Every winter, personal injury lawyers throughout Philadelphia are asked if an accident victim can sue property owners after they have fallen on ice and snow. Not all slip and falls on ice and snow result in a personal injury claim, but there are times when they can. If you have fallen on someone else’s property as a result of ice and snow, it is important to speak to an attorney that can review the facts of your case and determine if you have a valid legal claim.
The Hills and Ridges Doctrine
All property owners in Pennsylvania are required to take reasonable care to ensure their premises are safe for visitors. This includes when winter storms cause snow and ice to accumulate on the property. Property owners are required to clear their premises, including driveways and sidewalks, of snow and ice and when they do, they are protected from liability.
However, due to the fact that snow and ice are a common part of Pennsylvania’s winters, the law also includes the hills and ridges doctrine. This rule states that property owners cannot be held liable for slip and falls due to snow and ice, unless they have allowed hills and ridges to form on their premises for an unreasonable amount of time.
For example, if snow accumulated in a natural manner after an overnight snow storm, the property owner likely would not be held liable for injuries if someone slipped and fell on ice early in the morning. However, if the accumulation remained for several days and the property owner did nothing to correct the situation, they could be considered negligent and be held liable for damages.
Defenses in Slip and Fall Cases
Property owners often raise certain defenses to shield them from liability in slip and fall cases. When a fall was caused by snow or ice, the two most common defenses are as follows:
- Assumption of risk: The defense of assumption of risk argues that the accident victim saw the dangerous condition and still chose to confront it. For example, if the accident victim saw a patch of ice, and also saw a safer route, but chose to walk on the ice anyway, that is an assumption of risk that could provide the property owner a defense.
- Comparative negligence: Comparative negligence is slightly different from assumption of risk. When using comparative negligence as a defense, the property owner will argue that the accident victim contributed to the accident. For example, if the accident victim was not wearing proper winter footwear when they fell, that could serve as a defense. Still, so long as the injured individual was less than 50 percent at fault, they can still claim a portion of their damages.
Our Slip and Fall Lawyer in Philadelphia Can Prove Your Case
If you have been hurt on someone else’s property, our Philadelphia trip and fall lawyer at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin can prove your case. We know the defenses property owners raise, and how to refute their arguments so you claim the full and fair settlement you deserve. Call us today at 215-515-6892 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.