Throughout winter, there is always a threat of freezing weather. We often take precautions when there is snow, sleet and black ice on roadways because so many car accidents occur during inclement weather. But the danger may be closer to home than you think. Nearly 90 million people are injured or killed each year in slip and fall accidents – and the majority of accidents happen in the most routine places.
Falls are a leading cause of death and unintentional injuries in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council. Many people injure themselves at home doing repairs or other chores. Others are injured in places where they have a reason to expect they are safe – the grocery store, mall or even on a sidewalk. When those premises are not maintained properly, the results can be disastrous.
Any number of injuries could happen in a winter weather slip and fall. For example, a New Yorker recently settled a lawsuit for $255,000 after he slipped and broke his ankle due to ice accumulation on his landlord’s driveway while trying to deliver a rent check. Many emergency rooms across the country were filled with people injured in slip and falls during the polar vortex, which paralyzed much of the country at the start of the year. Victims suffered a variety of injuries ranging from broken bones to severe trauma and brain injuries.
For example, a store owner has a duty to clear ice from a doorstep to protect the safety of his or her patrons. If you fall and injure yourself because no steps were taken to clean up the ice or warn you of the hazard, you may have a valid legal claim against the store owner. But you are not given complete protection from blame in a slip-and-fall case. In Georgia, the courts will also look at whether you took reasonable care to avoid injuring yourself. If there is evidence that you weren’t careful enough, you may also be held partially responsible for your injuries.
That’s when you should contact a premises liability attorney, who can examine the specific facts of the accident more closely and determine whether a valid claim exists.
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to avoid winter-weather falls:
- Wear appropriate footwear: Even if you have to carry a pair of dress shoes with you to work, you’re better off in flat shoes, snow boots or shoes with good traction during your commute from the parking lot to the office.
- Slow down: Walking too fast increases your risk tremendously.
- Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re inside: Melted snow and ice can pool in doorways if not mopped up properly.
- Leave the heavy stuff alone: Your weight will be off-balance if you’re carrying a large load.
- Hands out! Wear gloves and keep your hands out of your pockets in case you need to grab something to prevent a fall.
For advice on how to avoid indoor falls, click here.