common occurrences in the winter. You probably know the feeling. You’re walking outside and step on a patch of ice. You feel your feet slide, so you begin to panic. You put your arms out to regain your balance and hopefully avoid a fall. But, what happens if you do fall? Unfortunately, falling on ice is a scary experience that can lead to injuries.

In this guide, you’ll learn about what to do if you fall on ice and the relevant laws to help you determine if you need a lawyer. You’ll also learn how both pedestrians and property owners can reduce the risk of slip and falls on ice or snow.

Injuries From Slip and Falls on Ice or Snow

Injuries resulting from a slip and fall on a snowy or icy sidewalk can be serious. You may fracture your arm while trying to break your fall or hit your head on the hard ground. Call for medical help if you feel any pain after a fall. Common injuries from a slip and fall on ice or snow include:

Injuries are expensive to care for, especially if they are severe. Between the medical bills, potential lost wages, and emotional cost of pain and suffering, an injury can change your life. If your slip and fall was caused by negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. It’s important to contact a slip and fall attorney to see if you have a case.

ambulance in snow

What To Do If You Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow

After you slip and fall on ice, you may feel embarrassed. You may want to brush it off and pretend you’re okay, especially if other people saw you fall. But slip and falls can be serious. It’s okay to get help. If you fall on ice, it’s important to do the following:

  1. Seek medical attention if you are in pain and make sure your injuries are documented.
  2. Record witnesses. Get the names and contact information of people who saw you fall.
  3. Report the incident and dangerous condition to the property or business owner.
  4. Take photos. Since ice and snow can melt quickly, it’s crucial to document the scene of your accident right after it happens.
  5. Preserve your shoes and clothing as they may serve as evidence later.
  6. Call an attorney to discuss your legal rights. A slip and fall lawyer can explain all applicable laws to you and determine if you have a case.

It’s essential to remain calm after a slip and fall. You may have a premises liability case, and if you do, it’s vital to think clearly so you can obtain information that will support your case.

Pennsylvania Laws Regarding Slip and Falls on Ice or Snow

Snow is a normal occurrence in Pennsylvania. Thus, Pennsylvania law does not require property owners to keep their sidewalk free from snow and ice at all times because doing so would be impossible in view of the climatic conditions. Because of this, property owners are not held liable for slip and falls caused by generally slippery conditions. For example, if a person slips on a sidewalk covered in freshly fallen snow, he or she will not usually be able to recover damages.

snowy-sidewalk
Snowy Sidewalk” by Eden, Janine and Jim is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pennsylvania’s Hills and Ridges Doctrine

Under Pennsylvania’s hills and ridges doctrine, property owners are held liable only if they allow snow or ice to accumulate in dangerous ridges or elevations which remain for an unreasonable amount of time. This doctrine applies in cases where a natural accumulation of snow or ice existed on a pedestrian walkway. The hills and ridges doctrine requires the plaintiff to prove that dangerous ridges or elevations, not just slippery conditions, caused the fall. Under the hills and ridges doctrine, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  1. The snow and ice accumulated on the walkway in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and create a danger to pedestrians.
  2. The property owner knew or should have known of the existence of the dangerous condition.
  3. It was the dangerous accumulation of snow and ice which caused the plaintiff to fall.

There are exceptions to the hills and ridges doctrine. The doctrine does not apply in cases where the plaintiff slipped on a localized patch of ice. It also does not apply in cases where negligence created a hazardous condition. An example of this would be if a leaking gutter caused ice to form on the sidewalk.

The specifics of the hills and ridges doctrine can be complicated. Since each case is different, it is always best to consult with a lawyer if you sustained an injury from falling on ice.

walking-in-snow

How Pedestrians Can Avoid Slip and Falls on Ice or Snow

A premises liability case will look at what the pedestrian did that may have caused him or her to fall. Therefore, you must exercise a greater degree of caution when walking outside in the winter. Avoid walking in areas where snow or ice is visible. You should also do the following:

  1. Pay attention to where you are walking and look at the sidewalk ahead of you. Be especially cautious of black ice.
  2. Take shorter steps.
  3. Wear appropriate footwear.
  4. Walk slowly and carefully.
  5. Use handrails when available.
  6. Wipe your shoes when you enter a building and watch for slippery floors caused by melted snow or ice.
  7. Keep your hands free and out of your pockets. You will need to use your arms to regain balance if you feel yourself slip. Avoid carrying shopping bags or other items.
  8. Be careful when getting in or out of a vehicle. Hold onto the vehicle for balance.

walking on ice and snow

How Property Owners Can Prevent Slip and Falls on Ice or Snow on Their Property

Property owners can take precautions to protect themselves from a premises liability lawsuit. It’s crucial to take necessary measures to clear pedestrian walking areas of snow and ice in a timely manner. You should do the following:

  1. Buy a shovel, salt, and other items before a snowstorm.
  2. If you are not able to shovel snow, hire a contractor or person to do it for you.
  3. Do a good job shoveling. Don’t leave isolated patches of snow or ice.
  4. Spread sand, gravel, or salt on walking areas to create more traction for pedestrians.
  5. Pile snow in a safe area. Make sure the runoff from melting snow will not refreeze on the pavement.
  6. Inspect your property by doing the following:
    • Check that your gutter won’t leak and create a pile of ice.
    • Fix uneven or broken sidewalks or stairs so snow doesn’t cover the hazard.
    • When it rains, look to see where puddles form as these areas will be more prone to ice patches.
  7. If you’re a business owner, put safety cones or signs near particularly slippery areas.
  8. Have proper lighting so people can see ice and snow.
  9. Place a mat or rug at the entrance of your home or business to encourage the wiping of feet.
  10. Wipe away puddles of melted snow that form near the entrance of your home or business.

It’s also important for property owners to follow the local snow removal law. The law in Philadelphia requires the owner, agent and tenants of any building or premises to clear a three-foot-wide path on the sidewalk within six hours of the end of the snowfall. If the sidewalk is less than three feet wide, the path needs to be at least one foot wide. Those who fail to clear a properly sized path face a fine of $50 to $300 for each violation.

Shoveling the snow from your sidewalk isn’t an enjoyable task. But it’s a lot better than getting fined or sued. You don’t want to risk a neighbor or customer falling on your property, so make sure it’s safe.

shoveling-snow

Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow Attorneys

The laws regarding slip and falls on snow or ice can be confusing. If you slipped on ice, it’s normal to be unsure whether someone is liable for your injuries. If you don’t know if you have a case, contact a Philadelphia slip and fall attorney at Kane & Silverman. One of our experienced attorneys will evaluate your claim for free. We have offices in Philadelphia, PA and Marlton, NJ for your convenience. Contact us at 215-232-1000 or fill out a contact form online.