Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
Somerset County
Hunterdon County

Potential high for premises liability claims in winter months

Property owners must take all reasonable precautions to protect employees, patrons and guests against hazards that could cause slips and trips. This is a significant responsibility, particularly during New Jersey winters. Anyone who suffers injuries in a fall while visiting a supermarket, shopping center, hotel, office complex, manufacturer, apartment or other property with access to the public might have grounds for a premises liability lawsuit.

Any property owner is expected to implement an appropriately planned snow and ice removal strategy, failing which might be evidence of negligence if any visitors to his or her premises are injured in falls. Such negligence could include hazards like uneven or dimly lit surfaces and slopes. While calcium chloride and other chemicals are widely used and highly effective for melting ice, they can cause slippery conditions in entranceways, especially where pedestrian traffic is high. Stockpiled snow can reduce visibility, and when it occurs near walkways, the melting snow can create slippery conditions.

The lack of proper lighting and warning signs in high-hazard areas can also lead to negligence claims. Down pipes and drainage can create puddles, and refreezing of melted snow can cause severe dangers. Property owners must also warn pedestrians and motorists of hidden hazards, such as curbs, fire hydrants, grates and signs that could pose trip hazards when covered with snow.

Proving negligence and identifying the responsible party could be a daunting prospect, especially if the slip or trip-and-fall accident occurred at a shopping complex or a place where multiple owners or tenants could be financially responsible. For this reason, most victims of such accidents in New Jersey record as many details about the incident as possible, and then seek legal counsel. The support and guidance of a personal injury attorney with experience in navigating premises liability claims can be invaluable.

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