Whether you’re driving or walking, getting around in Oklahoma gets a little more dangerous during the winter. Although our state doesn’t get many days below freezing, there’s always a slight risk of snowfall and ice accumulation between the months of December and March. Snow and ice make roads, parking lots, and sidewalks slick, and that increases your chances of having an accident and suffering a serious injury, especially when you are unprepared for it.
You’re responsible for clearing ice and snow on your own sidewalk or driveway, but what happens if you live in an apartment complex where dozens or even hundreds of other people live and you must traverse a dangerously iced-over parking area or sidewalk to get to and from your vehicle and your building? Are you allowed to sue the building owner or manager if you slip and fall on ice that wasn’t cleared?
Here’s what Oklahoma law has to say about this common issue.
Oklahoma Law Says Landlords Typically Aren’t Liable for Ice and Snow-Related Falls
According to Oklahoma law, ice and snowfall naturally accumulate regardless of the will or actions of a landlord or property manager. That means it’s legally unreasonable to hold them accountable if someone slips and falls on ice or snow, even if the victim had to traverse common areas such as ice- and snow-covered parking lots and sidewalks to enter their residences.
And while many landlords and property managers provide measures to keep residents safe and able to move freely during winter weather, such as salting sidewalks and stairwells and shoveling or plowing snow, they aren’t legally required to do so. Instead, residents are expected to handle the adverse weather conditions as best they can, just as they’re required to remove ice and snow from their vehicles’ windows and roofs before driving.
Negligent Property Management Can Change Landlords’ Liability
Oklahoma’s natural accumulation law only applies when a property is otherwise in good and safe condition for visitors. However, it may not apply when snow and ice accumulation become excessively dangerous beyond what’s natural and out of the landlord’s control.
For example, a landlord or property manager may be held liable for a slip and fall injury if clogged gutters or faulty drainage cause water to unnaturally and excessively pool and freeze on a sidewalk or entryway used by residents. They also may be held liable if an accumulation of snow or ice hides other known hazards, such as drainage grates, cables, or building materials.
In some cases, landlords can even be held liable when they do attempt to mitigate dangers caused by ice or snow but instead create new problems by doing it poorly. An example of this could include shoveling snow off of a paved driveway into a ditch and visually hiding the ditch from drivers who may inadvertently steer into it, not realizing it’s there.
Finally, landlords or property managers can be held liable if an accumulation of ice or snow make an already dangerous situation for pedestrians or residents even more dangerous. For example, an already broken staircase loaded with snow may collapse under the weight of a pedestrian or resident.
Landlords Are Required to Address Indoor Hazards Related to Snow and Ice
When snow and ice accumulate outdoors, they have a tendency to make their way indoors and melt into pooled water on the floor, creating a slip hazard. With dozens or hundreds of people coming and going from apartment complexes in Oklahoma every day, big chunks of ice and snow get tracked in by residents and visitors. These chunks can quickly melt and turn into large puddles, especially near doorways.
While landlords can’t be expected to address every danger associated with the natural accumulation of ice and snow outdoors, they can be expected to address the issues associated with the puddling of melted ice and snow indoors. Whether it’s immediately mopping up pooled water, laying down floor mats, or placing wet floor signs, landlords must address the danger or notify residents and visitors of the danger while they create a plan to address it.
Contact Us After a Slip and Fall Injury
Slip and fall injuries are often painful and can even be temporarily disabling, when they result in broken legs, hips, or back injuries. They’re also legally challenging, as property owners and their insurers have many arguments to fall back on to say they’re not at fault for residents’ and visitors’ injuries. When they do decide to give victims compensation, they usually offer lowball settlements that barely cover the ambulance ride to the hospital, let alone victims’ full medical bills and lost wages.
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we’ve seen firsthand how devastating slip and fall injuries can be. If you or someone you love slipped and fell due to ice, snow, water, broken steps, hidden hazards, or any other danger, we want to help. Contact our Oklahoma premises liability lawyers today for a free consultation.