Injuries Due to Falls on Ice and Snow
Winter in New Hampshire can cause hazardous conditions brought on by ice and snow. Although injuries caused by slipping on ice are usually fairly minor, every year tens of thousands of people are seriously injured due to falling on a slippery road or sidewalk. Emergency workers across New Hampshire have reported a disturbing increase in the number of serious accidents caused by untreated snow and ice.New Hampshire Law Requires Property Owners to Treat Ice to Prevent Falls
Generally speaking, property owners in New Hampshire have a duty to make sure any sidewalks, walkways, driveways, and parking lots that are under their control or ownership are either free of ice and snow or treated with sand and salt. The test is whether the property owner took reasonable measures to protect visitors from slipping and falling on ice or snow. Therefore, while property owners must be diligent in treating/removing ice and snow, this obligation does not require property owners to take unreasonable measures to protect the public. What constitutes reasonable measures to protect the public is frequently at the heart of legal disputes involving someone who was seriously injured from a fall. Cases where the property owner’s fault is relatively clear involve a failure of the property owner to sand or salt an icy driveway or walkway that was left that way for hours or days. Even more clearcut would be a case where the property owner received prior complaints about ice or snow being left untreated and ignored those complaints. A property owner’s liability for injuries caused when someone slipped and fell on their property is far less clear if the ice formed due to thawing and re-freezing or due to ongoing precipitation (such as freezing rain).
Further complicating this analysis is the question of whether the injured party was aware of the ice, had an alternative, safer route, but chose to cross the ice anyway. In this situation, if the injured person is found to be more at fault than the property owner, the injured person is barred from receiving compensation under New Hampshire law. However, if the injured person’s fault is less than that of the property owner, he or she may be able to recover damages, but those damages are reduced in proportion to the injured person’s fault.Establishing Fault on the Part of the Property Owner
Because of the complexities of New Hampshire law when it comes to a property owner’s liability for injuries caused when someone slips and falls on ice or snow, if you have been seriously injured from a fall (e.g., any injury requiring surgery or that will likely result in permanent, serious limitations), it is advisable to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate and photograph the ice and obtain statements from witnesses as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident. Understandably, people who have been seriously injured due to a fall are focused on obtaining medical treatment and are not concerned about bringing a claim, taking photographs, etc. until their injuries have received proper attention. Unfortunately, delay in investigating an accident scene generally works in the property owner’s favor (for example, because the ice melts or is subsequently treated with sand or salt). Therefore, promptly obtaining statements from witnesses while their memories are still fresh is of critical importance if the icy condition has melted or been treated after-the-fact.Peter Thompson & Associates: Experts in New Hampshire Premises Liability Law
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates today. We have offices throughout New Hampshire and will come to your home or the hospital if you have difficulty getting around or are unable to come to us. To speak with one of our attorneys, call 800.804.2004 or fill out the online contact form.