Not many people like the winter season due to the frigid temperatures and duties that come with keeping your property safe. Ice and snow can cause serious falls that can result in injuries and damages.
Property owners must keep their spaces safe for visitors or people passing by. Slip and fall cases can be complicated to resolve.
In Maryland, business or property owners are not always responsible for what occurs on their property. Accidents happen, but the owner of the property in which the accident occurred is not always at fault.
The most common outside falls occur due to inadequate lighting, a lack of handrails, depressions and holes, broken and uneven sidewalks, and ice and snow that was not properly treated or removed.
Slip and fall cases have two components: liability and damages. Liability is based on who was at fault for the fall. If the property owner was aware of the condition that caused the fall and injuries, he or she would be liable for the incident.
In the state of Maryland, property owners are only responsible for accidents that were caused by dangerous conditions that they had prior knowledge of. For example, if you were walking down someone’s driveway and fell due to a lack of salt or properly plowed snow, the owner of the property would be at fault for the accident if they were aware of the dangerous condition of their driveway.
You can build a case against a property owner after a fall if they had knowledge of the issue and chose not to warn you or correct the issue.
Property owners must be on top of putting salt on ice and plowing snow if they are anticipating visitors shortly. Keeping up with this maintenance can save the property owner from being at fault for a slip and fall that occurred on their property.
If a visitor slips and falls and sustains injuries from the incident, help them the best you can and call for help.
A property owner may have been unaware of the circumstances outside of their home at the time of the fall. With this being said, the owner would not be at fault for what occurred on their property.
Ice Accidents and Liability (Contributory Negligence) in Maryland
In personal injury lawsuits, Maryland follows the contributory negligence doctrine. Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is found to have contributed to the accident, even it is 1%, they are prohibited from receiving compensatory damages from the defendant.
Because of this doctrine, if someone is aware that pavement or sidewalk is covered with ice or snow, they assume the risk when they venture across the walkway. Someone should reasonably expect ice or snow to be slippery. Therefore, if you saw the hazardous condition yet continued forward, a court or jury will likely find you partially at fault – meaning your case will probably be dismissed.
There is an exception for black ice. Black ice is often referred to as clear ice, as it is not black. Rather, black ice is a thin coating of ice that is visually transparent, allowing the black surface of the roadway to show through. In many cases, there are either low levels or no snow surrounding a patch of black ice. Because of this condition, black ice is practically invisible to both pedestrians and motorists.
Maryland’s highest court held that black ice cases are different than other slip and fall cases caused by snow and ice. Because a plaintiff could not reasonably be expected to see black ice, there is no assumption of risk. Our Baltimore personal injury attorneys will still have to establish that the ice was black and invisible.
Landlords and Ice Covered Property in Maryland
There are also different circumstances for landlords regarding the removal of snow and ice. the underlying question is who is legally responsible for shoveling snow or clearing ice. In nearly every case, the answer lies in the language of the lease or rental agreement. If the lease terms require the landlord to remove ice and snow, you could have a viable personal injury claim if your landlord neglects their duty and you are injured in a fall. it is important to note that the lease controls. If the terms of your agreement indicate the landlord is responsible, they have a legal obligation whether they reside in the building, a neighboring county, or another state.
What Should You Do After a Fall?
The first thing one should do after slipping and falling due to a lack of plowed snow or ice is to tend to injuries. If you are unable to stand up on your own, call for help if you have a cellphone on you.
If there are any people around you, ask for help. These people may also be potential witnesses if a case is brought to court.
It is important to get the witnesses’ contact information and names.
It is also crucial that photos are taken of the area in which the fall occurred for evidence. These photos will need to be taken directly after the incident occurred.
If a case is brought to court, you may be questioned about the shoes you were wearing at the time of the fall. the defense attorney may state that the shoes that you wore at the time of the incident were the cause of the fall. it is for this reason that you safeguard the clothing and shoes you were wearing on the day of the fall for evidence.
Just as in any other case, you should write down the details of the incident. Sometimes, a particular detail can slip one’s mind after a couple of months have passed after the incident.
Writing down the details like the time of the fall, injuries sustained, what you were wearing, and witnesses can help determine fault.
If the property owner is at fault for the fall, you can recover your damages. In the state of Maryland, “damages” refers to economic losses and non-economic losses.
Examples of economic losses that can be recovered are medical bills received when treating injuries from the incident, loss of employment or income, and any other economic losses that occurred due to the fall.
Non-Economic losses are different. You can recover these damages if you experience physical pain, physical impairment, damage to a relationship, disfigurement, and inconvenience.
You must document or write down these losses to receive compensation after the accident.
The amount of compensation one can receive depends on the severity of the damages sustained from the fall. If you were seriously injured from the fall, you will most likely receive much compensation. You will receive compensation for medical bills, any economic losses due to the fall, pain, and suffering.
If you are suffering greatly from a slip and fall, you should contact a lawyer to assist with the case.
There are some cases in which a property owner or business has “no-fault” insurance. This is also known as “medical payments.” Medical payments help pay for medical bills after a slip and fall no matter who is at fault. Medical payment coverages are limited to $5,000.
Preparing Your Maryland Slip and Fall Accident Claim
Slip and fall accidents are typically challenging. When snow and ice are involved, they become more difficult. You must be prepared to answer a series of questions regarding your injures and the accident. In most cases, a defense attorney or insurance adjuster will create a strategy based on the premise that you assumed the risk and were aware of the icy conditions of the property. They will have to show that you knew about the ice before your fall.
Our Dundalk personal injury lawyers will focus on the property owner’s conduct and the property’s condition. One tactic is to establish that the defendant failed to comply with the local snow and ice removal laws. We will turn to expert witnesses and other evidence to try and establish that you were unaware of the dangerous condition of the property.
Snow Removal Laws and Rules for Specific Counties in Maryland
Many towns and counties have enacted laws to regulate the removal of ice and snow.
Anne Arundel County
Business owners and residents are required to shovel their sidewalks and surrounding property within six hours after a snowstorm has ended. If the snow fell overnight, the ice and snow must be removed by 11:00 am the following morning.
In Baltimore County, a sidewalk must be cleared within 24 hours after a snowstorm.
City of Laurel
After a snowstorm, residents and businesses have 12 hours to clear their sidewalks and other property of snow and ice.
People who live in Howard County, both private homeowners and business owners, have 48 hours to shovel snow and ice after a storm has ended.
Businesses and residents must clear their sidewalks and surrounding property of ice and snow within 24 hours of the cessation of a snowstorm. Some towns in Montgomery County have their specific regulations. For example, in Takoma Park, all sidewalks must be cleared before 7:00 pm on the day the snow fell.
Prince George’s County
In Prince George’s County, residents and business owners have 48 hours after the end of a snowstorm to clear their property of snow and ice.
Call Our Maryland Slip and Fall Attorneys if Your Were Injured Because of Ice or Snow
If you or a loved one has slipped and fallen due to ice or snow, contact a professional today. You must receive the compensation needed to pay for medical bills and economic losses sustained from the accident.