Slip and fall incidents are a common occurrence during Colorado winters. Icy and snowy conditions can create hazardous walking surfaces and lead to potentially serious injuries. When investigating and litigating slip and fall claims in Colorado, it is important to consider the weather and surface conditions at the time of the incident.
Common Injuries from Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall incidents can lead to a variety of injuries, ranging from minor to severe. Common injuries include bruises, scrapes, hip fractures, broken bones, head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and even death in extreme cases. Hip fractures are particularly common and dangerous for elderly victims. Head injuries occur frequently when the victim’s head impacts the ground or object. Back injuries are also very common, including herniated discs. The force and angle of the fall along with the surface determine the severity and types of injuries.
Prompt medical diagnosis and treatment is crucial for full recovery.
Weather Conditions that Commonly Cause Slip and Falls
Several types of inclement weather can create slippery conditions that frequently result in slip and falls in Colorado:
Snow and Ice Storms
Snowstorms and freezing rain lead to snow and ice buildup on walking surfaces. Uncleared snow can obscure hazards like potholes or uneven surfaces. Meanwhile, ice, especially black ice, creates an extremely slick surface. Even a small amount of ice on a sidewalk can lead to a fall.
Freeze and Thaw Cycles
Temperature fluctuations around the freezing point lead to melting and refreezing of snow and ice. This creates uneven icy patches that are easy to slip on.
Strong winds can blow falling snow or loose snow buildup and cause drifts and uneven surfaces. High winds also contribute to “black ice” forming.
Rain, melting snow, and wet weather in general cause slick surfaces. Standing water or wet leaves can disguise slippery conditions.
What Constitutes a Dangerous Condition?
Property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. But what constitutes an unreasonably dangerous condition depends on the weather and circumstances. A light dusting of snow may not require shoveling while a large accumulation likely does. The following factors determine whether a condition is unreasonably dangerous:
- Amount of accumulation – Deep snow requires shoveling while a light dusting may not. Thick ice is hazardous but light frost may not be.
- Visibility and Obviousness – Hidden hazards like black ice are more dangerous than obvious snowdrifts.
- High-traffic areas – Highly traveled sidewalks and parking lots require extra maintenance.
- Temperature fluctuations – Freeze and thaw cycles dictate how diligently snow and ice need to be monitored.
Role of Weather Records in Slip and Fall Claims
Weather records play a key role in slip and fall claims. These records establish what conditions existed at the time of the fall. This helps determine whether the landowner failed to properly clear snow and ice or address other hazards. Important records include:
- Hourly temperature data – Establishes melting and refreezing conditions.
- Precipitation records – Details snow, ice, and rain accumulation.
- Wind data – Determines if drifting snow or wind-driven rain contributed.
- Weather alerts and advisories – Severe weather warnings dictate extra diligence in clearing hazards.
Thorough weather records allow attorneys to recreate the conditions at the time of the incident and build the strongest case.
Using Expert Testimony
In addition to official weather data, expert testimony can be useful for slip and fall cases. A forensic meteorologist can analyze the weather records and provide opinions on the accumulation, visibility of hazards, and the adequacy of the property maintenance. A human factors expert can opine on how the conditions impacted the ability of a pedestrian to perceive risks and maintain stability. Expert testimony applies the weather factors to the specific incident and strengthens causation arguments.
When evaluating settlement options, the weather conditions influence the value of the case. More severe conditions indicate greater negligence by the property owner. However, unclear records or mixed weather can weaken the claim and lower potential damages. The strength of the weather evidence impacts the settlement value along with other liability factors and the extent of injuries.
Snow, ice, and wet weather frequently lead to slip and fall incidents every Colorado winter. But property owners can be held liable for failing to properly clear hazards when the conditions warrant it. Factoring in the weather records and surface conditions at the time of the fall is crucial for determining negligence in a premises liability slip and fall case. Understanding these nuances is key to success. Thoroughly investigating the weather evidence provides the strongest foundation for pursuing these claims.
Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident in Colorado. We have offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.