DES MOINES — If you slip on an icy sidewalk outside your apartment complex or near a local business, who is liable?
Every slip and fall case is different, so Local 5’s Rachel Droze spoke to a personal injury attorney to find you answers.
“When a person slips and falls, automatically they believe they can sue and that somebody is liable for their slipping and falling,” said Thomas Tully, an attorney at Johnston Martineau Law. “That’s not always true because in Iowa in the winter, you’re going to have snow and ice everywhere.”
Whether you slip on someone’s sidewalk or in a parking lot, Tully said slip and fall cases are tough to win.
“As Iowans, we don’t expect parking lots to be clear of snow and ice,” Tully said. “If you’re walking toward the front door of a retailer and you see snow and ice and you walk through it and slip and fall, it’s at your own risk — unless there is some sort of extenuating circumstance that the business knows or should have known that this is going to be dangerous.”
One extenuating circumstance Tully mentioned was leaky gutters.
“If you have a leaky gutter on your house or your business that is leaking water on some concrete steps, for example, and that dripping water turns into ice…that’s an extenuating circumstance that leads to creating that hazard,” Tully said. “It’s not necessarily by Mother Nature, it’s by some other source, so that can lend somebody liable.”
Even then, Tully said those cases may not be worth pursuing because you usually won’t get much money.
“That money first has to go pay back the insurance or anybody that has spent any money on the medical care and treatment of that individual,” Tully said. “If you’re hurt really bad, you might go through this whole thing only to pay the lawyers and the hospital back and the plaintiff never gets anything. Those are cases that we try to instruct the patient and the client that — you might go through all of this and still not get any money in your pocket — which is usually the reason that you’re doing it.”
You can make walking in the winter a little easier on people by putting down some ice melt. Just make sure you buy the right product.
Salt alone won’t always work when it gets as cold as it has been.
“There are actually quite a few options if we get below that 10 degrees,” Capital Landscaping owner Phil Glaser said.
Capital Landscaping uses rock salt if temperatures are above 10 degrees.
If temps fall below that, they have three different options — the most potent is a magnesium chloride mixture that’ll work down to -20 degrees.
If there’s a layer of ice on your driveway or sidewalk experts suggest applying ice melt before shoveling.
“What we recommend is go ahead and shovel it, leave that little bit of ice there and then just put down an ice melting product,” Glaser said. “Wait 20-30 minutes then go ahead and clear it off. It should loosen up for you.”
Tully said if a slip and fall case makes it to court, they’re usually decided by jury trials. He said jurors typically aren’t very sympathetic to plaintiffs in those cases.
To find out if you’ve got a case, Tully suggests reaching out to a personal injury attorney.