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Who's Fault Is It When Your Only Path Is Icy And Dangerous?

After months of a record cold New York winter, formerly safe passageways, paths, and sidewalks have all too often become dangerous as they are covered in ice and snow. While diligent property owners and municipalities do their part to keep all routes safe some of them inevitably fail to shovel and salt. As a result, many New Yorkers have no choice but to risk trying to walk through the ice and snow to get where they need to go.

Usually, when a person slips, falls, and injures themselves, the defendant in any potential lawsuit will argue that the accident was at least partially that person's fault. This concept is known in the law as "comparative negligence" and holds a the injured person responsible for their portion of fault in the happening of an accident when they bring a lawsuit. However, when a person has no choice but to walk through a dangerous path, the law recognizes that this person is not comparatively negligence, as it is the defendants' job to show that there was an alternative, safe path to take.

Indeed, in Perales v City of New York, 274 AD2d 349 (1st Dept 2000), the plaintiff was walking to a shoe store and had to walk through a visibly icy path in order to get there, when he slipped and fell. Despite the defendant's argument that the plaintiff could have simply turned back around to avoid the ice, the plaintiff's lawyers successfully argued that as there was no alternative, safe path to get where the plaintiff was going the plaintiff cannot be held to be comparative negligence as a matter of law.

Similarly, in Pilgrim v Wilson Flat, Inc., 110 AD3d 973 (2nd Dept 2013), where a plaintiff slipped and fell on the top step of an entrance to an apartment building, the Trial Court refused to put the issue of whether the plaintiff was comparatively negligent to the jury. Both of these cases are an acknowledgment of the fact that when you have no choice but to take a dangerous route to get where you are going, the law recognizes that it is not your fault if you are injured as a result.

Further, for anyone injured in a slip and fall as a result of a dangerous path, these cases also highlight the importance of taking photographs of the area of your accident as soon as possible. Icy conditions are obviously temporary and if you want to show that the path you walked through was the only path you could take, having photographic evidence can go a long way to proving your case.

If you or someone you know has been injured due to a slip and fall on snow or icy conditions, contact the Law Office of Louis Grandelli.

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