The Fall Down Case on Snow and Ice – Ways to Win a Difficult Case
A tenant comes home at 7:00 PM and slips and falls on snow and ice in the parking lot. A shopper goes to the mall and falls where ice has formed because water runs off from the roof.
We know that a property owner has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. Yet in New Jersey and in other states cases like these are being lost at trial or settled for much less than full value. Injured victims and their attorneys need new ideas on how to combat the defense arguments and how to win these cases.
The first way that the property owner or their insurance company tries to defend a fall down case is by saying that it didn’t happen here or it didn’t happen this way. It is important for the accident victim to report the accident even if the report is made by a friend or relative sometime after the accident. The ambulance squad, hospital staff, and doctors must be told that the injuries are the result of a fall on snow or ice. Potential witnesses who saw the accident or saw the victim on the ground after the accident need to be identified. Photographs need to be taken as soon as possible. It is better to have photographs a day or two later than it is to have none at all and it is better to hire a professional photographer.
The accident victim or their family should contact an attorney as soon after the accident as possible. The attorney should begin by gathering fresh information, witness statements, and photographs.
A crucial role for the attorney, which is often overlooked, is to obtain scene photographs after other snowstorms. We can prove that a property owner did not properly clear snow and ice by showing that it is their habit or practice not to clear the snow and ice properly from their property. We want to have photographs of snow and ice on the ground 24 to 48 hours after subsequent snowfalls in the same area where our victim fell.
This kind of evidence can be devastating in answering and defeating the defense argument that we try so hard and we do everything that we can.
Many people fall on the ice a day or more after the snow has stopped. Oftentimes the ice has formed because of snow melting during the day and refreezing at night. The defense says that we put out salt or sand; we did everything we could.
There is more than one way to deal with this situation. Firstly, make the defense provide records of when they applied salt and when a supervisor inspected the area. Secondly, hire an expert to review what they did. There are various different products available to melt ice and some are better than others, but sand is not recommended. There are also different kinds of equipment available. An expert witness can explain why the property owner was negligent in the manner in which they removed snow and ice. An organization with helpful information is Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA).
Many property owners hire a snow removal contractor, frequently a landscaping company, to remove the snow and ice. It is very important to obtain the contract, the record of calls from the owner to the contractor, the records and logs showing what the contractor did, and the records showing what the owner did to supervise or inspect the work of the snow removal contractor. These records can be used to prove that the defendants had a standard and that they did not meet their own standards for snow removal. Most municipalities have a snow removal ordinance and that ordinance should be reviewed.
Sometimes ice forms in certain areas because of a slope or runoff. A forensic engineer can help to prove that there was a dangerous condition of the property that caused the ice to form.
In summary, a fall-down case on snow and ice requires meticulous preparation, focusing on all of the things the defendants did wrong. When confronted with this level of preparation, most defendants will offer a fair settlement.
In the event that this case cannot be settled, the attorney should focus on the rules or standards, how the defendants violated those rules and standards, and why the defendant’s negligence and misconduct are important to the case and to society at large.
Injured victims deserve a full measure of justice. These are good cases when prepared properly.
Contact a New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer at the Law Offices Of Harold J. Gerr if Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident
We understand your reservations about contacting legal counsel. We will meet with you at no cost to discuss your case and your options. Our office is open weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and we are also available to meet with you evenings and weekends by appointment. To schedule a private meeting with an experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer, at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr contact us by filling out the contact form in the sidebar of this page, or call our office at 732-537-8570.