Slip and fall accidents are a common year-round occurrence, sending thousands of victims to the emergency room each year. But inclement weather, such as freezing rain and snow, increases the chances of these painful and often serious accidents.
In New Jersey, winters are typically harsh. Average snowfalls in December through March range from 2.6 inches to 9.3 inches. And low temperatures that frequently hover in the single digits ensure that conditions are icy for a good portion of the winter months. Thus, hazardous weather conditions affect outdoor walking surfaces in the Garden State for roughly a third of the year.
Winter Slip and Fall Accidents
Cold New Jersey winters present familiar problems to the state's residents, ranging from dangerous driving conditions, to falling branches, burst pipes and slippery outdoor surfaces. Indeed, one of the most common hazards that exists during this time of year is ice and snow covered walkways, parking lots and sidewalks.
Nearly half of all slip and fall accidents occur on level ground. This includes slips, trips, stumps and falls. In personal injury cases, it is alleged that these accidents were the result of a hazardous condition that caused the victim to trip or fall. Hazardous or unsafe conditions can include cracks, broken tiles, spills, potholes, uneven flooring, missing steps and more.
Additionally, snow and ice pose potential hazards to pedestrians. Snow, slush, ice and water can create slippery surfaces that are difficult to navigate safely. Whether in combination, or separately, these conditions can make walking areas treacherous and dangerous.
Common ice and snow-related slip and fall accident injuries
Approximately one out of five slip and fall accidents results in an injury that requires medical attention. Injuries caused by ice and snow accidents can range from bruises and abrasions to serious, and catastrophic injuries. Some common injuries from snow/ice slip and falls are:
- Bone fractures – fractures are either displaced or non-displaced. A displaced fracture is where the bone is broken in two or more pieces. These fractures typically require surgical implantation of hardware to fuse the bone together so it can heal properly. A non-displaced fracture, on the other hand, describes a fracture where the bone is cracked/broken, but not broken into separate pieces.
- Herniated discs – herniated and bulging discs can be caused by a slip and fall on snow/ice.
- Ligament and muscle tears – This type of soft tissue damage is common for a slip and fall on icy or slushy surfaces. Ligaments in the knees, shoulders and ankles are frequently impacted.
Landlords and property owners are responsible for keeping their buildings and outside areas in a safe condition, free from snow and ice. Steps, stairs, floors, and other walkways should be kept free of impediments and hazardous conditions. During the winter months, this requires vigilant, affirmative efforts. Some measures to ensure safety include the following:
- Regular maintenance checks for hazardous conditions
- Use of rock salt or other deicers to melt icy surfaces
- Application of sand and other abrasives to increase traction for footpaths
- Secure safety rails and lighting along potentially dangerous walkways
- Acquisition, use, and maintenance of adequate snow removal equipment
- Visibly posted warning signs for dangerous areas that cannot be addressed right away due to inclement weather or other issues
Slip and fall injuries are costly accidents that are often preventable with the timely application of proven safety measures. Winter-related conditions are responsible for a significant number of these painful and expensive accidents.