Severe winter weather doesn’t happen often in Georgia, but when it does, it usually translates into ice, usually black ice. In short, winter here can turn surfaces wet, icy, slippery and treacherous. Roads become unsafe, with car accidents being the leading cause of death during winter storms in Georgia.
The danger doesn’t stop on the roads
If your personal property or business’ premises are icy and slippery, then you can be held responsible if someone is injured. Property owners have a duty to ensure that their premises do not pose unreasonable hazards to people on the property. This includes the possibility of slip and fall injuries as a result of icy stairs or an icy pathway. Similarly, drivers have a duty to adjust their behavior accordingly when there is wintry weather. The failure to take precautions could result in a successful negligence claim.
There are a wide variety of personal injuries that might seem to be caused by winter weather or wintry conditions. But those injuries may actually result from another party’s negligence.
Common examples of winter weather personal injuries:
- Homeowner failed to salt steps or a walkway, and a neighbor slipped and fell on the ice;
- Homeowner failed to clean up liquid in a home entryway caused by snow boots, and a guest slipped and fell;
- Retail store owner or restaurant owner failed to salt steps, a walkway, or a parking lot, and a potential customer slipped and fell on the ice;
- Business owner did not clean up liquid puddles around the business caused by snow boots or dripping umbrellas, and a potential customer slipped and fell;
- Driver failed to slow down when snow or sleet caused roadways to be dangerous, and that driver was involved in a serious accident; or
- Driver did not leave sufficient following distance on the road despite information about an icy roadway or bridge.
BLACK ICE AND WINTER PRECIPITATION
While accumulations of snow are white and fairly easy to see, ice can be trickier to spot—especially if it’s black ice. Black ice is not black, but rather transparent, and it reveals the color of whatever it covers. A concrete sidewalk, brick staircase, porch decking, curb or even a welcome mat may simply look wet when in fact it’s encased in a deceptively thin coating of slick ice.
Freezing rain and sleet can form thin sheets of black ice anywhere. Overpasses, bridges, and other elevated or shaded areas are particularly susceptible. Protected places where rain may accumulate, may freeze as temperatures drop can also be problematic.
COMMON WINTER WEATHER RELATED INJURIES
Of course, the most common wintertime injuries for pedestrians are slips and falls due to ice or snow that has packed or crusted. Tripping is also a problem when accumulations are sufficient to conceal objects or obstructions along pathways. What appears to be just snow may conceal a rake handle, for example, or a hose, chain, tree branch or root. Combined with fallen leaves or other debris, even light snow accumulations can conceal holes, steps or other uneven surfaces.
With drivers in the South typically unused to wintertime precipitations, sleet, snow and all of the options in between can present unforeseen challenges. Yes, roads become slick, but even getting into a car and getting it ready to drive can require extra time and precautions.
- Car locks and doors may be frozen over and require the use of a deicer.
- In parking situations with limited space and passing traffic, it’s a distraction that could put you at risk.
- Windshields and windows may be covered in sticky snow or a tough sheet of ice,
- Snow and ice can build up and form crusty layers that can be several inches thick on hoods and roofs. These accumulations can become flying blocks of icy snow that can strike other motorists’ vehicles or obstruct their view.
A broom, snow brush and ice scraper offer quick remedies to making sure all surfaces are clear. Failing to use them can leave you liable if your flying debris or inability to see properly causes an accident. The Federal Highway Administration warns that snowy or slushy pavement can reduce speeds on main roads by 30 to 40 percent, and about a quarter of weather-related crashes occurs under snowy, slushy or icy conditions.
PREVENTING WEATHER RELATED INJURIES ON YOUR PROPERTY
Slips, trips, falls, crashes, collisions and other unfortunate events can break bones. Other injuries can cause everything from back and neck injuries to traumatic brain injuries. To prevent them from happening to you or others, take precautions:
- Clear snow immediately from walkways and lots,
- Treat wer areas with salt to prevent ice from forming,
- Ensure walkways, stairs and passageways have handrails
- Pay attention to roofs and overhangs conducive to sheeting ice or snow or the formation of icicles,
- Clear car windshields, windows, lights and other surfaces completely before driving,
- Slow driving speeds,
- Increase driving following distances to suit wet, icy or snowy conditions.
- Take extra care on bridges and other elevated structures and driving surfaces.
- Provide drivers and other workers with equipment, tasks and vehicles suited for the winter conditions,
- Make all entrances and exits of the building safely accessible for all workers,
- Maintain safe ventilation in all areas. This includes ensuring that all systems—including heating systems—are functioning properly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
IN NEED OF A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
In Georgia, winter is usually short, but when injuries are involved, its effects can last year long. As the owner of a property—home, plot, car or business—you have the responsibility to keep it safe and well-maintained. As a visitor to a home or place of business, you have the reasonable expectation that you will be safe. When that isn’t the case and something happens, you may need the help of an attorney experienced in addressing the unique problems associated with personal injuries. At The Law Office of Julie M. Essa, LLC, we can help you with any accidents that result in injuries due to winter weather.