Cold winters are a fact of life in New Jersey, and unfortunately, so are slip and falls on snow and ice.
While falls may sound like minor incidents, they can actually have serious consequences for victims. Nationwide, they're the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year. A slip and fall can also cause broken bones, back injuries, knee injuries, muscle sprains, and a variety of other debilitating injuries. Unfortunately, falls can even prove fatal.
That's why it's important to know your rights if you're hurt in a slip and fall on ice on someone else's property. Depending on the circumstances, you may have recourse under New Jersey law.
Slip and falls on ice at work
If you were on the job when your slip and fall on ice happened, you are eligible for workers' compensation benefits, as with any other work injury. It doesn't matter whether your employer was responsible for the icy conditions or whether your own carelessness contributed to the injury. If you were at work when it happened, you can get workers' compensation to pay for your medical expenses and replace a portion of your lost wages if you can't work due to the injury.
However, establishing whether you were at work can get complicated if the slip and fall happened outdoors. Workers' compensation generally does not apply to your commute, and determining exactly where your commute begins and ends can be a contentious and factually intensive legal question. This is one of the reasons you need an experienced workers' compensation attorney who knows the law and knows how it applies to your case.
Premises liability cases involving ice
In New Jersey, to file a personal injury claim against the owner of the property where you slipped and fell on ice, you need to prove that they had a "duty of care" — that is, a legal responsibility — to address the hazard. If you were hurt on commercial property, such as a retail store or restaurant, the law holds that business to a high standard. The owner needs to make sure the premises are safe for anyone who visits and can be held legally accountable if that responsibility isn't met. The same standard also applies to landlords if a tenant is hurt in a slip and fall.
If you slipped and fell on private property, however, things get trickier. Homeowners and tenants generally don't have a legal responsibility to clean up ice and snow on their property. However, this only applies to natural accumulation; if the homeowner's negligence created the icy conditions, for example, if water from a leaky pipe froze overnight, then you may have a case against the homeowner.
An additional complicating factor is comparative negligence. If you are found to be partially at fault, for instance, because you were not wearing appropriate footwear, then your recovery can be reduced by your percentage of fault. Again, this is a somewhat subjective determination where an attorney's help can make a real difference.
It's always in your interest to talk to a lawyer
Liability in slip and fall on ice cases is complicated and often contentious. So is establishing the full amount of damages (financial compensation) you deserve for your injuries. When you're hurting, the last thing you want to do is deal with an insurance company on your own. The right lawyer will make all the difference.
If you've been injured in a slip and fall at work or on someone else's property, we are the New Jersey attorneys you need in your corner. Schedule your free consultation with Shebell & Shebell, LLC today.