Many focus on traffic safety when it comes to the risks associated with winter weather. But more of us would do well to also focus on the risks we face getting to and from our vehicles.
Whether at home, at work, on the road, or negotiating the parking lot hazards of your favorite big-box store, walking around Oklahoma City during the winter months can seemingly require the skills of a competitive sport. Determining cause of a winter injury accident and identifying responsible parties requires the skills of a law firm experienced in handling a wide variety of injury claims, including traffic accidents, premises liability, work injury and third-party liability claims.
Under Oklahoma law, succeeding with a premises liability claim will require you to prove injury resulted from the action or inaction of a property owner. Such knowledge on the part of an at-fault party can be difficult to prove, especially when the hazards literally melt away.
State law holds that snow and ice fall as a matter of nature, and so it would be unreasonable to hold landlords and property owners responsible in all cases of guest injury. Thus, the mere fact a person has fallen and been injured as a result of snow and ice does not mean the victim can make a case for compensation.
However, the law does allow for recovery in cases where a property owner created or increased the risks, such as failure to clean wet and slippery floors. Still, in many cases, a claim may focus primarily on the negligence of an at-fault driver or other responsible party.
Understanding how to stay safe during winter weather
Winter safety tips for pedestrians include:
- Allow yourself extra time. If you are rushed or stressed upon pulling into a parking lot, give yourself several moments to look for identifiable hazards. Gather your thoughts and ensure you have everything you need with you before exiting your vehicle.
- Take small steps in icy or snowy conditions. Overextending your stride is a primary cause for loss of balance.
- Use shuffling sideways movements to negotiate a slippery incline or decline.
- Use crosswalks and obey pedestrian signals.
- Don't assume oncoming traffic can or will stop for you.
Far too few pedestrians fully appreciate the risk of fall injuries, more accurately be deemed "landing" injuries, which can include broken fingers, hands and forearms, as well as broken joints in the lower extremities, most commonly the hips or knees.
The Oklahoma Department of Health has reported a steady increase in fall injuries over the past two decades. Statewide, more than 1,400 people are killed in fall accidents each year. This amounts to about three a day. Each year in Oklahoma, more than 8,000 people are treated in the hospital for injuries resulting from a fall. Two-thirds of those hospitalized after a fall accident will spend at least three days in the hospital.
Older adults are disproportionately victimized, with those over 65 accounting for about half the state's fatal fall accidents each year. In fact, the federal government reports falls are the leading cause of accidental death for seniors. For those over the age of 75, the risk of falling increases dramatically.
Whether you are an employee, landlord, business owner, commuter or retiree, there are important steps each of us can take this winter to reduce your chances of being involved in a serious accident. Educate yourself, check frequently on your older neighbors and relatives, and seek experienced legal help as soon as possible in the event of weather-related injury.