Slip and Falls Can Be a Problem in the Summer
We tend to think of slip and falls as a winter problem in West Virginia. After all, these accidents can - and often do - occur when people walk on icy sidewalks or stairs. Property owners who have failed to clear their premises of ice and snow hazards can, under some circumstances, be held liable for the harm that a victim suffers.
However, summer can be a dangerous season, too, for slip-and-fall accidents. Serious injuries can occur because property owners fail to take reasonable steps to remove hazards on their property or to give proper warnings to visitors.
Summer Storms Can Create Slip-and-Fall Risks
The weather can be just as much of a contributing factor in slip-and-fall accidents in the summer as in the winter. In particular, brief but powerful summer storms can hit us and create hazards in the entrances, lobbies, aisles and stairways of stores, restaurants, office buildings and other commercial and public places.
For example, people may walk through puddles on sidewalks or in parking lots that contain water that has mixed with oil. In turn, they can bring this slippery substance indoors on their shoes.
If a walking area becomes slick and dangerous, and a property owner becomes aware of this risk, the owner should take steps without delay to clean it up, rope off the area or warn visitors.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for 40 percent of all TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and death in the U.S.
Young children and elderly adults face an especially high risk of serious and potentially fatal injuries from fall accidents, according to the CDC.
A person who has been harmed by a property owner's negligent failure to address rain-related hazards has the right to seek compensation for his or her damages.
Slip-and-Falls Can Happen at Swimming Pools, Too
Nothing is better than heading to a club, park or neighbor's backyard to enjoy a dip in a swimming pool on a hot summer day. However, swimming pools can be just as much dangerous as they are fun.
The primary concern is drowning - especially among children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that, on average, nearly 5,000 pool- or spa-related emergency room visits and 400 fatalities occur each year that involve children under the age of 15. However, slip and falls and trips over toys, balls and other items on hard, wet concrete are a problem as well at swimming pools.
A private or public property owner may be held responsible for these injuries due to the failure to provide proper supervision such as a lifeguard or to take reasonable steps to keep young visitors out of the area (with a fence or a gate).
Boating Safety Must Be a Top Priority in the Summer
Boating is a popular summertime activity on the lakes and rivers throughout West Virginia. However, docks and motor boats typically have slick surfaces that can become especially dangerous due to water, spray and the dirt and slime that can be brought on board when fish are hauled in.
A boat owner - for instance, a fishing boat charter captain - can and should protect visitors from slip-and-fall risks by covering the floor and deck areas of a boat with a non-skid surface.
Falls on boats can also occur because they are simply too crowded. A fall caused by overcrowding may be due to a boat owner's failure to comply with West Virginia boating rules that prohibit loading a boat beyond its "safe carrying capacity."
Legal Issues in Summertime Slip-and-Fall Cases
Several challenging issues can arise when a person seeks to recover compensation from a property owner for injuries suffered in a summertime slip-and-fall accident.
Under West Virginia premises liability law, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care towards their visitors. In other words, they must take reasonable steps to inspect their property, identify hazards and either fix the hazard or warn visitors.
Whether a property owner should have noticed a hazard or had a reasonable amount of time to address it can often be a contentious issue in summertime slip-and-fall accident lawsuits, especially cases that involve falls on rain-slickened surfaces.
Another issue that tends to arise in these cases is the application of the "open-and-obvious" doctrine. Under this rule, a property owner cannot be held liable for a slip-and-fall injury that occurs when the visitor is hurt by a danger that should have been as apparent to the visitor as it was to the property owner.
For example, let's say you are walking down a fairway at a golf course and you trip over a sprinkler head in the middle of the fairway. If you seek to recover damages in a lawsuit, the golf course owner may contend that you were hurt by an open-and-obvious hazard. Thus, the owner had no duty to remove the hazard or warn about it.
The West Virginia legislature recently passed a law, S.B. 13, which overruled a 2013 Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia decision and reinstated the open-and-obvious doctrine.
Get Help from an Experienced Slip-and-Fall Accident Attorney
For these reasons, it is important to get help from a skilled and experienced West Virginia premises liability lawyer if you or a loved one is hurt in a summertime slip-and-fall accident. An attorney can review the facts of your case and the relevant law, identify obstacles and help you to overcome them.
If you would like to learn more, please contact the attorneys of Mani Ellis & Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC. We can provide a free consultation about your case.