During the winter and early spring, snow and ice cause slippery and dangerous conditions for walking in New York City. When property owners fail to keep their sidewalks free of snow and ice, pedestrians are at risk for slipping and falling. One must distinguish between, a dangerous slippery condition caused by natural conditions or one caused by a preventable hazard. Our attorneys know the difference and represent people who have been injured due to snow and ice related accidents. Property owners have a number of obligations under New York City law to remove snow and ice within a reasonable time frame. If snow stops falling between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., property owners must clear sidewalks within four hours. If the snow stops between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., property owners are required to remove the snow before 11:00 a.m. In certain cases, such as when the sidewalk is next to a one, two or three-family dwelling and the owner occupies the building, the City is liable for your damages. In these circumstances when suing the City of New York deadlines become shorter, usually within ninety (90) days after the incident, and must be addressed as quickly as possible. The laws in this field are very intricate. If you do not work with an experienced snow and ice lawyer, you may miss out on certain avenues of recovery.
The first thing you should do is seek medical treatment. Often times, the seriousness of these injuries are not immediately apparent. The injured person may be nervous or in shock and may not be aware of the severity of the injury just suffered. As a result, it is important to see a doctor or visit an emergency room as soon as possible. It is also best that you call an ambulance if you are not sure of the severity of the injury. They are objective professionals who can render proper medical treatment on the scene and document the location and condition of the area where you fell.
You or your loved one should also take photographs of the place where you fell, as soon as possible. A photograph on a cell phone camera can usually be very helpful. Timely photographs are extremely important as the snow and ice conditions that caused your accident often change quickly. As noted above, landowners generally have four (4) hours in which to clean up after a snow storm and make the abutting sidewalks safe for pedestrians. A photograph of the area taken when you fell showing a slippery and dangerous condition can go a long way to prove that the landowner failed in his duty to keep the premises in a safe condition. Photographic evidence is often the key to getting you compensation for your injuries.
Keep whatever footwear you were wearing at the time of your fall. They may be needed at some point in your case. Keep a log or journal of every experience related to your fall. For example when you or a loved one return to the scene to take pictures or investigate the area, write down the description of exactly what type of condition caused your fall, a sheet of ice, a chunk of ice not removed properly, black ice, a build up of snow or a total lack of doing any snow removal. Take note if you see any rock salt or sand in the area. Also note down any addresses in front of the area where you fell. This will assist you in understanding what occurred and what caused you to fall. Do only this cursory investigation. Our lawyers upon being contacted will dispatch a professional investigator to do a more thorough investigation including photographs, measurements, and potential witness interviews.
Also keep a log of your entire medical treatment. Write down every name of every new doctor that you see and take a business card from every new office you visit in the course of your treatment.
If anyone representing an insurance company contacts you regarding the accident DO NOT SPEAK TO THEM. It is imperative that you do not speak to the representative of the insurance company. These representatives are called adjusters. Although they are not bad people their job is to collect as much information from you as possible to use against you in any claim that you may bring as a result of this accident. That is why it is imperative that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Our lawyers will contact these adjusters immediately and advise them that you are being represented by an attorney and they will not be allowed to contact you in the future. Insurance companies will have people working on this case immediately after the accident and so should you.
A landowner can be held at fault even if the area was shoveled after a snowfall. If the property remains hazardous or becomes dangerous due to removal efforts, the abutting property owner can be found at fault. During the days after a storm, many times the temperature rises above freezing and the snow build up on the ground begins to melt. At night when the temperature drops, that melting snow begins to freeze again causing a slippery and dangerous condition. The snow melt that re-freezes as ice is often referred to as black ice, as it can sometimes be hard to see, and blends in with the pavement. However, just because black ice is hard to see does not mean that homeowners are not responsible for preventing, removing or warning of it, since its formation is foreseeable based upon the weather forecast.
If you are a property owner you need to make sure that all of the snow is removed from your walkways, driveways and sidewalks. Make sure that snow piled along the side of walkways, driveways and sidewalks are not piled in such a way that it can re-melt on to those surfaces where it can re-freeze and form black ice. If you pile snow in such a way often times you are creating a more dangerous condition than if you did nothing at all. Also remember to spread rock salt after you clear snow and to re-apply as necessary to guard against the formation of black ice.
If you are a pedestrian, take special care went venturing outside after a snow fall. If you can, wait for as long as possible after a snow fall before venturing outside. Wear enough layers and proper footwear. A person who is cold will be in a hurry and walk as quickly as possible to reach their destination, that is why it is important to dress warmly. Wear snow boots or other footwear that has a rubber sole and thick enough treads to make walking in snow safer. Also remain vigilant the entire time that you are walking outside. In our lawyers’ experience, many of these accidents happen when pedestrians have walked past several buildings where the snow was cleared properly and are then faced with a property where the snow remains. The pedestrians see the risk and try to walk carefully. But the ice is so slippery, they fall and injure themselves.
Our attorneys have the medical and legal knowledge and experience to provide the best representation we can for our client’s who have sustained snow and ice related slip and fall accidents.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a slip and fall snow and ice related accident, please contact our office for a no obligation free consultation.