A frequent cause of falls is an uneven walking surface, for example, a sidewalk that is cracked or heaved up by tree roots or a road or parking lot with potholes. Icy sidewalks are a frequent problem in winter. Under New York City law, the property owner has an obligation to remove ice and snow within four hours of a snow event. If snowfall ends between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., property owners must clear sidewalks within 4 hours, and if snowfall ends between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., sidewalks must be cleared before 11 a.m. If the snow has frozen hard enough that it cannot be removed, the property owner must put down sand, sawdust or a similar substance to alleviate the hazard and then must clear the sidewalk as soon as reasonably possible. Property owners are also responsible for removing obstacles in the pedestrian path that might cause a trip and fall.
Trash, construction materials, and items being delivered to a building can be tripping hazards and should be removed from the sidewalk as quickly as possible. Poor lighting and limited visibility can also contribute to falls.
Walkers also face hazards indoors. Loose floor tiles or warped wood floors can result in a fall. Loose or uneven carpet or floor mats and rugs that do not stay in place or have curled edges can contribute to falls.
Wet floors are a hazard and building owners and cleaning crews must take care to warn the public of wet floors. Supermarkets present particular risks – bottles and packages break, spilling their contents in the aisle. Oily substances are particularly dangerous, but things like rice and cereal can also be hazardous. Restaurants, food courts, and movie theaters also have to be vigilant about spills.
Property owners or their employees must be alert to dangerous conditions and remove them or make repairs. Key questions in determining responsibility for slip-and-fall accidents are whether a reasonable person would have identified the condition as hazardous, and whether the property owner had ample opportunity to remedy the situation before the accident occurred. Did the hazardous condition or obstacle exist long enough that a reasonable property owner or employee could have taken action to eliminate the hazard? Could the hazardous condition have been made less dangerous through such measures such as relocating the hazard, or placing warning signs in the area, or preventing access to the location?
For more than twenty years, the attorneys at the law firm of Parker Waichman have successfully represented victims injured in slip and fall accidents. Parker Waichman LLP
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