Injured in a Slip and Fall on Ice in Denver?
If you are injured by a fall on ice that should have been removed or cleared away by someone else, you may be able to sue for compensation for your injuries. When a landowner fails to remove snow or ice within a reasonable time, and as a result someone falls and suffers injuries, that landowner can be held liable for the injuries.
General Slip and Fall Considerations
As with other slip and fall or trip and fall cases in Colorado, there are many factors to consider when trying to determine whether you have a strong case for compensation. Among those are whether the property where you fell is owned or operated by a private company, multiple private companies, a government entity, or a homeowner. Did someone else contribute to the snow and ice buildup that caused a fall? The injured person’s reason for being on the property will also factor in. If you were invited to a property just to visit, a different legal standard will be applied than that applied to landowners who are running a business and who are inviting the public onto the property to conduct that business.
The precise location of a fall can make a significant different to your case as well. For example, did the fall occur inside a store, in the doorway, or along a public sidewalk leading to the entry? There may be different entities responsible for each area, and some may overlap.
All these factors can make a big difference to how an injured person pursues compensation in a slip and fall or trip and fall case in Colorado. The best way to know the strength of your case is to contact a Denver slip and fall lawyer to discuss the specific facts of your case, and how all these factors come together in your case.
What Makes a Snow or Ice Case Different in Colorado?
Colorado is a snowy state. Cold and icy winters are expected here, and in terms of liability, that can be important on both sides of a slip and fall case. Colorado uses a modified comparative negligence rule, so a wrongdoer’s liability for negligence can be reduced by the victim’s own negligence, if any. People walking along snowy and icy walkways will be expected to be reasonably careful doing so. That does not mean they are responsible for avoiding falls no matter how dangerous a walkway is. It also does not mean that failing to clear a sidewalk doesn’t matter because the wrongdoer can always claim the victim should have been more careful then they were. Those responsible for removing dangerous snow and ice buildup will be expected to do so, knowing that snow and ice are coming in our state every winter.
Colorado courts have found business owners not liable for falls on natural accumulations of snow and ice on public sidewalks. They have also in some cases failed to hold business owners liable for falls on snow and ice in parking spaces or parking areas. However, several Denver-Metro cities have passed municipal codes which require private businesses and homeowners to clear public sidewalks adjacent to private property.
City and County Snow and Ice Removal Laws
Generally, property owners are required to clear snow and ice from walkways on, or next to their property, within a reasonable period of time. What is a reasonable period of time? Some Denver-Metro cities have defined it in their municipal codes, and with only a few exceptions, most require removal of snow and ice within 24 hours of the end of snowfall. Here are links to relevant city and county webpages for additional information:
Colorado State law prohibits “clearing” snow into public roadways, so snow and ice must be removed from walkways, but it is illegal to shovel it into the street.
These municipal codes and state laws can help an injured person establish that a property owner unreasonably ignored a snow and ice buildup. However, they do not necessarily define what is reasonable in every context.
Making it worse
Although Colorado courts have generally stopped short of imposing civil (lawsuit) liability on private landowners for failing to clear public walkways adjacent to the land, that is not true in cases where landowners have done something to make the danger on those walkways worse. For example, directing water across a public walkway, which then freezes and creates a danger to those using the walkway, could create liability by making a natural accumulation of ice worse.
Sometimes attempts to clear snow and ice can actually create a dangerous condition, or make one worse, which can then create new or additional liability. For example, using the wrong type of ice melt for conditions, or failing to clear snow and then relying only on ice melt, can melt a thin layer of snow that subsequently re-freezes, creating a very slippery walking surface. Negligent snow and ice removal creates liability because it creates a dangerous condition beyond the simple presence of snow.
There is a mistaken tendency by some Coloradans, who are generally accustomed to walking across snow and ice many times each year, to assume that someone who has fallen on ice must not have been careful or paying attention. Injuries caused by snow and ice falls can be very serious. Falls on ice tend to be fast because of the mechanics of a quick slip, and harmful because of the combination of the falling speed and the hard surface that the injured person falls onto. Broken hips, tailbones, legs, wrists and arms are common in these cases. Spinal injuries are often associated with slip and fall cases on snow and ice.
If you have been injured by a slip and fall on snow or ice, reach out to me today to discuss the specific facts of your case. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call (303) 339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation by clicking here.