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When you slip and fall: Owners and renters alike are liable

That lovely blanket of white snow covering the ground and the walks isn't so lovely you slips and falls on it and hurts yourself. If you do, the owners of the property or their renters can find themselves liable for your emergency care expenses plus long-term medical care, therapy, rehabilitation, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Many city ordinances specifically address the issue of snow and ice covered walks in fairly certain terms and they essentially have one message for property holders: keep the sidewalks clean.

In Islip, for example, the city ordinances make it the responsibility of the owner or occupant of any house or building to keep the sidewalks in front free from snow and ice "at all times." While it's doubtful that residents are expected to chase down snowflakes as they fall, they are generally expected to keep up with the snow as quickly as possible, even if it is still snowing.

You should also note that the responsibility for keeping the premises safe lies on the possessor of the property and the owner of the property, so a renter could be as liable as the property owner for your damages.

If you are the victim of a slip and fall accident, there are several possible causes that could have contributed to your tumble. It's important to address each of these questions with your attorney in order to develop your injury claim to the fullest:

—Were the walks generally free of snow buildup? If the snow was still falling, had the walks been touched at all or were you forced to try to wade through the whole accumulation?

—Was there ice under the snow that caused your fall? Or did a thin sheet of ice cover the ground entirely? That indicates that the snow was untended long enough to melt and re-freeze. A simple handful of rock salt or some de-icer could have prevented your fall.

—If you fell on the steps leading to someone's apartment or home, were they generally swept clean of snow and cleared of ice?

—Was the lighting adequate around the area where you fell? If not, it may have caused you to mistake a dark patch of ice for a clear walkway.

Slip and fall accidents sound very ordinary, but they can lead to serious, long-term injuries, including broken vertebrae, broken hips, nursing home confinement, nerve damage and head injuries.

Source: FindLaw, "Conditions Leading to Outdoor Slip and Fall Accidents," accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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