Black ice may also be referred to as clear ice and is a thin coating of transparent ice that covers a surface, such as a road, parking lot or sidewalk. Because the ice is transparent, many people do not notice it, which often leads to people slipping and falling. Black ice typically forms when the temperature drops below freezing after the ground was previously wet, when the temperature drops the night after a rainy day, or if warmer weather during the day causes snow to melt before freezing again at night. The main reason black ice is so dangerous is an individual’s inability to see it, and to therefore take caution to prevent walking on it.
Applicable Duty of Care
Slip and fall accidents may give rise to premises liability claims. One of the issues in a premises liability claim is the duty of care owed by the owner or possessor of the property to the person who was injured. The duty of care owed depends on the “status” of the injured party. In most slip and fall accidents on commercial property, such as a grocery or convenience store, the injured party is considered to be an “invitee” of the property owner. In these types of cases, the property owner owes the highest duty of care to correct any potentially dangerous conditions of the property, or to warn of the existence of such conditions that the owner could have or should have known of, unless the invitee could have reasonably discovered the dangerous condition on his or her own.
There are four elements to prove in order to establish a property owner’s negligence in a slip and fall claim. First, the property owner or possessor must be deemed to have owed a duty of care to the injured party. As indicated above, property owners normally owe customers a duty of care to either timely correct dangerous conditions or warn customers of their existence (normally through signage). Secondly, the property owner must have breached this duty of care, and the breach must have been a cause of the injured party’s injuries. Finally, the injured party must have suffered damages, or injuries, as a result of the breach of the duty. Damages may include compensation for pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and future wage loss.
A property owner may attempt to show the exercise of reasonable care by demonstrating that it took steps to prevent the formation of black ice, and/or by removing black ice, either itself or through a contractor, within a reasonable period of time. Often times the case will hinge upon whether a property owner had “notice,” or enough time prior to the accident to know about the black ice and take reasonable measures to remove it.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a slip and fall and have legal questions, contact Scott Bonebrake. Scott is a general practitioner in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for more than 25 years. If you have any legal questions, please feel free to contact Scott at 610-892-7700, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.