If you have ever sustained an injury due to slipping and falling on snow or ice, you’re likely wondering whether you have legal recourse. Unfortunately, slip and fall claims are not always clear cut, so it’s important to consider a number of issues to determine if you have a viable case.
Your status under the law
Any slip and fall case begins with establishing your classification under the law, as such will determine what you need to prove.
Invitees are individuals who have permission to be on the property and can give the property owner or manager some kind of commercial benefit. If you’re shopping at a store, you are considered an invitee. If you are an invitee and get hurt while on the property, generally you must prove three things to recover damages:
- You were injured due to a dangerous condition on the premises.
- The property owner or manager knew or could have known about the dangerous condition. To determine whether the possessor of the property could have known about the dangerous condition, the court looks at the length of time the condition was present, among other factors.
- The property owner or manager did not use ordinary care to “remove, remedy, or warn of the danger.”
Licensees are those who have permission to be on a property but are not expected to deliver any benefits to the possessor of the property. Perhaps the most common example is someone who is at another person’s house or apartment for a social engagement. Generally speaking, licensees have a more difficult time recovering damages after an injury than invitees.
Licensees are like invitees in that they must prove that they were injured as a result of a dangerous condition on the premises. Additionally, though, licensees must show that the possessor of the property had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition AND knew that licensees were either unaware of the condition or unlikely to find out about the condition.
The “Massachusetts Rule”
Whether an invitee or licensee, Missouri recognizes an exception to the general duty of care, which is informally known as the “Massachusetts Rule.” This rule specifies that property owners have no duty to remove snow or ice on walking areas where the snow or ice accumulated naturally as a result of general weather conditions within the community. This is due to snow and ice being considered general hazards of the area at the time, so someone traversing outside during these weather conditions should already be aware of the dangers they impose and act responsibly to avoid injury. An exception to the Massachusetts rule exists when a property owner is obligated to remove snow and ice either by agreement or a course of conduct over a period of time.
The last issue to address is whether you bear any responsibility for falling. Missouri is a pure comparative fault state, meaning you can be found anywhere from 0-100% at fault for your injuries. If you are walking outside under snow or ice conditions, the query turns to the degree of care you are using. Were you walking fast or slow? Were you paying attention? Were you looking carefully? All of these questions become highly relevant in any slip and fall case where snow and ice are involved. For example, if you chose to run across a parking lot that you knew was icy, you would likely bear significant fault for your injury.
If you have any questions about the viability of a slip and fall claim, a personal injury attorney is a good resource to discuss its viability under the law. Contact Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC today to discuss your case and how we can help you.