During late winter and early spring, the temperature often hovers around freezing. These conditions are ideal for black ice. Black ice is a thin layer of ice covered by a thin layer of water, so it is extremely slippery. Furthermore, black ice is often indistinguishable from a wet spot, so it is hard to see. That is especially true if the black ice patch is in the shadows.
Generally, property owners have a legal duty to protect people from slip-and-fall injuries. That duty includes ensuring that the property is safe and frequently inspecting the property and removing fall hazards. Liability for damages attaches if the owners knew, or should have known, about the black ice or other fall hazard.
To obtain compensation, an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). But establishing a case is usually not enough. Attorneys must also be prepared to deal with some special issues in ice slip and fall claims, as outlined below.
Insurance Company Defenses
Generally, insurance companies run the same three basic defenses in slip-and-fall claims. However, in parking lot ice falls, these defenses have some special twists.
There is a limited open and obvious defense in Indiana. Victims who trip over signs in hallways, displays in grocery store aisles, and other such hazards have a more difficult time obtaining compensation. Normally, an ice patch in cold weather is an open and obvious hazard. Pretty much everyone pays at least some attention to weather forecasts.
However, black ice is different. As mentioned, this hazard is not easy to see, particularly in certain situations. Additionally, many fall victims have medical conditions, such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration, which limits their ability to see partially hidden hazards. AMD blurs straight-ahead vision. Many times, the symptoms come on so gradually that victims do not know there is a problem.
On a related note, many older people have gait disorders. When younger people slip, they often recover their balance. But when some older people slip, they generally fall.
Assumption of the risk and contributory negligence are the other two primary defenses. Assumption of the risk is the voluntary assumption of a known risk. A “Beware of Dog” warning sign is a good example. Contributory negligence shifts blame for the accident from the property owner to the victim. For example, both drivers are often partially at fault in a car crash.
Parking Lot Control
Many ice slip-and-fall injuries occur in shopping malls and other large retail parking areas. Victims are unfamiliar with the lay of the land, so falls are more likely.
If the injury occurred near a store, the store owner is usually responsible for damages. Typically, a store is responsible for the walkway and parking area immediately adjacent to its front door. Of course, responsibility varies according to the terms of individual leases.
If the injury happened further away from a store, such as in the large parking lot area, the shopping center owner is usually responsible for damages. Typically, landlords must properly maintain common areas. That includes things like black ice safety measures.
Contact Aggressive Lawyers
Black ice slip and falls often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Indianapolis, contact Holland & Holland. We routinely handle matters in Marion County and nearby jurisdictions.