Winters in DC and Maryland are often beautiful, but with that snow and ice comes an increase in slip and fall accident claims. These accidents are often more serious than many would think. Beyond bruises and scrapes, it’s not uncommon for victims to suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), broken bones, and even spinal cord damage.
Ice accidents are serious. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury because of a snow or ice accident, you should know that you could be eligible for compensation to make up for your losses. Johnnie Bond Law helps accident victims demonstrate liability for snow and ice accidents and fights to get a fair and full recovery.
Are Property Owners Responsible for a Snow or Ice Accident?
In Maryland and DC, property owners bear the responsibility for keeping their property safe from dangerous conditions. Whether the building is a shop, business, municipal building, or home, the property owner must clear ice or snow off their property within a particular window of time. This window varies depending on the municipality, but the law is clear: property owners can be held accountable for snow and ice accidents that occur on their premises.
Duty of Care for Safe Conditions Before and After a Storm
An owner’s responsibility to keep their property safe is called their duty of care. To the best of their ability, a property owner must inspect their property for any hazards and proactively minimize danger.
Before a storm, this might mean pretreating the ground with salt ahead of snowfall. After the storm, this would involve removing snow and ice from publically accessible walkways within a reasonable timeframe.
How Does Negligence Factor In?
One mitigating factor when it comes to attributing responsibility is contributory negligence. DC and Maryland are two of only a handful of jurisdictions that apply this standard. It means that if the victim contributed even slightly to their fall—or could have easily avoided the accident—their lawsuit may fail.
The District of Columbia and state of Maryland assume that residents know the risks involved when walking over snow and ice, so a victim could be found contributorily negligent, depending on the specifics of their case. Even so, this argument often fails in cases where the victim saw no other available path and had to walk through, especially if they were on their way to conduct essential business. It is crucial to collect evidence to show why a victim had no way of detecting the danger or no alternative route.
Burden of Proof for an Injured Person
To recover compensation for your injuries, you need to prove owner liability for your injuries. To do this, you should:
- Seek medical attention. Even if you’re not in pain in the immediate aftermath of the fall, that could be the result of adrenaline. It’s crucial that you seek medical attention right away and ask the doctor for a copy of all documents as proof.
- Document everything. If you can, take pictures and videos of the snowy or icy conditions that caused your fall. A snow and ice accidents lawyer will be able to use this evidence in your favor.
- Get contact information. Iif someone witnessed your fall, ask them for their contact information so they can corroborate your claim.
- Refrain from posting on social media. While it’s understandable to want to keep your friends and family informed, it’s best to do this via private communication. Public posts about the accident could hurt your chances of recovering compensation.
- Hire a personal injury attorney. A skilled snow and ice accidents lawyer will pursue additional avenues of negligence proof, such as CCTV footage and police reports.
- File your claim on time. The statute of limitations for most injury claims in DC and Maryland is three years from when the injury occurred. If you don’t file your claim within this timeframe, you likely won’t recover any compensation.
If you have been the victim of a snow and ice accident, you should know that you are not alone. Our team at the Johnnie Bond Law firm is here for you.
A Snow and Ice Accidents Lawyer at Johnnie Bond Law Can Help
If you’ve suffered a slip-and-fall injury because of snow or ice, our team will work with the insurance companies on your behalf so that you can focus on recovery. To get experienced help on your side, contact Johnnie Bond Law at 202-683-6803 to schedule your free consultation with a snow and ice accidents lawyer today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Snow and Ice Accidents
How do snow and ice accidents occur?
Ice and snow turn an ordinary outdoor environment into a potentially hazardous one. Snow can cover up obstacles in your path, leading you to trip. Snow also makes it hard to ascertain the level of the ground, and could make it more likely for you to step in a hole or other uneven surface and take a fall.
Ice is even worse. An icy surface can cause anyone to lose their balance and fall, particularly when the ice is not easy to detect.
Who is responsible for a snow and ice accident?
The person who can be held responsible depends on the circumstances. If a property owner or third party left a tripping hazard out in an area where people are known to walk, and the snow made it difficult to see the hazard, then the person who left it out could be liable, or the property owner who failed to look for and remove the hazard might also be liable. People are expected to look around and use reasonable care while they are walking, but a tripping hazard covered in snow could be very hard to detect.
Property owners in the DMV have the responsibility to clear snow and ice from walkways on their property. Local regulations set different time limits for this obligation, but generally, within 24 hours after a storm, they should make sure the path for others is clear. Even if they don’t follow rules for removing snow and ice, however, it can be difficult to hold them liable for a fall if the risk from ice and snow was obvious.
If instead the ice blended in with the walking surface—like “black ice” on asphalt—then it would be more likely that the property owner would be found responsible when someone falls on the ice and suffers injuries. Similarly, if the ice was unexpected, such as ice caused by a leak or spill rather than a storm, then it would be easier to hold the property owner liable for failing to remove it or warn people about it.
What should I do if I slip and fall on snow or ice?
The most important thing to do after any accident is to take care of your health. Get a thorough medical exam. A doctor could detect injuries that are not immediately obvious. If you do end up filing a claim for compensation, the records from your medical exam provide valuable evidence. Be sure to follow instructions for follow-up care. This not only speeds the healing process but also protects your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.
It is a good idea to collect and preserve information about the fall. An attorney can help with the process, so it can be very helpful to consult a snow and ice accidents lawyer soon after the fall. Take photos of the site as soon as possible. If anyone witnessed the fall, get their contact information.
It is possible that your fall was recorded on a video surveillance system, but that recording could be erased if you don’t act quickly. Request a copy. If necessary, your attorney can ask the court to order that the recording be preserved.
How long do I have to bring a claim if I slipped and fell on a patch of black ice?
If you fell on public property and want to bring a claim against the local government, you need to act very quickly, because local laws often set quick deadlines for action. An attorney could provide a timeframe depending on the location of the fall.
For falls on private or commercially owned property in Maryland or DC, you must prepare and file a claim within three years of the fall. If you slipped on ice in a jurisdiction with a shorter statute of limitations like Virginia, your claim must be filed within two years.
What kind of claim can I pursue following a slip and fall accident?
Most slip and fall accident cases are based on the theory of premises liability. If you’re injured after a slip and fall, you file a premises liability claim against the property owner because they failed to take responsible action to keep you safe on their property. You could recover compensation for factors such as your medical bills, lost wages, future needs, pain, suffering, and emotional anguish.
What duties do property owners owe to people on their property concerning snow removal?
Local ordinances generally require property owners to remove snow from the sidewalks within a certain amount of time. That time is usually shorter in city areas and longer in rural areas. When the property is rented to a tenant, that tenant often has a contractual obligation to remove the snow.
From a liability standpoint, property owners owe a duty to protect people they invite on the property from dangerous conditions that are not obvious. So when ice is not obvious or snow hides a danger, the owner should act promptly to warn people about or remove the danger.
What evidence do I need and what is contributory negligence?
You need evidence to show that a property owner or tenant failed to take responsible steps to protect you from the hazards on their property. Photos showing the scene and accounts from witnesses can demonstrate these factors. You also need evidence of your injuries such as medical reports.
Contributory negligence is a doctrine that prevents injured people from recovering compensation for accidents that were partially their fault. That makes it particularly important to gather evidence to show that you were acting responsibly and could not have avoided the harm you suffered.
Is my ability to recover damages affected by why I was on the property?
In many cases, you can only recover damages for a fall caused by snow or ice if you were on the property for the benefit of the property owner. If you were walking up to a store to shop, for instance, your presence could provide financial benefit to the owner. If you were invited to visit a friend, you might also be able to recover damages for a fall on their property, although since you weren’t there for their financial gain, they might not be required to take the same care for your safety.
If you were trespassing or on the property for your own gain, such as to try to interest the homeowner in buying solar panels, then they generally have less of a duty to keep you safe. Since sidewalks are designated for public use, you would not be a trespasser if you were on a sidewalk in front of someone’s house. However, if you followed a walkway to their front porch, your legal status on the property might be different. An attorney could explain whether your purpose for being on the property affects your ability to recover in a particular situation.
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