March 28, 2016
Slip and Fall Accidents
In Massachusetts, winter and even spring months can be a wonderland of snow and ice. After winter storm Jonas and several other blizzards this year, walkway conditions have been dangerous for many East Coast residents. Slip and fall accidents most often occur as a result of improperly maintained common areas, especially when conditions are icy, resulting in over 1 million hospital visits per year.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Property owners are responsible for maintaining the safety of common areas like walkways, lobbies, stairwells, hallways, exercise rooms, and elevators. While snow, and ice cause the majority of slip and fall accidents in areas with hazardous winter weather, residents can be injured due to other defects, including:
· Broken stairs or railings
· Liquid spills in common areas or in stairwells
· Cracked or uneven floors, stairs, or pavement
· Debris left in common areas
· Inadequate lighting
When is an Owner Liable for Slip and Fall Accidents?
In Massachusetts, property owners have a duty of reasonable care to protect residents from unsafe common areas. A duty of “reasonable care” depends on the parties and property involved, as well as the period of time between the common area defect and the injury. In order to prove that the property owner is liable, the injured party must show that the owner was negligent by failing to maintain the premises with reasonable care.
Duty of Care in Snow and Ice Cases vs. Other Types of Slip and Fall Accidents
In many New England states, snow and ice are a way of life, and it may be harder to prove that a property owner is at fault. Courts may assume residents have learned to live with bad weather and to take reasonable precautions when traveling in snow or ice. For example, Massachusetts law states that a city is not liable for injuries sustained from snow or ice falls if the place where the injury occurred was otherwise reasonably safe and convenient for travelers. Likewise, property owners may not be expected to take unreasonable measures to ensure safety of walkways when snow or ice are involved. For example, an apartment landlord may not be expected to clear snow from a walkway at 2:30 a.m. when a snowfall has just begun, but if entrance areas remain un-shoveled and unsalted hours or days later, the landlord may be liable.
In a slip and fall accident caused by something other than snow or ice, the reasonable care standard still applies. For example, if an apartment building resident is injured as a result of a broken stair, the property owner may be liable if the court determines that the stairwell was improperly maintained. The location of the fall is a significant factor as well. With the elderly especially susceptible to falls, nursing homes and other assisted living facilities are held to a higher standard of care to protect the safety of residents at a higher risk of falling on unsafe surfaces.
Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident?
If you have sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident, contact experienced personal injury attorney Paul Santos right away for help. Call 508-996-0941 or contact me online for a free initial consultation to discuss your case.