Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow

According to the Tribune Review, as of February 16, 2021, Pittsburgh had received 52 inches of snow this winter, more than twice the yearly average.

Now that most of the snow is hopefully behind us, it’s a good time to look at some of the general rules that apply to snow and ice injury cases.  This article contains general rules only, which may not apply to your specific case.  If you want to figure out if you have a valid injury case from a slip or fall on snow or ice, please call one of our personal injury attorneys at 412-338-1000 for a free, no obligation consultation.

When a person is injured as a result of a slip and fall on ice, that type of case is referred to as a “premises liability” case.  Many people believe that “I fell on someone’s else’s property and was injured, so they are responsible”.  This common belief is incorrect and premises liability cases can be among some of the more complicated cases to win.

Premises Liability and Ice

In all premises liability cases (which includes not only snow and ice, but also other types of property defects), your ability to obtain compensation for your injuries largely depends on your relationship to the person or business who possesses the property.  Of course, the type, nature, and extent of the condition that caused your injury is also important and is discussed later in this article.

Pennsylvania law identifies three basic legal classes of people on any piece of property:  1. Invitees; 2. Licensees; and 3. Trespassers.  It is quite difficult to obtain a settlement or financial recovery if you were a Trespasser, so this article will focus on Invitees and Licensees.

Premises Liability and Invitees

An “invitee” is entitled to the highest protection under the law. Generally speaking, an invitee includes a person who is either a business visitor or a public invitee. A business visitor is on the land for the business purposes of the owner.  A public invitee is a person who is on public land for a purpose for which the land is held open for the public’s use.

One example of a business visitor would be someone who is entering a grocery store and slips on snow and ice that was left inside the store and melted.  An example of a public invitee might be someone who attends a free concert in the park and slips in the parking lot. Most of our snow and ice cases involve business visitors.

If you are an invitee, you have to prove three facts or issues before you can obtain a settlement.  You have to show that the possessor knew or should have known about the snow or ice, and that the possessor should have known that the snow/ice involved an unreasonable risk of harm.  You must also show that possessor should expect that you will not be able to appreciate the danger, or that you would fail to protect yourself against the danger.  And finally, you must show that the possessor failed to exercise reasonable care to protect you against the danger.   

Premises Liability and Licensees

It is a little more difficult to obtain fair compensation for your injuries if you are a “licensee”.  A licensee is a person who is privileged to enter or remain on land only by virtue of the possessor’s consent.  One example of a licensee might be a person who is injured when walking across someone else’s sidewalk. 

Although the words used to describe legal liability for licensees and invitees appear similar, there are important differences.  If you are a licensee, to obtain a settlement you must show that 1.  the possessor knows or has reason to know of the condition and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to you, and should expect that you will not discover or realize the danger and; 2. the possessor fails to exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn you of the condition and the risks involved, and; 3. you do not know or have reason to know of the condition and the risk involved.  

Snow and Ice Personal Injury

In addition to the above laws, there are specific rules that apply to snow and ice cases.  When the snow or ice that causes your injuries is entirely the result of recent, natural accumulations of snow or ice it can be very difficult to obtain fair compensation for your losses. On the other hand, if the snow or ice has existed for so long that it has developed “hills and ridges”, then you have a better chance of obtaining a favorable settlement.  These “hills and ridges”  typically occur when people walk or drive on snow and ice, which then thaws and refreezes. Additionally, if the snow or ice that causes your injury was not entirely the result of natural snow or ice, you have a better chance of receiving a settlement.   We frequently handle cases where ice accumulates as a result of a leaky gutter, or an accumulation of plowed snow that melts and refreezes.

Slip and Fall on Ice Settlements

With the amount of snow we receive in Western Pennsylvania, there are many different ways a person can be injured by snow or ice.  Because of the relative complexity of the laws, as well as the many ways you can be injured, it can be quite difficult to figure out if you have the right to compensation for your injuries.  If you or a loved one have been injured by snow or ice on someone else’s property, you should contact one of our injury attorneys at 412-338-1000 to determine your rights.