Hidden Danger: Black Ice Slip and Fall

One thing’s for sure in the Richmond, Virginia area: when the weather forecast calls for snow or sleet, grocery store shelves will be stripped of bread, milk and eggs within hours of the predicted storm.

It’s smart to stay home when wintry weather hits. Snow-covered streets are obviously slippery, but there’s a less visible danger to be aware of: the presence of so-called “black ice” on streets, sidewalks and parking lots.

Black ice forms when it’s raining or sleeting and the surface temperature of roadways or sidewalks is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The ground temperature causes precipitation to freeze immediately. This nearly invisible layer on top of the pavement is known as “black ice” or “clear ice.”

Whatever you call it, it’s one of the most dangerous phenomena of winter weather because it’s hard to spot and very slippery. Black ice also occurs when piles of snow melt during the day and the runoff refreezes overnight. If you are involved in a slip and fall accident involving black ice, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you.

Here’s a potential scenario: Richmond weatherman Jim Duncan predicted, and Mother Nature delivered, eight inches of snow and sleet. You bought enough milk, bread and eggs to get your family through the first snowy day or two. But now the roads are clear and it’s back to work. Before work, you visit the drugstore to refill a prescription. It’s 7:15 a.m. and the temperature is 28 degrees. The previous afternoon was sunny and bright, melting some of the snow ‒ which often happens in the Richmond area. Huge piles of snow surround the drugstore parking lot, but the pavement appears to be free of snow or ice.

The next morning, you wake up in excruciating pain and realize the slip and fall must’ve injured you more than you realized at the time. What recourse do you have?

You step out of your car, walking confidently toward the drugstore and WHAM! Your foot slips out from under you and you fall onto your back – hard! – in the parking lot. A concerned passerby helps you to your feet. Your back hurts where you fell. You rub it briefly, but decide to get on with your day.

Inside the drugstore, you mention the slip and fall to the pharmacist, who asks if you’re ok. You mutter, “I guess so. I mean, I’m walking, right?” And that’s that.

The next morning, you wake up in excruciating pain and realize the slip and fall must’ve injured you more than you realized at the time. What recourse do you have?

“Unfortunately, this person made critical mistakes,” says Matt Lastrapes, a Richmond personal injury attorney and partner in Commonwealth Law Group. “Let’s revisit the scenario to offer some suggestions.”

Here’s what you should do differently if this ever happens to you:

  1. If you slip and fall, take photos immediately to document the scene. If you wait until hours later, any black ice that could be visible in photographs may have melted. Take photos of the snow piles, your car, your path to the front door, and close-up photos of the spot where you slipped. Document as much as you can – it’s better to collect too much evidence than too little.
  2. Inspect the store’s roofline for surveillance cameras. As costs for these devices come down, they are becoming more prevalent. If the drugstore doesn’t have a video camera, the grocery store or bank nearby may have one that captured your slip and fall on video, which could be key evidence in your case.
  3. If you are seriously injured, have someone summon the store manager, and call an ambulance.
  4. That kind stranger who helped you to your feet? He’s a witness. Always get contact information from anyone who sees any accident you’re involved in, as they may be an important witness in your case.
  5. Report the accident to the store manager. Mentioning it to the pharmacist isn’t enough. Make a formal incident report. Tell them you saw no visible ice, but you suffered a slip and fall anyway.
  6. See a doctor as soon as possible. Sprain and strain soft tissue injuries to the back and neck require medical attention to heal properly.
  7. Do NOT speak with the drugstore’s insurance company until after you’ve contacted an experienced personal injury lawyer.
  8. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you’re in Virginia, the Richmond personal injury attorneys at Commonwealth Law Group have strong experience handling personal injury cases for people like you who’ve been injured through no fault of their own.

If you or a loved one is involved in a slip and fall accident, we strongly recommend that you explore your legal options. Call the experienced Richmond personal injury attorneys of Commonwealth Law Group for a free consultation at 804.999.9999. Justice starts here.

 

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