This winter has broughtrecord snows and freezing cold to the Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC regions. And although winter weather can be fun, it can also be dangerous. This post highlights important information about Maryland slip and fall accidents, particularly those that occur in the snow and ice. If you have fallen on an icy sidewalk or some other slippery surface, the legal issues surrounding your accident can be complex. An experienced Maryland Slip and Fall Attorney can help you receive the compensation you need to help pay for your medical bills and lost wages.
Basic Elements of a Slip and Fall Claim
A Maryland slip and fall lawsuit must satisfy the following elements:
1) Duty – the owner (or the renter, depending on the conditions of the lease) of the property upon which the accident took place must have been under a legal duty to protect the person who was injured from a dangerous condition.
2) Breach – the owner of the property must have breached that duty, for example, by not taking action or taking insufficient action to protect the person who was injured.
3) Damages – The person who was injured must have suffered damages from the accident. Medical bills, pain and suffering, or lost wages are types of damages.
4) Causation – The damages in (3) must have been proximately caused by the breach of the property owner’s duty.
Maryland Slip and Fall Accidents and Snow/Ice
Slip and fall accidents can become tricky when mother nature gets involved. The state of Maryland has no snow removal law – a law that requires a landowner or renter to remove the snow from walkways and parking lots. However, some towns and counties do have snow removal laws. These laws can vary significantly from one town to another regarding the duties they impose and the time limits. Violation of one of these laws can support an argument that the property owner was negligent per se. For example, Montgomery County requires that owners or renters remove snow and ice from sidewalks, parking lots, and other walkways within 24 hours. Sometimes, as with “Snowmageddon” in 2010, property owners are simply unable to comply with strict snow removal laws.
Whether a property owner is liable for a slip and fall accident that occurred on snow or ice can depend on:
1) Whether they knew about the presence of the snowy or icy conditions on the property OR whether they should have known about the presence of the snowy or icy conditions;
2) Whether they were negligent in failing to protect others from the snowy or icy conditions;
3) Or whether they caused the dangerous condition (by improperly shoveling snow, for example).
Assumption of Risk
It is likely that the property owner or renter of the premises on which the accident took place will argue that the plaintiff “assumed the risk” of walking on the snow or ice. Assumption of risk is a defense in a personal injury lawsuit, and can bar the plaintiff from recovering damages. In order for the defense to succeed, the defendant must establish that the plaintiff knew or should have known of the danger of slipping on snow or ice, and yet decided to proceed anyways. Maryland courts have generally upheld the assumption of risk defense when there is evidence that the danger of slipping on the snow or ice was visible or obvious. However, this defense may fail in situations where there was black ice or where the hazard of slipping was not obvious.
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