Residents of the Northeast region of the United States regularly experience some pretty crazy weather conditions; and when it comes to weather, those in the Garden State know to expect the unexpected; be ready for whatever Mother Nature decides dish out; and then get ready for the exact opposite. It is important to note that the weather’s ability to turn on a dime is not limited to New Jersey’s winter months. In fact, the spring, summer, and fall present some of the most challenging weather conditions to New Jersey residents, visitors, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, homeowners, commercial store owners, and customers.
Springtime is particularly difficult for property owners. Residual snowbanks and ice tend to melt in the sun’s warmth during the day, creating huge puddles and slushy sidewalks and parking lots. Conversely, New Jersey spring evenings tend to get extremely cold – and those puddles and slush pits turn to dangerous, icy walkways and sidewalks. Potholes and cracked pavement spring up overnight. Icicles and black ice create additional hazards.
On a brisk spring morning, I was hurt badly when I tripped, slipped, and fell on a store’s walkway that was damaged due to continual refreezing. Do I have a chance at recovery; or am I out of luck?
New Jersey residents know all too well that springtime creates slushy, bumpy, sandy, slippery, and uneven sidewalks and parking lots. But, does that mean that commercial property owners such as store owners can allow their walkways and parking lots to pose dangers to pedestrians?
In New Jersey, owners and managers of commercial properties have a legal responsibility to their patrons to ensure parking lots and walkways are free from hazardous conditions. Slippery, cracked, and uneven walkways may certainly be considered hazardous. If you slipped, fell, and injured yourself because of a hazardous condition, you may have a claim for compensation. In order to determine if you may be able to recover damages, contact the personal injury legal team at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo today to discuss your case.
How to establish liability for a slip and fall case
In all slip and fall cases, in order to establish liability, the ultimate question to resolve is whether the property owner had a duty to patrons to provide safe parking lot and walkway conditions, whether he/she/it breached that duty, and whether that breach directly caused a person’s injuries. Here is a closer look at the ways to establish liability:
- The owner or property manager caused or created the dangerous/hazardous condition on the premises by taking action or failing to take action, which if they had they done (or not done), would have removed the hazard. If a store owner failed to do anything about icy and/or cracked pavement, such as treating and retreating the area, the failure to do so may establish liability.
- The property owner knew about the dangerous/hazardous condition (or recurring and therefore foreseeable condition) and did not correct or remove it. If a property owner actually finds a dangerous condition on the property, he or she must take the appropriate steps to correct or remove the issue in order to prevent patrons from suffering potential injuries. If the condition is not immediately fixable, property owners must post clear warnings and/or restrict the area from use.
- The property owner should have known about the dangerous/hazardous condition because it would be obvious to a reasonable person in a similar situation to take measures to fix the condition. Again, foreseeability is a big theme. If a property owner should know that specific springtime conditions will create icy, wet, or otherwise dangerous parking lots, he or she must remove the hazardous conditions in order to prevent potential injuries to patrons. In a New Jersey spring, melting and refreezing snow and ice is certainly foreseeable. So are cracked and damaged cement walkways.
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Simply establishing that a commercial property owner is liable for a patron’s injuries does not, in and of itself, guarantee a slam dunk win if resulting litigation ensues. The court (and jury) will examine the facts and determine whether the injured party acted prudently and reasonably given the wintery conditions. Since most people are experienced in walking on snow or ice – especially in New Jersey – why didn’t the injured party take more care in order to avoid falling? This is a question that needs a good answer; an experienced personal injury attorney will help craft such a response.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries following a slip and fall accident, a premises liability attorney at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo can inform you of your legal rights and work to help you seek the compensation to which you may be entitled. Call or contact us today at (888) 675-7607 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.