Snow and Ice Injuries in Massachusetts
It’s no secret that the winters in Massachusetts can be harsh. Our state is susceptible to sub-zero temperatures, not to mention serious winter storms that heap snow across its cities. And when temperatures rise and fall and snow melts and re-freezes, hazardous walking conditions are a reality. This means property owners must take reasonable action to prevent slip and fall accidents.
When property owners don’t make efforts to remove snow and ice or minimize slippery surfaces, people get hurt. If you’ve become a victim of a fall-down accident on snow and ice, you may have rights to financial compensation which can be pursued by filing a Massachusetts premises liability case. Slip and fall attorney Peter Ventura, based in Worcester, can discuss the merits of your case and your legal rights in a free consultation.
Property Owners’ Liability
Property owners have a duty to ensure that their sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and walking areas are safe for visitors. In the winter, responsible property care means that snow and ice is removed in a timely manner with reasonable precautions, like salting walkways or posting warning signs.
In Massachusetts, snow removal regulations may differ by municipality. Use this Sidewalk Snow Removal Map by mass.gov to determine if your accident resulted from a violation of snow removal policies in your town. Keep in mind that these policies may differ for homeowners, business owners, and cities/towns.
The responsibility to keep walkways and public areas free from snow and ice extends to your employer as well. Nationally, slip-and-fall accidents comprised a quarter of work-related injuries in 2015 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), and there are federal guidelines per OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act; see §1910.22(d)) which require employers to meet specific safety standards. If you believe that your workplace injury occurred because your employer failed to follow federal guidelines intended to prevent dangerous working conditions, you need an attorney to represent your interests and make sure you receive the compensation you’re owed.
We Understand the Consequences of Falls on Snow and Ice
Attorney Peter Ventura has dealt with Massachusetts premises liability cases like yours before, and he knows that while your fall only took a second to occur, its impact can be long lasting. Victims often are faced with orthopedic surgery and months, if not years, of pain.
All too often, injuries include:
- Broken bones such as fractures to the ankle, leg or pelvis
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries or disc injuries
- Injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments
- Hip, elbow, or knee joint injuries
- Back injury
- Hand, wrist, and arm injuries
- Sprains, strains, and muscle injuries
What To Do First If Injured
If you are injured in a slip or fall on ice or snow, there are a few things you should do right away. After first securing appropriate medical care, if possible, do your best to document the history of your accident before you leave the scene, with photos and witness information, or have a friend go back quickly for photos. Serious injuries may require immediate medical attention, or your symptoms may not show up until days later.
What is perhaps most frustrating for our clients is to know that their accidents could have been prevented. Maybe the property owner or manager didn’t remove the snow and ice from a sidewalk or parking lot at all; or, perhaps, they did a poor job of clearing the area. In other cases, snow and ice may have been left on the ground for an inordinate amount of time, or salts and other de-icing chemicals were not applied. We’ll talk about the circumstances that led to your fall to see if the property owner’s negligence may have been a factor upon which Attorney Ventura can file a legal claim for you.
Massachusetts Snow & Ice Laws
Current Massachusetts law imposes liability for injuries incurred due to negligent maintenance or lack of removal of snow and ice, irrespective of whether the ice or snow is considered natural or unnatural.
- Unnatural accumulations of snow and ice occur when a property owner attempts to remove the problem snow or ice, but the result is still dangerous conditions for visitors. For example, piles of snow can melt, causing ice to form over cleared sidewalks. Without putting down an ice melting product, or sand or salt, over the cleared walkways, visitors could still slip and fall on ice.
- Natural conditions occur during regular snowfall or ice storms, as snow or ice piles up on areas a visitor might use. Reasonable care in this situation might include putting down snow melting substances in advance of the storm and clearing snow during the storm or immediately afterward.
- Reasonable care involves foresight of potential problems and taking action to try to prevent hazards. Some local communities also pass snow and ice ordinances that require timely removal of snowfall or ice from walkways.
Slip and fall injury cases may hinge upon proof of these important factors:
- Owner caused the dangerous condition and that danger resulted in the accident
- The condition was known or should have been known to the owner, but not corrected
- Reasonable care was not used in addressing the dangerous condition
In addition to property owners having to use reasonable care in keeping their property free from hazards like snow and ice, other persons or businesses who in some way control, maintain or supervise property must also use reasonable care as well.
We Help Victims Navigate the Murky Areas of Premises Liability Cases
Slip and fall cases involving snow and ice can be confusing since statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions regarding snow accumulation and cleanup often do not provide black and white answers. In general, property owners are required to use reasonable care and effort under the circumstances to minimize the risk of injury to others from falls. Issues, however, persist for such questions as: just what is a reasonable amount of time to clear the snow to prevent injuries? Does it have to be cleared within an hour, two hours or a day?
The last thing you need to do after a serious slip and fall injury is try to wade through tricky matters of premises liability law. Attorney Peter Ventura’s specialty is complex and challenging cases often involving difficult liability circumstances. Attorney Ventura will explore all of the unique aspects of your case to see whether a legal claim can be made so you can focus on recovery.
Injured in a Slip and Fall? Worcester Attorney Peter Ventura is Here to Help
Specific Massachusetts laws address snow and ice, and personal injury attorney Peter Ventura is aware of all currently applicable laws that would apply to your case. Time is of the essence in all legal matters. Massachusetts laws (MGL c. 84, §§ 18-20 & MGL c. 84, § 21) set a time period of 30 days in which to notify the municipality or property owner of injury or damage that has occurred on their property. The state also allows local counties, cities and towns to set their own regulations for snow and ice conditions.
Peter Ventura, a slip and fall attorney in Worcester, focuses only on personal injury claims and will answer your questions about Massachusetts premises liability cases dealing with snow and ice. For 25 years, this former Worcester County assistant district attorney has represented personal injury victims. When you’ve suffered a slip and fall injury in Massachusetts, contact us for a free consultation.