Our fierce Massachusetts winters create the slippery sidewalks and parking lots where severe slip-and-fall injuries can happen. If you’re injured on private property in a slip-and-fall accident involving ice and snow, arrange at once to speak with a Woburn premises liability lawyer.
If you’re injured because a property owner failed to clean up accumulated snow and ice, what steps can you take? Keep reading for the answer. Snow-and-ice-related slip-and-fall injuries happen all too often in Massachusetts, and a severe injury could happen to almost anyone.
What Does Massachusetts Law Require?
Property owners in this state are required by law to take reasonable measures to keep visitors and guests safe from hazards. When a property owner is negligent, and an injury to a guest or visitor is the result, the victim is entitled by law to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and related losses.
When it comes to ice and snow, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determined (in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, 2010) that property owners are obligated to clear, in a reasonable amount of time, all ice and snow from walkways that are accessible to the public.
Prior to Papadopoulos, Massachusetts property owners were only required to clear “unnatural” or man-made accumulations of ice and snow on those walkways, but in Papadopoulos, the court abolished any legal distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of ice and snow.
What Should Property Owners Know?
Snow, ice, and water accumulations on sidewalks or in parking lots can create dangerous ice patches. While it may be unreasonable to expect property owners to clear snow and ice during an ongoing storm, the snow and ice must be removed quickly and in a reasonable period of time.
How you remove snow and ice, and the condition of the property, is important. Any mistakes could lead to injury claims and liability. A commercial property owner must make sure that drains and gutters function properly and that water drains or is directed to a safe spot.
Leaks in the winter may also create dangerous ice patches. Most business owners repair leaks immediately in locations that are accessible to the public, but other leaks may be overlooked and create genuinely dangerous situations.
What Do the Courts Consider in Slip-and-fall Cases?
The key question in slip-and-fall cases that involve snow and ice is whether or not the time that a property owner had to remove the ice and snow was a “reasonable” amount of time. A court may also consider the condition of the property and the weather at the time the slip-and-fall occurred.
If you slip and fall on ice and snow, you could sustain injuries that include broken bones, sprains, and neck, back, brain, and/or spinal cord injuries. When a snow-and-ice injury causes a lengthy or permanent disability, a victim may need the maximum compensation amount that’s available.
The most egregious injuries may require life-long medical care, travel to distant medical facilities, special childcare arrangements, and a variety of additional unanticipated expenses.
Should You Bring an Injury Claim?
Simply being injured isn’t enough to succeed with a premises liability claim. To recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and related losses and damages, the victim and his or her premises liability attorney must show that the owner of the property:
- was aware or should have been aware that dangerous snow and ice had accumulated
- had a reasonable amount of time to remove the dangerous snow and ice, and didn’t.
Your attorney also must demonstrate that the snow and ice accumulation was a direct cause of your personal injury. Your attorney may ask a medical specialist to provide a statement or testimony in support of your injury claim.
When Should You Speak to an Attorney?
If you live in Massachusetts or visit here in the winter, you should know that snow heightens the likelihood of becoming injured. If you are injured slipping and falling on accumulated ice and snow, discuss your rights and options promptly with a Woburn premises liability lawyer.
Seek medical attention at once after a slip-and-fall accident. Then, after you’ve been examined and/or treated, immediately schedule a consultation with your attorney. Your attorney should review the evidence while it’s fresh and question the witnesses before their memories fade.
The Massachusetts statute of limitations – the deadline for bringing a premises liability claim – is three years, but if you’ve missed that deadline, speak to an attorney anyway. Your case might be a rare legal exception that entitles you to extra time. But if you’ve been injured recently, act now.
What if You Were Injured at Work?
If you were injured by slipping and falling on ice and snow at your workplace, you may not be able to file a premises liability claim. Instead, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
All employers based in Massachusetts are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. If you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident while working, workers’ comp is supposed to pay for your necessary medical treatment and partially replace your lost wages.
However, if while working, you were injured on the property of someone who is not your employer, you could also make a claim against the owner or manager of that property. For instance if you work as a delivery driver and slip and fall due to the negligence of the owner of a property at which you are making a delivery, you can pursue a claim against that owner in addition to obtaining worker’s compensation benefits.
A Woburn slip-and-fall attorney will be able to advise you about your options. If any party other than the employer has any liability for an employee’s injury, that employee may be able to receive workers’ comp benefits while also pursuing a third-party premises liability claim.
What Else Should You Know About Taking Legal Action?
If you are injured by slipping and falling on ice or snow, and if a property owner was negligent and should be deemed liable, it will not cost anything to learn how the law applies to your case. Your first meeting with a Woburn slip-and-fall attorney is offered without cost or obligation.
If you file a premises liability claim, you will pay no lawyer’s fee unless and until your lawyer recovers compensation for your damages. Premises liability lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, so you pay a premises liability lawyer nothing if for any reason you are not compensated.
Compensation is your right if someone else’s negligence is why you were injured. Having a good lawyer on your side is also your right. If you’re injured slipping and falling on snow and ice because a property owner was negligent – and if you and your attorney can prove it – you will be compensated, and the law will be on your side.