Kentucky’s winters can be beautiful when snow covers the landscape, but snow and icy weather bring hazards as well. Trip and fall accidents increase greatly during icy conditions, as people fall while attempting to navigate slippery sidewalks, parking lots, and other outdoor spaces.
A recent Canadian study shows that 30 percent of older adult have at least one fall each year, and nearly 25 percent of falls cause serious injuries, such as joint dislocations, lacerations, fractures, spinal cord injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries. While we aren’t in Canada, Kentuckians have their share of nasty winter weather, and the dangers of slipping on the ice are just as real. Freezing rain conditions that resulted in alerts were commensurate with a 20 percent increase in older people falling, while there was a slight decrease in accidents when there was a snowstorm warning. While stronger cautions against venturing outside in icy conditions might be advantageous, the bottom line is that people are getting seriously injured on the ice, and the elderly need to be particularly careful, as some injuries can lead to severe incapacitation or even death.
Factors Contributing to Slip and Fall Accidents in Icy Weather
While everyone knows that ice is slippery, there are some factors that make icy weather particularly dangerous. These include:
- Black Ice: Black ice is a thin layer of ice that is nearly invisible, so it is difficult for pedestrians to detect and avoid.
- Melting and Refreezing: When snow melts and refreezes, it can result in the formation of icy patches, turning walkways and parking lots into potential danger zones.
- Inadequate Snow and Ice Removal: Negligent snow and ice removal and maintenance of sidewalks, parking lots, and entryways by property owners can lead to dangerous icy surfaces.
Steps to Take in Icy Weather
Slipping on ice can happen without warning. There isn’t much time to react, and suddenly you have a broken arm or leg, dislocated shoulder or hip, deep cuts, bruises, general pain, muscle strain, spinal cord injuries, or even a concussion. It’s nearly impossible to avoid going outside all winter, so it’s important to use extreme caution and take the following precautions:
- Increase the amount of travel time you allot for walking and for driving so you can navigate slowly and cautiously.
- Wear secure footwear, such as shoes or boots that have deep tread or removable traction cleats
- Avoid wearing multifocal eyeglasses when walking where it’s slippery, as the various lenses can impair your vision.
- Steer clear of alcohol and sedatives, because both can affect your balance and coordination.
- If you find yourself walking on ice, bend your knees slightly and take short steps, as this allows more control over where you are stepping and how much pressure you are putting on each step.
- Avoid carrying large loads that can throw you off balance or block your view.
- If you feel yourself falling, resist the temptation to let your hands or wrists take the brunt of the impact when you fall. Too much pressure on joints can quickly lead to breaks.
Steps to Take If Injured on Ice
Many fall-related injuries require surgery, which can lead to a chain reaction of issues, especially in older adults, who then are open to a world of complications. Anyone injured in a slip and fall accident in icy weather should consider taking the following steps:
- Document the Scene: If physically able, document the scene of the accident by taking photos or videos that show any hazardous conditions, such as icy patches or lack of proper maintenance. Get names of witnesses who can testify as to dangerous conditions and what happened.
- Seek Medical Attention: Call emergency responders if badly injured. Even if injuries seem minor, get evaluated as there may be hidden or internal injuries.
- Report the Incident: Report the slip and fall incident to the property owner or manager. Ensure that the incident is documented, and get a copy of the report for your records.
- Get Legal Advice: If your slip and fall was caused by someone else’s negligence or fault for failure to maintain property, you may be entitled to compensation. Awards for slip and fall accidents in Kentucky may cover both economic (reimbursement for actual expenses) and noneconomic (non-quantifiable) costs such as pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine if you have a case.
Get Help After a Slip and Fall Accident in Icy Weather
While everyone needs to exercise extra caution when conditions are icy, sometimes slip and fall accidents are the fault of the owner or manager of the property where the fall occurred. Property owners and managers have a duty of care to maintain their property to avoid harming others, such as by removing ice and snow from walkways and warning of dangerous conditions.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has recently determined that a landowner’s duty to remove or warn against natural outdoor hazards is not eliminated just because a hazard is obvious. Landowners who do not make reasonable efforts to correct dangers that others will foreseeably encounter have breached their duty of care. If this is the case and you are injured as a result, the responsible parties can be held liable.
Slip-and-fall cases are complicated, and property owners and their insurance companies have high-powered lawyers working to deny claims, but you do not have to fight for fair compensation on your own. Help is available from the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Johnson Law Firm, in Pikeville, KY. We have years of experience helping Kentuckians who have been injured by the negligence of others and are fully prepared to do the same for you.
Call us now for a free case evaluation to determine if you have a case and the best way to proceed.