Minnesota winter weather raises risk of injury from outside falls

When the reason for a fall is a slip on ice or snow that should have been removed or treated by the person responsible for keeping the surface safe, resulting injuries may be compensable in a personal injury lawsuit.

Homeowners, property owners, business owners and operators, landlords, homeowner associations and government entities - all of these can have legal duties to keep sidewalks, driveways, steps and parking lots safe for people with the right to walk or run there. This legal duty of care toward others is heightened during Minnesota winters because of the ice, sleet and snow that are common parts of the weather.

All these precipitation events as well as the melting and refreezing of ice and snow can intensify the risk of slipping and falling on public and private property. Owners, landlords, businesses, government agencies and other entities may have responsibility to keep outdoor surfaces safe in the winter. This can mean plowing, shoveling and applying chemicals to melt ice or sand to prevent slippage.

Citing federal statistics, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester reports that as of May 2018, Minnesota was number three of all states for fall mortality rates.

If the responsible party cannot make a surface safe, they should clearly block off access to the area. They could also install obvious warning signs or bright markers. The responsible party must monitor such surfaces regularly because of weather changes and the potential development of hidden ice.

When a Minnesota resident or visitor slips on a wintry surface and falls, serious injury can result, especially in elderly people. Injuries may include:

  • Spinal injury such as compressed discs and other harm
  • Head and brain injury, including concussion and traumatic brain injury or TBI
  • Bone fractures such as broken bones in wrists, hands, ankles, hips and arms
  • Death

A victim should seek financial compensation from all potentially responsible parties like property owners, businesses, government entities, maintenance companies, insurance companies and others.

Appropriate money damages may include compensation for:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

For permanent or long-term injuries, home and vehicle adaptations, therapies, medical equipment, home health aide services, housekeeping services, long-term care costs and more

If the negligent behavior that caused injury is particularly outrageous, the injured person may be able to get punitive damages - those that are meant to punish a wrongdoer rather than compensate for the victim's loss. Minnesota law says that punitive damages are only available if there is "clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the ... safety of others."

Minnesota readers should take great care this winter. If you should fall and sustain injury outside, an attorney can explore whether the legal duties of other parties were breached, causing the slip and fall, and advise you of your potential legal remedies.

The attorneys at Goldstein Law, PLLC, with offices in South Minneapolis, represent clients injured by the negligence of others in slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents as well as in a wide variety of other accident types throughout the Twin Cities area.