With record-breaking snowfalls this winter in areas that do not typically see a great deal of snow or ice, such as many parts of Georgia, some law firms are already reporting a spike in claims arising from slip-and-fall injuries caused by improper sidewalk and street maintenance. These premises liability claims often stem from the notion that property owners have a duty of care to prevent injury to others on and around their property.
While some firms are seeing a jump in slip-and-fall claims, others have not. Some speculate that people who might otherwise brave the elements have simply not bothered because of the unusual weather, electing to stay home and in safe conditions. As the weather warms and temperatures go from above freezing during the day to below freezing at night, the likelihood of accidents stemming from slips and falls increases because of the presence of more ice.
Under the doctrine of reasonable care, municipalities that are not properly equipped for snowfalls of the magnitude seen this winter, and homeowners who have not maintained their walkways appropriately may be likely to face lawsuits. However, juries may not be as willing to hand down pro-plaintiff judgments based upon the unusual and extreme weather conditions. Many observers say the number of claims may climb into the summer.
When an accident stemming from dangerous conditions occurs, an attorney may choose to begin by examining how and when the accident happened, including weather, time of day, road and sidewalk conditions and other factors. The severity and type of injury and the likelihood of full recovery might also be taken into account. Based upon this information, an attorney may issue a settlement request or pursue the case as an open court civil action.