Breaking Down Ice Slip and Fall Claims

If there is ever ice on the ground in North Texas, it is usually around Super Bowl week. Parker County residents have an especially hard time navigating possibly treacherous sidewalks and other walkways.

Frequently, such falls are subject to the revitalized open and obvious defense in Texas. Ice and snow is usually an obvious hazard. But that’s usually not the case with regard to black ice. When the temperature hovers near freezing, ice partially thaws. That creates a thin layer of water and ice which is very slippery and very hard to see. That’s especially true if lighting is poor.

If this defense, which is a subset of the more common assumption of the risk defense, does not apply, a Weatherford personal injury attorney might be able to obtain substantial compensation for victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

A successful ice slip-and-fall claim usually includes both the elements discussed below. Victim/plaintiffs must establish each one by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Legal Responsibility

English common law, where much of Texas law has its roots, divided premises liability victims into three categories:

  • Invitees,

  • Licensees, and

  • Trespassers.

These labels reflect the nature of the relationship between the property owner and victim. “Premises liability” is an umbrella term which includes things like slip-and-falls, dog bites, and swimming pool drownings.

Most victims are invitees. These individuals have direct or indirect permission to be on the property. That could be an “Open” sign in a window or a dinner invitation for Friday night. Additionally, the owner receives some benefit. THat benefit could be a retail sale, potential sale, or the social benefit that company provides.

Due to the close relationship, if the victim was an invitee, the owner had a duty of reasonable care. This duty includes more than a responsibility to make the premises safe. This duty also includes an ongoing responsibility to perform safety inspections.

Other victims are licensees. These individuals have permission to be on the property, but the owner receives no benefit. A handful of victims are trespassers (no permission and no benefit). Owners usually have no duty in these situations.

Control of Property

Many ice slip-and-falls occur in shopping center parking lots. Largely because of the long shadows in these places, black ice is rather common. If the fall occurred immediately adjacent to a store, the store owner was probably responsible for maintaining the walkway. If the fall occurred further out on the parking lot, the shopping center landlord is probably responsible.

Roughly the same thing applies in private dwellings. Individual owners usually have a duty to maintain driveways and sidewalks inside their property lines. The city usually has a duty to maintain school, park, and other areas. Things could get complicated. If Mike goes to a party at Sam’s house, he might park in front of Bill’s house or a neighborhood school.

On a related note, victim/plaintiffs must also prove the owner knew, or should have known, about the patch of black ice or other hazard.

Falls often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. After-hours and home visits are available.