Many people who are injured when they fall on snow or ice are confused about exactly what is required for their claim to be compensable. To the surprise of many, merely falling on the snow or ice in front of a store or house is not enough. As discussed in this post, the snow or ice that caused someone to fall must be an unnatural accumulation. Put another way, a natural accumulation is not compensable.
So what is a natural accumulation? A natural accumulation is snow, rain, or ice that formed naturally because of the weather. Snow that accumulates on a sidewalk, without more, is a natural accumulation. Many potential clients emphasize that the person who owns the house or store failed to shovel; however, there is no prevailing theory of liability for failing to shovel.
There is also an extension to the natural accumulation rule. Water or snow that is tracked into a store on customer’s shoes is considered a natural accumulation and is not compensable. This means that a person who slips and falls in a grocery store entrance due to tracked-in rain likely does not have a compensable claim.
So what exactly is an unnatural accumulation? An unnatural accumulation is one that is created in some part by the property owner’s negligence. For example, if a drain pipe runs from a property owner’s roof and drains near a sidewalk, path, or other walkway, and that runoff freezes into an ice sheet – then it is unnatural accumulation.
As these examples illustrate, the owner of the property or someone working for him needs to take some action that helps create the dangerous snow or ice condition that causes your injury. For example, if a tenant complains to the landlord about the loose handrail, and then later falls because of it, the claim is likely compensable because the landlord knew or should have known that the handrail caused a danger.
There are many exceptions to the rules outlined above, so if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a fall, contact The Kryder Law Group for your free consultation.