It’s a New Year and another winter in New York, and for many around the State, January is the coldest month of the season. Though NYC may not see torrents of lake-effect snowfall like other parts of New York, it can and often does receive a considerable amount of precipitation and snow – especially from Nor’easters. Given colder temperatures, there’s also frost and ice.
While winter is part of life on the East Coast, and a source of fun and coziness for some, precipitation, hail, snow, and cold temps carry many inherent hazards to those who live and work here.
Whether you’re a transplant or a life-long New Yorker, winter weather will always pose risks – from weather-related auto accidents and work injuries to one of the most prevalent hazards: slips and falls.
Slip & Fall Accidents: Quick Facts
Slip and fall accidents are a leading cause of injury in the home, public spaces, the workplace.
Here are some facts from the CDC:
- Slip and falls can be costly: Slip and fall accidents cost an average of $45,000 in medical expenses, but those costs can increase when victims suffer more serious or catastrophic injuries. Annually, estimates suggest slip and fall injuries account for over $34 billion in medical bills;
- Serious injuries: Approximately 1 in 5 slip and falls result in broken bones / fractures. They’re also the most common cause of hip fractures, and are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
- Slip and fall risks increase with age – Though slip and falls are a leading cause of injury among nearly every age group, older adults are more likely to experience a slip and fall (roughly one-third of adults over 55 fall each year). Older adults who slip / fall are also more likely to experience serious injuries, and more likely to be injured while on the job (slip and falls are the leading cause of work injury among adults over 65).
- Far-reaching consequences – The impact of slips and falls isn’t limited to medical bills. Victims and families can suffer a range of far-reaching repercussions, including time away from work, substantial pain and suffering, long-term or permanent disability, emotional distress, and other damages that affect both victims and their loved ones.
Tips to Avoid a Slip & Fall
The saying “Prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true when it comes to slip and fall accidents. Avoiding serious injuries, incurred expenses, pain and suffering, and liability (for property owners) means taking steps to prioritize prevention and reduce risks.
While winter weather naturally increases risks for slips and falls, there are a few ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Here are a few important tips:
- Pay Attention: It’s easy to get distracted when out and about, especially in the smartphone era, but paying attention to your surroundings can help you avoid potential slip and fall hazards like icy surfaces. When walking in the winter months, even if it isn’t snowing, concentrate on the path ahead, take your time, and proceed using shorter, slower steps. If you’re unsure about whether a surface is slippery (like black ice), consider tapping your foot on an area before you proceed.
- Choose a safer route: Slick, snowy, and icy surfaces can crop up just about anywhere, so knowing where they’re most likely to be can help you choose a safe route. Keep an eye out for icy pavement on sidewalks and parking lots, storefronts and alleys where liquids may accumulate from businesses, wet leaves, snow banks, holes or grates in which snow or slush may accumulate, and similar hazards, and avoid them as safely as you can when possible.
- Wear the right footwear: Your choice in footwear may be a fashion statement, but it’s important to consider their function as well. In winter months and poor weather, wearing shoes or boots with textured soles (ridged, waffled, etc.) can mean the difference between a near-accident and a real injury. For those who wear dress shoes, choose ones with better grip, or consider packing your dress shoes in a bag to change into after hoofing it into work.
- Use handrails / free up your hands: Whenever a handrail or handhold is available, use it. Railings and handholds can provide stability in and around risky areas (especially on staircases or when getting on or off a bus, train, or subway car) and help prevent falls. Freeing up your hands by using a backpack or bag with a shoulder strap can also keep you safer when walking in poor weather by allowing your arms to move for stabilization or to grab onto a railing if you do slip.
- Know the risks at home and work: Slip and fall risks don’t solely exist outdoors on the pavement; snow and slush can be tracked into entrances to apartment buildings, businesses, and homes, as well as on stoops and staircases, elevators, and escalators. Take extra caution when walking in these areas, keep them well-lit so hazards can be easily spotted, and make a plan to clear them regularly and clean up spills immediately if you own a property or business. Cleaning your shoes or taking them off once you’re safely inside can also help reduce risks.
- Know how to react when you slip: If you do begin to slip, do your best to attempt rolling with the fall, if you fall forward. If you feel yourself falling backward, try to “sit down” into the fall. Fighting a fall or stiffening up, especially on ice, can place stress on the body and cause twisting / bending injuries which may make injuries worse.
- Report hazards: If you see a potential slip and fall hazard, be it winter weather-related or otherwise, report it when possible to business or property owners, supervisors or maintenance persons, or city officials. Doing so can help keep everyone safe.
When Injuries Happen: Call a Proven Lawyer
“Accidents” may happen, but many slip and falls are avoidable and can be prevented. Unfortunately, even those who take precautions to avoid slips and falls in the winter can find themselves getting injured do to another’s negligence and have to face the many economic and non-economic damages that arise as a result.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall accident involving snow, slush, ice, or other winter-related conditions, you may have the right to seek financial compensation for your damages.
Property owners, municipalities, contractors on construction sites, and lessees typically have a duty to keep people safe from preventable hazards they knew or should have known about. When they fail to do so, they may be held liable for harm suffered by victims.
The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., has served New York City and beyond since 1983, and has been rated among the “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News. From premises accidents and defective products to work injuries and construction accidents, we help slip and fall victims evaluate potential claims, and seek the compensation they deserve. Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online for a free consultation.