Recognizing Slip and Fall Dangers in NJ Winters
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Dangers of Winter Weather
Wintertime in New Jersey brings about many delightful sights and experiences, but the oncoming ice, snow, rain, and general cold weather can also present many dangers to those on foot. New Jersey pedestrians, workers, and all other residents exposed to winter weather are at risk of becoming victims of slip-and-fall accidents if they encounter dangerous conditions. These mishaps can cause serious or even life-changing injuries. If you have been injured on someone else's property, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses.
Victims of winter slip and fall accidents can easily suffer life-altering trauma from which they may never fully recover.
Common Winter Hazards in New Jersey
Look out for the following dangers presented by the season:
- Icy Sidewalks: Freezing temperatures can lead to an icy and almost invisible buildup on sidewalks, both in small patches and long stretches. Should a pedestrian suddenly step on ice, he or she may slip and fall hard onto the concrete. Additionally, parking lots become slick in the winter, with those exiting their vehicles unaware of the danger and frequently falling.
- Indoor Dangers: The effects of winter do not end outdoors; water from rain and snow can be tracked into houses and businesses. Should this make tile, linoleum, or otherwise slick floors wet, a slip can easily happen. As many people do not expect these dangers indoors, they can cause serious and sudden harm.
- Snow Accidents: Heavy snow can cover up dangers on the ground. Those trudging through snow, whether to clear it or simply to get somewhere else, may be unable to see obstacles in their way. This can easily lead to a victim tripping over a hazard that has been covered by snow.
- On-the-Job Hazards: Depending on the type of work and location, New Jersey workers can be exposed to a wide variety of hazards caused by winter. Freezing conditions can make outdoor worksites become slippery and difficult to navigate. Even indoor jobs can become more dangerous should a worker bring in wet clothes, jackets, umbrellas, and boots. While some incidents are more dangerous than others, any sort of slip-and-fall can easily lead to major injuries.
FAQs About Winter Slip-and-Falls
Slip-and-fall accidents in New Jersey increase dramatically during the wintertime. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about winter weather slip-and-fall accidents.
Most people think that winter slip-and-falls are caused by outdoor ice and snow. And while this is true, there are other causes. Clogged drains, for instance, can cause water to melt and then refreeze into large patches of ice. And while a reasonable person wouldn’t walk into a snowbank, small patches of snow can cover an obstacle on the ground that a person could trip over, or even fall into.
Water is a major component as well. For instance, when people walk through snow and slush to get into a business establishment, they track it inside and it can melt and form puddles on the floor. If these puddles are not cleaned up quickly, or signage is not placed to warn people of the danger, someone could easily slip and fall.
Wearing proper footwear is the best thing a person can do to avoid slipping and hurting him- or herself. Proper footwear for winter needs to be insulated and waterproof; lightweight; include a thick, non-slip sole; have short heels; and a large area of contact between the shoe and the walking surface.
Be extra mindful when walking on walkways and stairs that are covered in ice and keep your hands as free as possible. This may mean taking several trips to the car to get groceries, or taking less work home. But when arms are full, it can be difficult for a person to regain his balance when he slips.
Lastly, remember to slow down. Don’t rush when it comes to walking on slippery surfaces. It’s better to arrive at a destination late than not at all.
Black ice is a very thin layer of ice – so thin that you can see the pavement below it. Black ice gives the illusion that there is no ice there at all, which can be more dangerous because it doesn’t give people the chance to brace for a slip, or walk more carefully over these patches.
Black ice gets a lot of attention when it’s on the road during the wintertime, but it can also be present on sidewalks, posing a hazard to pedestrians. It’s important to be able to recognize it, and know how to get safely across it.
The best way to walk on black ice is to walk on flat feet, and place your body weight over the front foot. Using short steps or shuffling is safer than taking long strides. This is often referred to as "walking like a penguin." If the patch of ice is large, breaks should also be taken in order to slow down your momentum.
Most people think they can hold a property owner responsible for a slip-and-fall accident from a buildup of ice and snow on the property, but this isn’t always true. Liability depends on what kind of property the accident happened on, and whether or not the owner was aware of the conditions. Different cities also have different rules for property owners.
For instance, most homeowners or tenants have no legal responsibility to clean up ice and snow, even from the sidewalk in front of their houses. As private property, these homes are not used to generate a profit (for the tenants, that is). But if the main purpose of the property is to generate profit, such as a store, the owner does have a duty of care to ensure everyone who enters the property will be kept safe. Because of this, if someone slips and falls, the store or property owner could be held legally responsible.
But here too, there are caveats. If the property owner was not aware of the dangerous situation, he is not considered legally negligent until he does know (or should have known) about the situation and does not take matters to fix it. For example, if a pipe burst and froze overnight, the property owner would not be responsible for clearing the ice until he knew about it.
New Jersey is a state that follows comparative negligence laws. This means that in any lawsuit, the courts will look at the negligence on all sides. If the injured party was partially at fault, they may still receive compensation, but only if they were less than 50% negligent. The courts will assign a percentage of fault to the injured party and deduct their compensation by that amount. So while walking without proper shoes likely won’t be considered 50% to blame for your accident, walking without proper footwear and ignoring blockades meant to keep people out might.
New Jersey Winter Slip-and-Fall Accident Attorneys - Protecting Your Rights
At Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., our New Jersey slip-and fall-lawyers have been protecting the rights of injured clients for nearly two decades. Through skills and resources gained from years of success in the courtroom, we can provide you with the representation you need to make your claim for compensation a success. We are dedicated to the well-being of each victim. To learn more about how we can aid you in your case today, call (609) 240-0040.
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