Living in the Northeast, we all have become accustomed to severe winter weather, with storms that bring significant accumulations of snow and ice in a very short period of time. While these weather events can be picturesque and provide recreational opportunities for children and adults alike, they can also create extremely hazardous winter weather conditions that can cause serious injuries. Massachusetts law allows individual towns to enact bylaws that regulate the removal of snow and ice on buildings and sidewalks. It also limits governmental liability from injuries sustained on public ways due to snow or ice, if the place where the accident occurred was otherwise safe. There are some circumstances under which a person injured in a slip and fall accident that was the result of snow or ice accumulation could recover, particularly if the accident occurred on private property. As a result, anyone who has been injured because of snow or ice this winter should be sure to consult with an experienced Framingham slip and fall attorney as soon as possible.
Under general tort liability principles, property owners can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of which they knew or should have known on their property. This is why a person who slips and falls in a restaurant on a wet floor can sometimes recover for their injuries. Until as recently as 2010, Massachusetts state law provided an exception to this general principle when it came to snow and ice. Prior to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadopoulos v. Target, courts recognized a distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice. Property owners would not be held liable for injuries caused by “natural” accumulations, making recovery for plaintiffs who slipped and fell in a snow or ice storm difficult, to say the least.
The Papadopoulos court invalidated this distinction, determining that it was a vestige of landlord-tenant law that had been discarded long ago. The new standard announced by the Court was that all property owners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe for all lawful visitors, regardless of whether the source of the danger was a “natural” or man-made condition. Under the new law, courts are required to balance the expense of removing the snow with the likelihood of foreseeable harm to people who visit a particular property.
Snow and ice accidents have the potential to cause significant harm those involved. Some common injuries that a person can sustain in slip and fall accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
Sometimes, these injuries may be so severe that they result in long-term medical complications and even the inability to work. Fortunately for victims, these and other economic and non-economic injuries may be compensable by filing a Massachusetts personal injury claim. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is a dedicated injury advocate who knows how to get his clients the compensation they deserve. In order to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Cappetta, call his Framingham office today at (508) 969-9505.