Karns & Kerrison Blog

Ask a Lawyer: Who Is Liable if I Slip and Fall on Ice?

Posted by Robert T. Karns | Jan 12, 2021 | 0 Comments

And Should I Consider Filing for Compensation?

Hate it or love it, winter has come once again to Rhode Island, meaning our roads and walkways have an additional threat: snow and ice. While most people and businesses do their part to keep sidewalks, parking lots, and other footpaths safe, there are unfortunately a few who do not put pedestrian welfare first. Perhaps these people don't realize slip and falls can lead to serious, life-changing injuries like broken bones, spinal cord injury, or even brain damage. Regardless of their reasoning, you deserve the chance to file for compensation if you were severely injured in a slip and fall.

Speaking with an attorney is a sure-fire way to clarify your rights—and we offer free, no-obligation consultations if you're looking for help—but if you're just after information, here are the ways liability would be determined in a few common slip-and-fall scenarios.

Slip and Falls on Commercial Properties

Sidewalks, parking lots, entryways, and driveways can all be the location of snow and ice buildup or formation. It is a business owner's responsibility to ensure visitors are not endangered by such conditions. Especially risky is black ice, formed when water re-freezes overnight. This hazard may persist in shady areas even when the temperature is above freezing, increasing the likelihood someone will be caught by it.

Commercial property owners should be aware of black ice and other slip hazards on their land and do their part to keep visitors safe, salting paved areas and posting warnings for this “invisible” danger if necessary. When a business fails to monitor and take care of any slip and fall hazard in a timely manner, it can be held liable for injuries sustained by customers or other visitors to a property.

Slip and Falls at Someone's Home

If your visit to a friend's house ends with a slip and fall down their porch stairs, you do have the right to file for compensation. Even though they are not overseeing a commercial property, homeowners are responsible for taking reasonable care to ensure those expected on their property are safe. This includes everyone from USPS and delivery drivers to personal guests. Trespassers, however, are not protected by the law—so showing your presence was (or should have been) expected can be essential to making your case in this scenario.

Slip and Falls on Sidewalks

If you are out for a walk, on the other hand, there may not be a clear path to liability after a slip and fall. Though sidewalks may run along private property (either residential or commercial), state law says that landowners have no obligation to ensure they are safe. However, local laws may set different standards: In Providence, it is a property owner's duty to create a snow- and ice-free path that is at least 3 feet wide on any sidewalks that abut their land. An attorney can help you understand the laws that govern the region you live in, so you know whether you can file a claim.

Slip and Falls on Rental Properties

If you live in a rental, is it your responsibility to clear sidewalks and steps, or your landlord's? By Rhode Island law, a landlord is bound to keep shared spaces (including sidewalks, parking lots, etc.) clean and safe for use. This includes clearing dangerous slip hazards like snow and ice in a timely manner. 

Slip and Falls on Public Property

Publicly owned land is under the care of our government and must be maintained to the same standards as any commercial property. From courthouses to libraries to schools and beyond, the government has a responsibility to foresee how visitors may be expected to behave and to ensure the land is safe for that use.

When dangerous snow and ice causes a slip and fall on government property, the victim can bring a case directly against the city or state. However, filing a claim against a government is different than facing an individual or company. We advise you reach out to a lawyer right away in this situation to ensure you meet the procedural guidelines for filing your claim.

What If I'm Hurt at a Park of Other Recreational Area?

For those who enjoy outdoor winter activities, your legal protections may be lesser. When landowners opt to let visitors use their property for recreational purposes, they are freed from the requirement to ensure their land is free of foreseeable hazards. Therefore, as a recreational user of land, it's important to be on guard for dangerous situations, as you may not be able to file for compensation if you are seriously injured.

Exceptions to the Law

While property owners are expected to provide reasonable protections for potential visitors, the law does allow them some leeway. The word “reasonable” leads courts to consider whether a property owner knew (or should have known) about a dangerous condition and whether that person had time to fix it before an accident happened. Therefore, you will find it hard to bring a case for a slip and fall when:

  • You were injured during or shortly after a storm, before the property owner had sufficient time to clear away snow and ice
  • You were injured on a commercial property that was at the time closed for business and where the dangerous conditions had been caused by weather events that were ongoing when it closed or that occurred after its closure
  • You were injured on a personal property late at night or early in the morning, when a property owner had not had time to clear away ice or other hazards that accumulated overnight

Even if you believe a property owner had sufficient time to be made aware of and remedy the dangers on their land, they might defend themselves using the principle above. If you face such a challenge to your suit, having an experienced attorney to fight for you can make a difference.  

Ask Us for Support with Your Snow or Ice Slip and Fall Case

Karns & Kerrison has over 85 years of combined experience fighting for people like you who suffered severe injuries through no fault of their own. When you slip and fall because someone did not clean up dangerous snow or ice, you could suffer life-changing injuries—and you deserve financial support for all the challenges they introduce into your day-to-day.

Filing a claim for compensation can help you recover damages like:

  • Hospital bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

The consequences of a serious slip and fall injury can go far beyond medical expenses, and the remedies should as well. We are here to support you in bringing a claim against anyone who was liable for your accident.

Call us at (888) 281-3100 to schedule a completely free consultation with one of our attorneys today. We've recovered over $250 million for our clients.

About the Author

Robert T. Karns

Founding Attorney


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