Winter is officially upon us, and with winter comes ice and snow. Unfortunately, ice and snow can be extremely hazardous if not removed properly. Even if a pedestrian/patron exercises extreme caution, hidden ice or uncleared snow can cause serious injury, including broken legs, broken arms, skull fractures, knee ligament (ACL/MCL) tears, and more.
Many New Hampshire snow or ice-related injuries to pedestrians/patrons are merely unpreventable accidents and no one’s fault. However, some injuries may be the result of a property owner’s negligence in maintaining their property. In New Hampshire, all property owners must exercise reasonable care in the maintenance and operation of their premises. Rallis v. Demoulas Super Markets, 159 N.H. 95 (2009). If a property owner fails to meet the standard of “reasonable care,” they may be found liable for negligence.
The owner of a property (premises) is liable for harm caused by that owner’s failure to correct — or give warning of — a known “dangerous condition” on a property. Ice near a storefront, for example, is a dangerous condition. Ice and snow slip-and-fall accidents often occur in parking lots of stores, other businesses, and residential homes.
Therefore, a property owner may be liable for negligence for pedestrian/patron slips-and-falls on their property caused by ice. The victim would need to show that (a) the property owner knew (or should have known) of the dangerous ice, and (b) the injury was reasonably foreseeable.
Taking the example of a grocery store with a sheet of black ice in front of the doorway, the victim would need to first show that the grocery store knew of the ice, or should have known about the ice if it had adequately inspected. Second, the victim would need to show that it was foreseeable that they would slip on the ice and harm themselves. Should these conditions be met, the grocery store (property owner) could well be found negligent and liable for damages.
Of course, pedestrians must act reasonably as well. A jury (or court) could find that the pedestrian/victim did not exercise sufficient caution, and limit or prohibit the victim from recovering damages under the doctrine of comparative negligence.
As a note, New Hampshire law RSA 508:22, which came into effect in 2013, will often play a role in ice/snow lawsuits. That law protects property owners from snow/ice liability when a premise is maintained by a “commercial applicator” of salt to roadways/parking lots. In order to avail themselves of these protections, commercial applicators must meet certain certification requirements under the statute.
In sum, the weather during winter can create serious safety hazards. Sometimes, injuries due to ice and snow are not preventable: they’re just a part of living in New Hampshire. On the other hand, sometimes injuries occur because a property owner did not take the reasonable steps necessary to make their property safe. In those situations, an injured person might be able to bring a claim against the property owner’s insurance company, or the contractor responsible for managing the property.
If you have a personal injury claim involving a slip-and-fall on ice, or another injury on someone else’s property, contact us today. Welts, White & Fontaine attorneys have decades of experience in personal injury law and the knowledge and tools necessary to obtain favorable settlements and verdicts for their clients.
Welts, White & Fontaine serves clients across Southern New Hampshire, from Concord to Nashua, Windham to Milford, and everywhere in between. We’re the largest law firm in Nashua and typically represent personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis: no upfront cost and our fee comes from a percentage of your settlement.
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Author: Jack S. White
This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion or forming an attorney-client relationship.