What you’ll learn reading this article:
- Accidental falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States.
- Parking lots are commonly frequented and full of potential hazards for slip and fall accidents.
- You must file a claim for your slip and fall injury before the statute of limitations expires, which depends on the type of parking lot you fell in.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about $50 billion is spent each year in the United States because of non-fatal falls for those aged 65 and older, with Indiana ranking in the top third for direct costs. And when it comes to Americans of all ages, accidental falls are the leading cause of all emergency room visits, with over 1 million people going to the ER annually from slip and falls. And one place that most Americans visit weekly, and often multiple times, are parking lots, a spot ripe for slip and fall accidents.
As Americans, we spend a surprising amount of time in parking lots, and may not even realize it. While we tend to associate parking lots with retail and shopping, our offices, restaurants, schools, hospitals, airports, and more all have parking lots. In fact, it can be hard to think of a place we frequent that doesn’t have a traditional parking lot. And whether it’s the parking lot of a big box store or a small neighborhood bar and grill, if it is not properly maintained dangerous accidents can occur.
As opposed to sidewalks, which should only have pedestrian and bicycle traffic, parking lots see vehicular traffic as well. This opens them up to more potential hazards, such as oil and gas leaks from cars, wheel stops, and corrals for shopping carts, in addition to other dangers.
Common Causes of Parking Lot Slip and Falls
- Wheel stops
When not properly maintained, wheel stops, or curb stops, can become loose. Weather and vehicular damage can cause the concrete to deteriorate over time, exposing rebar pins. These damaged concrete blocks can create potential hazards for pedestrians.
- Damaged pavement
Snow, ice, road salt, and time can erode concrete and asphalt paving, creating uneven patches, cracks, and potholes. Unsuspecting pedestrians can easily slip and fall because of improperly kept pavement.
- Poor lighting
During early morning or evening hours, and in inclement weather, parking lots can be dark places. Property managers should provide adequate lighting in their parking lots to promote safety, and should make sure these lights work correctly at all times.
- Wet and icy surfaces
As on any surface, ice and water can be dangerous for walkers. Parking lots in particular have the potential for black ice, which blends in and is not seen easily by pedestrians and drivers. Parking lots can also see instances of standing water, oil slicks or spills, and flooding due to heavy rainfall, all creating problematic conditions for pedestrians and potential hazards.
- Obstructions and debris
Unfortunately, parking lots can also attract litter and debris. Shopping carts and other items may be left haphazardly, and a store should make sure employees work to clean and remove any obstacles and items that are not meant to be in the parking lot.
The Problem with Potholes
Hoosiers are all too familiar with potholes, and while they are problematic for drivers they can be even worse for pedestrians. Property owners have a duty to their customers, tenants, and visitors to maintain their property, including the parking lot. Potholes can sometimes be overlooked and accepted as an unavoidable part of winter and spring, but they can always be addressed, even if they can’t be avoided.
If a pothole is present for an extended period of time without the property owner or manager taking steps to repair the situation, they can be held liable for injuries from slip and fall accidents caused by the potholes.
Steps to Take After a Slip and Fall Accident
If you or a loved one has suffered a slip and fall accident, you are not alone. After seeking medical attention, do your best to gather evidence of your accident and injury, such as taking photographs of the scene and your injury, and getting witness contact information.
After these steps, contacting an attorney well-versed in slip-and-fall accidents can be an important step to making a case for yourself. Many parking lots feature surveillance and security cameras, and while a store or business may be reluctant to provide you footage that could paint them as liable, an attorney can apply legal pressure to obtain any video evidence.
Your lawyer will also be able to help you file your claim before the statute of limitations expires for your case (in Indiana, this limit depends on the type of property on which your slip-and-fall accident occurred), and they can make sure you don’t miss your chance to pursue damages for your medical bills, lost and future wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery—Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been injured physically or mentally by a person, product or company, you need to know your legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys are experienced with cases like yours and can evaluate what your case may be worth. We will ensure that you are protected and compensated for your injuries and losses.
We fight to win your case or you pay no attorney fees at all. Don’t hesitate—one of our experienced attorneys can assist you right away.
Call 800-265-9881 for a free case review.
Is a business responsible for injuries that occur when a customer slips and falls on snow or ice around the business or in their parking lot? In the wintertime, we get this question a lot because this is a situation that happens a lot, and so there’s a three-part analysis in determining whether a business will be liable for injuries that are sustained by a customer on their property. This doesn’t just apply to snow and ice, this applies to all types of dangers, but snow and ice, in particular, will be what we’re talking about the day.
First of all, is the danger one that the landlord should have known about or did, in fact, know about? That’s the number one inquiry, and snow and ice usually in this category falls as a yes. It’s pretty obvious when you look out the window, you can see that there’s snow accumulated on the ground. There’s also weather forecasts that tell you what the weather is going to be like the next day, so if there is going to be a likely chance that snow is going to accumulate, then when you open for business, you need to make sure that you have safe conditions for your customers to be able to get into your property to do business there.
The second inquiry, though, is, was this condition so open and obvious, or should the customer have been able to appreciate the dangerousness of the condition? If so, then the landlord could get out of some liability. If the parking lot is smooth as glass because it’s covered in ice, then it’s going to be very difficult for the customer to then say, “Well, the landlord should be responsible,” when the customer should have known just by looking at it that it was going to be a treacherous 50-yard-walk from the car to the entrance of the business. If it’s an open and obvious danger, then that cuts against the plaintiff’s case.
However, just because it snows does not necessarily mean that it is an open obvious danger because walking on freshly fallen snow poses a considerable different risk than walking on ice. A lot of times, what happens is if you have a business that does not regularly maintain its walkways, you have snow that’s accumulated that hasn’t been shoveled or hasn’t been removed. Then the customers that do walk on it over and over again, the pressure from walking on it causes that snow to freeze and refreeze, and eventually, it becomes a sheet of ice that can get covered by freshly fallen snow, and so a person walking in that walkway where they’re supposed to be walking doesn’t appreciate how slippery it actually is because it’s a hidden danger, a hidden danger that could have been taken care of by the property owner, but they didn’t do it, and so if a person walks on that, especially if it’s up an incline or a grade and then they slip and fall and injure themselves, then the landlord or the business owner is going to have a much more difficult time with that type of case.
Another thing that happens a lot is that the gutters flow water into an area where it pools, somewhere on a sidewalk where people walk or there’s an awning that leaks and that water accumulates underneath the awning where you wouldn’t expect there to be precipitation and it turns into ice, and so in those situations where you wouldn’t necessarily expect ice but there is ice as a result of either a defect in the building or some other condition, then the landlord could have potential liability there as well.
Then finally, what the landlord tries to do or what the business owner tries to do in terms of mitigating that risk for the customer is also very important. Did the landlord or did the business owner hire a landscape company to regularly plow the sidewalk or the parking lot every morning? Did they salt every morning? Did they have a employee that was assigned to shoveling the sidewalk every hour and salting the sidewalk every hour and mopping the inside of the entrance where precipitation was being brought in from the outside and did they have a wet floor sign there showing everybody that this was a slippery area? When they have those types of things, when the landlord has taken those types of steps, then it can be very beneficial to the landlord in a case where somebody is trying to say that it was the landlord’s fault that they slipped and fell.
In conclusion, when we’re talking about businesses, it’s very important that you regularly remediate accumulated snow and ice, make sure that you’re shoveling the walkways and clearing the paths and salting the areas where people are going to be walking. Also, very important to make sure that even though you think it’s open and obvious that it’s going to be slick in a certain area, go ahead and put that yellow sign out and make sure that the markings are clear that this area is slippery. There’s nothing worse for a plaintiff’s case than to show a video of the plaintiff walking into this store and slipping and falling right beside a wet floor sign, so make sure that you’re warning your customers because you don’t want your customers to get hurt. Make sure you’re warning them of any potentially dangerous situations that may be existing in your business.
Then for customers, 100% make sure that you are careful when you walk and that you’re taking precautions for your own safety. If it’s clear that a situation is very icy, then don’t walk on it. Another thing that’s very bad for plaintiffs is the video surveillance that shows the person falling and while they’re falling, they were looking on their phone or they’re carrying a million packages or they have a cup of coffee and they’re otherwise just not taking own protection seriously.
If you have a case where you have fallen and were injured as a result of snow or ice and you want a free case evaluation where we can talk about some of these issues and others that maybe you haven’t thought about, please feel free to give us a call. We’re happy to take a look at it and discuss your case. These injuries can be very, very serious. Oftentimes, they result in sprains, severe sprains, or even tears of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and can require surgery and things like that, or broken bones or concussions, and so these cases are not just cases that are for just small bruising and things like that. These cases can be very, very serious and it’s important to get an attorney right away so that the attorney can contact the business and preserve evidence that could be critical for your case, so hopefully, you can give us a call.