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What to do when encountering an icy sidewalk

A "slip and fall" is the term applied to an incident when you slip and fall on someone's property and the owner may be held legally responsible.

Lots of conditions can be considered dangerous - loose carpet, poor lighting, a wet floor. Perhaps one of the most dangerous condition is also one of the most common: an icy sidewalk.

The necessary legal framework

Some accidents are caused simply by the victim's carelessness or negligence. For there to be a lawsuit after a slip and fall, someone else must be proved to be at fault. The first step is to show that there was a dangerous condition that created an unreasonable risk.

The next step is to show the owner or possessor knew of and avoided the danger or should have corrected the danger before the slip and fall. The key is that the slip and fall must have been foreseeable and that the owner's negligence helped create the situation.

When examining slip and fall cases on commercial property, you need to show that the owner or an employee caused the circumstances of the accident and knew of the dangerous situation but did nothing to fix it, or should have known of the situation because a "reasonable person" in their place would have seen the situation and fixed it.

To hold a landlord responsible for a slip and fall, you need to show the landlord had control over the condition of the property, that fixing the condition would not have been overly expensive, a serious injury was a foreseeable consequence of not fixing the condition, and the landlord's failure to fix the condition caused the slip and fall injury.

Some tips for walking on an icy sidewalk

  • Watch out for translucent ice on sidewalks and parking lots
  • Walk on grass for better traction
  • When on an icy patch, walk with your hands free and not shoved into your pockets. A puffy coat can help you if you fall
  • Wear low-heeled, wide shoes with thick treads
  • Avoid plastic and leather-soled shoes. They don't provide proper traction.
  • Spread your feet like a penguin to broaden your base
  • Take small, shuffling steps at a slow pace

Last tip: Try to fall on your thighs, hips or shoulders rather than your arms, knees or spine. They're less likely to break.

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Scherline & Associates
512 W. Walnut Street
Allentown, PA 18101

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