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What to Know About Falls During Wet and Icy Weather

What to Know About Falls During Wet and Icy Weather

Rainy or freezing weather can make ordinarily safe conditions treacherous. Too often, slippery ground isn’t obvious until one’s feet are sliding away. A simple fall can cause serious injuries, involving substantial medical expenses and lost work time. People injured by falls in wet or icy weather may have the option to sue for compensation under Nevada’s premises liability laws.

Premises liability and landowner negligence

Premises liability is a variation of the general theory of negligence. In a negligence lawsuit, the injured plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, breached that duty, and the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. In the case of premises liability, Nevada law imposes a duty upon landowners (or other responsible occupants, like lessees) to take reasonable care that visitors on their properties are not injured by risks on the premises. Foster v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 128 Nev. 773, 777 (2012). The general duty of reasonable care extends to risks created by both natural and artificial conditions on the land. Id. at 780. In the Costco case, the Nevada Supreme Court extended landowner liability to “open and obvious” risks that the landowner has not properly addressed. Id. at 778-79.

Businesses are held to a high standard

The law distinguishes between different types of landowners. Businesses owe visitors a duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition for use. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993). A business can have liability for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on its property if its employees create the problem (for example, by spilling something on the floor) or if the business has actual or constructive notice of the condition (for example, if a visitor to a store spills a bottle of oil and tells an employee about it) and fails to correct the problem. Id.

A homeowner who invites friends over for a visit owes visitors a lower duty of care than a business. If dangerous conditions exist, and the homeowner knows about them, he or she has a duty to warn visitors about the conditions and take steps to fix them. But a homeowner doesn’t have a business’s obligation to actively inspect for risks. A homeowner who doesn’t know about a hidden patch of ice on her front walkway might not be liable for a fall there.

Someone who is injured in a fall can have their ability to recover compensation reduced if their own negligence contributed to their injuries.

Premises liability for wet and icy conditions

A landowner’s legal liability for a slip and fall heavily depends upon the specific facts of the situation. For businesses, a strong case can be made for liability if proper care hasn’t been taken to watch for and address a wet or icy condition. Bad facts for a defendant might include a failure to promptly post signs like “wet floor” warnings, not shoveling snow or salting ice, or failing to put down an anti-slip mat in a location where rain water is known to create a slippery condition. A business needs to actively ensure that wet or icy weather isn’t creating dangerous conditions.

A homeowner can also wind up with liability if a known condition isn’t addressed. For example, pipes and sprinkler systems often freeze and break during cold weather, leading to leaks that can create ice across walkways. If the homeowner knows (or should know) about the dangerous condition, he or she needs to take steps to get rid of the ice or at least post a warning.

Don’t hesitate to talk to a personal injury lawyer about slip and fall accidents

The GGRM law firm has represented injured Las Vegas residents for over 45 years. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident and would like to speak to a lawyer about your legal options, call us today for a free consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.