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Ice and Snow Slip and Falls: Who Is to Blame?

Ice and Snow Slip and Falls: Who Is to Blame?

In Minnesota, snow and ice commonly cause slip-and-fall accidents in winter.

While some people believe that slip-and-fall accidents are not a big deal and just a part of living in Minnesota, the truth is that slips and falls in the snow and ice can cause serious and life-changing injuries. As a victim, you may be able to seek compensation if you were on someone else’s property and the property owner was negligent in the care or maintenance of their property.

Unfortunately, liability for falls resulting from ice or snow can be complex and often difficult. Because of this, it is smart to hire an experienced legal team to help with your case. Our legal team has years of experience handling slip and fall accident cases and if we believe you have a case, we will work to help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.

Understanding the Law Related to Removing Ice and Snow

In general, claims relating to slip and fall injuries in Minnesota are based on the negligence of a property owner in the car or maintenance of their property.  That is, if a property owner knows or should have known of a dangerous or hazardous condition, they have a legal duty to either warn of, or remedy, the dangerous or hazardous condition to protect those who are lawfully on their property.  If they fail to do so, that can be considered actional negligence, and they may be responsible for any resulting damages.  However, they may not no such duty to remedy or warn of the dangerous conditions if those conditions are open and obvious to an ordinary or reasonable person.

Determining Liability if You Are Injured in a Snow-Related Slip and Fall Accident

Violating the local law to remove ice or snow may be considered a breach of your duty of care as a property owner, too. When filing a personal injury claim, it is required that you prove the at-fault party breached their duty of care in some way and that an injury resulted from this breach. The duty of care is an obligation that a person will take a certain level of care to minimize harm to others.  In the case of snow and ice, that could be failing to remove the snow and ice, or failure to mitigate it by using such materials as salt, sand, or ice melt.

An important factor to remember is that the property owner has a reasonable amount of time to remove the snow or ice after the snow, ice, or other weather event stopped.

Because of the frequency of weather events in Minnesota’s harsh winters, as well as temperature fluctuation, which may cause melting and re-freezing, property owners, and their insurance companies, and attorneys will try to find any facts and defenses to use against you to avoid taking responsibility for the incident. In order to fight these defenses, it is important to document the incident as much as possible.  This can be done by filing an accident or incident report if the matter happens on the property of a business, it can also be done by noting what time the accident occurred, the weather conditions, the names of any witnesses, and photographing the scene. It is also important to seek medical attention right away if you have experienced any injuries. This will not only allow you to get the appropriate care for your injuries, but it will also create medical records that will help link to your injury and the slip and fall incident.

Once you have received the appropriate medical care, it is important to get in touch with an attorney right away.  This will allow the attorney time to investigate the claim as close as possible to the time and date of occurrence.

The most important type of evidence in a slip and fall claim is photographs or videos of the area where you fell.  The closer that the photographs or videos are to the time of the incident, the better.  Even just a few hours later, the conditions could change significantly.  However, unfortunately, it is not always possible to get photos immediately.  In this case, see if you can get someone else to get out to the scene as soon as possible to get photographs. Photographs and videos are often the best evidence available of the conditions at the time of your fall.

Hiring our legal team means you have someone with an extensive understanding of slip and fall claims in Minnesota, and the local laws related to snow and ice removal and how they may impact a personal injury claim. Cases like this can be very hard to prove, which is why you need legal representation.

The biggest challenge in these types of cases is the open and obviousness defense.  That is a property owner has no duty to remedy or warn of dangerous or hazardous conditions that are open and obvious to an ordinary or reasonable person.  To get around this defense, we often look for factors that would hide or conceal the hazard in some way, such as inadequate lighting in the area, or if the ice is concealed by a dusting of snow.

Property owners and their insurance companies can also raise comparative fault defenses.  What this means is even if the property owner has some fault, you cannot recover if your fault is more than 50%.  For example, if you were on the property while the property owner cleared the ice and snow and walked onto an area that had not been cleared, they may argue that you were more than 50% at fault for causing the slip and fall.  Another example may be if you are wearing inappropriate or inadequate footwear, or are distracted in some response, such as by looking at your phone.  These factors and circumstances may make it difficult to prove your case.

While cold weather, snow, and ice are common in Minnesota, you should still exercise care to ensure you are not injured because of these conditions. If you believe a sidewalk or walkway is slippery or may cause you to fall, you should avoid using it.

Understanding Duty of Care in Minnesota Slip and Fall Accidents

If you are a property owner in Minnesota, no matter what type it is, you are responsible for ensuring that the property is in a reasonable safe condition for those who are entered upon it. This is referred to as your duty of care. It ensures other people are not exposed to unreasonable dangers while on or visiting your property.

If the property owner does not uphold their duty of care and someone experiences a slip and fall, the property owner may be considered liable.

When it comes to establishing liability in situations where a duty of care is a factor, the court will consider the following:

  • If the property owner was aware of the danger or if they should have a suspicion of the danger’s presence;
  • If the property owner had the capability and time to prevent, remove, or mitigate the dangerous conditions; and
  • If the property owner tried to warn of the dangerous conditions.

It is necessary to explore these situations a bit more. If the property owner was aware of the dangerous conditions that may occur, they could be held liable. Also, if a landlord goes on vacation, they must make plans to remove the snow if a storm occurs. Just because it was not snowing when they left does not mean the property owner is excused from providing safe conditions on their property while they are away.

The next point concerns whether the property owner had a reasonable amount of time to fix the issue. The property owner generally has some flexibility regarding the amount of time they have to clear ice and snow from their property.  It would not be reasonable for a property owner to have to be out clearing their property 24/7.  However, it may be reasonable for them to clear their property the morning after a snow fall.  The amount of time they have will depend on the individual facts of each situation.

Contact a Slip and Fall Accident Attorney for Help with Your Case

Even if you are trying to be safe, accidents still happen. Our Minnesota legal team is ready to help if you find yourself in this situation. We offer free consultations for new clients to help ensure we are a good fit for your case.

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