According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits; accounting for one million visits yearly. The most common injury that is treated for slip and falls is a bone fracture. The likelihood of a fall increases in the winter when:
- Ice or snow on parking lots, sidewalks, and driveways can be hard to see and make it difficult to get traction.
- Melting ice can make any surface slippery.
- People who trek through ice or snow leave behind mud and water when they walk onto dry surfaces such as retail floors or home tiles.
Which entities may be liable?
Liability for wintertime slip and fall accidents applies to anyone or any business that had a duty to keep their property safe from ice, water, slush, and slippery surfaces. Property owners can be held responsible for violation of premises liability law if they fail to remove the snow and ice or fail to post warning signs in a timely manner.
The following can be held liable if they failed in this duty of safety:
- Retail businesses
- Apartment complexes
- Service businesses
- Nonprofits such as hospitals
- Governmental entities
- Repair crews hired by the property owners
In general, the property owner is liable if they had time to become aware of the dangerous condition and failed to take reasonable steps to clean up or repair the danger. For example, while businesses may not be liable to clean up the snow while the snow is falling, if they fail to shovel the snow after a day or two, then the can be held responsible.
The best course of action is to be aware of the dangers and threats of winter weather. Some precautionary steps to take to avoid wintertime slips and falls are:
- Avoid surfaces that are dangerous. Patronize businesses that have taken care of the ice on their parking lots and sidewalks by applying salt or shoveling away the snow.
- Wear slip resistant footwear. The right shoes can prevent a fall. Better to be safe, even if you’re not stylish.
- Be extra aware of common property dangers. Be careful if the lighting is poor or the railings aren’t secure. Pay special attention to wet surfaces.
- Be smart. Store umbrellas in the front of the store or house if there is a receptacle instead of tracking water throughout the business or home.
- Avoid distractions. Hold off on that text or phone call until you’re sitting down somewhere.
- Wear gloves. If you keep your hand in your pockets, you have less time to react if you slip. With gloves, your hands should be free to help catch you if you fall.
Other wintertime safety tips include carrying a flashlight to see the icy spots better, making sure you don’t carry too much, taking smaller steps, and walking slowly.
Consult with an Chicago premises liability lawyer if you fall on the property of another
Winter is not a time to completely withdraw into your home. Illinois residents should enjoy getting out and about. They should also know that at Gainsberg Law, our Chicago slip and fall attorneys are ready to help if a property owner failed to protect their safety by not arranging to remove snow, apply salt, and mop up slippery surfaces. If you or someone you know fell when away from home, please call us at 312-313-1621 or complete our contact form to get justice for your injuries.