In these frigid winter months, we have seen an uptick of cases where pedestrians have slipped and fallen on ice, resulting in serious associated slip and fall injuries. These injuries have also increased the number of questions we’ve received about the liability of homeowners, small businesses, or the government when it comes to the property or sidewalks where individuals have fallen and become injured. Here’s a quick overview on how these cases are handled.
Sidewalk immunity: This is a major principle in New Jersey law which distinguishes between the sidewalks adjacent to commercial properties and those by residential ones. While a homeowner cannot be held liable for an individual getting injured from ice on the sidewalk next to the street, a business owner can. Commercial properties are liable for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their property.
However, if a resident took some action which directly or indirectly caused the slip and fall injury, they could be held liable. This would include even seemingly innocuous actions such as laying salt, sand, or other melting substance over ice, but which caused it to melt unevenly and cause the fall of an unsuspecting passer-by. The pedestrian could argue that your actions were done incompetently and you could potentially be held liable for something that you thought was helping the community.
Some confusion occurs when properties are owned by a condominium complex or where homeowners associations collect fees which go towards property maintenance. Homeowners associations can sometimes be held liable for not properly cleaning the sidewalks in these instances, as they are not protected under sidewalk immunity. This has come under scrutiny by New Jersey courts many times in recent years, and there are many legal specifications that determine which types of properties can be held liable for failing to properly clean a sidewalk or other pedestrian area.
If you fall: If you are the victim of a slip and fall injury caused by negligent care of a sidewalk, you may be able to sue for damages depending on the type of property the sidewalk was up against. As in any injury, your first priority will be to seek appropriate medical care to treat any immediate problems. However, you should also be sure to take photographs of the area where the injury occurred, and to properly record all of your medical bills and care so that you have a fully developed paper trail which you can refer to in court as need be.
For the best understanding of your personal liability in a slip and fall case, you will need to consult with an experienced lawyer who has successfully represented in this area. For a free consultation about this and our range of services here, contact me, David Kaplan, for a free consultation today. I can be reached by phone at 973-426-0021 and look forward to providing you the expert information and representation that you deserve.