Winter weather can bring dangerous conditions, including ice. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured when they slip and fall on snow and ice, with many of these accidents leading to broken bones, brain damage or even death. According to some sources, about 25% of reported falls on ice occur in parking lots.
Who is responsible when a person slips and falls on ice in a parking lot or similar area owned by someone else?
The answer depends on the exact circumstances of every case, but in this blog post we will discuss some of the legal principles involved..
Under Virginia law, all property owners have a duty to address safety hazards so as to minimize the risk of an accident that might harm someone else on their property. If they fail in this duty, and a visitor is injured as a result, the property owner can be held liable for the injured person’s damages through the legal theory of premises liability.
Perhaps that sounds straightforward in theory, but premises liability law can be very complicated in practice. The extent of a property owner’s duty depends on factors such as whether the accident was foreseeable and what the injured person was doing on the property at the time of the accident.
A property owner can’t be expected to prevent every possible accident — they must do what a reasonable property owner would do under similar circumstances. What’s more, those visiting someone else’s property can’t rely entirely on the owner to prevent accidents. They do have a duty to avoid accidents to themselves.
Responsibility for ice
Where do snow and ice fit into the law of premises liability?
First, note that many local governments impose a duty on many property owners to remove snow and ice from public areas. For instance, the city of Danville requires property owners or occupants to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and parking lots within 24 hours after the snowfall has ended. This could potentially make it easier for an injured person to hold a property owner liable after they have been injured falling on ice: If the injured person can prove that the property owner failed to clear ice within 24 hours, this is strong evidence that the owner breached their duty.
As we noted earlier, the law in these cases can get complicated. Those who have been injured in a fall on someone else’s property can talk to experienced professionals to learn more about how the law may apply to the unique set of facts in their case.