Winter Slips and Falls Caused by Ice, Sleet, and Snow

Winter Slips and Falls Caused by Ice, Sleet, and SnowIn the summertime, it’s hot and humid, and we have to worry about staying hydrated and keeping cool so that we don’t end up sick or hurt. When the seasons change, there’s a whole new set of risks we need to be concerned about. Ice, sleet, and snow might not be exceptionally common in Mississippi, but they can still create some dangerous situations. Since 2014, in fact, there have been several winter weather systems to hit the state, so it’s best to continue forward with knowledge and experience as a weapon.

It wasn’t too long ago that Mississippi experienced a cold front that came with ice and snow. In 2017, a complex weather system moved into the state, amounting in sleet and freezing rain falling onto roadways and walkways around rush hour time. Only three days prior to this storm of cold weather, the temperatures had been in the 70s. As the sleet and freezing rain fell, the temperatures at ground level remained in the freezing range, which only served to make the ground even more treacherous. Nearly two inches of sleet fell across the state, with some parts of Mississippi seeing snow as well. There were many accidents on the roads, not to mention how many slip and fall accidents were had by the locals simply trying to clean off their sidewalks and steps.

Every year, around one million Americans slip and fall on icy walkways or ground, and of those one million falls, 17,000 of them end up being fatal. These sorts of injuries are unfortunately common. Whether it’s a misplaced step on some freshly fallen sleet or some black ice that you didn’t see, a slip and fall could end up costing you pain and money.

What is black ice, and how does it form?

Sleet, snow, and freezing rain are all dangerous forms of precipitation, and they can cause another type of winter hazard that is sneaky and perfidious to anyone walking or driving: black ice. “The most basic definition of black ice is a thin coat of highly transparent ice. The reason it is transparent is because it blends in with road pavements since it is so thin, making it nearly impossible to see. It’s called black ice since it looks black, like the color of the road pavement it forms on.”

Black ice forms when cold, wet pavement freezes over. Even moisture from any dew or fog could freeze over and create black ice. You can’t avoid what you can’t see, so anyone jogging or even carefully walking on black ice is susceptible to falling at any moment.

What kinds of injuries can I get from slipping on ice, sleet, or snow?

Other than bumps and bruises, there are several more serious injuries that you can suffer when slipping and falling on slick pathways:

  • Muscle sprains and ligament strains
  • Compression fractures, including spinal compression fractures
  • Broken bones, including wrists, hips, and shins, as well as falling on ice knee injuries
  • Herniated discs in the spine (most commonly in the lower back)
  • Concussions caused by falling on ice and hitting your head

The elderly and those who are pregnant are the most at risk for these sorts of accidents, and tend to suffer more severe injuries than others. Slips and falls are the leading cause of injury among the elderly, as their musculoskeletal function is degraded and makes them brittle and susceptible to injury. The injuries suffered from these falls are three times more likely to be fatal for someone who is 70 years old or older than those who are younger.

Pregnant people are often concerned about slips and falls, wanting to protect their unborn babies. The good thing is that the human body is structured in such a way that the baby is well protected inside the uterus which has thick muscle and amniotic fluid to help protect it, as well as the pelvis itself. If you fall while pregnant, it’s likely that your baby will be alright, but you never want to assume. . It’s important to see your doctor right away if you DO fall while pregnant, just to be certain.

How can I protect myself from slipping and falling?

If you fall on someone else’s property, the owner/operator can be held liable for any injuries you sustain. That’s true if you fall at a grocery store without a “wet floor” sign, or on a neighbor’s porch steps that are covered in ice. After all, you cannot control how other people will act in bad weather.

To that end, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself if you must be out and about in winter weather.

First, simply be careful where you step. Test out the area you’ll be stepping on first before continuing forward. Don’t try to run or walk quickly if you’re in an area that seems icy. And when you go to a grocery store or shop, be careful when entering. The tile at the entrance may be slick with melted ice and snow from shoppers’ feet, and could offer a fine spot for a fall. Make sure to look for any warning signs so you know what areas of the store to avoid.

Wear appropriate footwear. Heels or a leather shoe are difficult to manage on ice, and can lead to a slip easily. It’s better to wear a shoe or boot that has rubber soles. That’s not to say that you can’t have fancy footwear at ALL in the winter. Simply bring your nice pair of shoes along with you to wherever you’re going, and once the paths seem dry and safe, you can switch into those shoes then.

If there’s something to grab onto nearby to stabilize yourself as you’re walking over ice, sleet, or freezing rain, then use it. A good handrail is important on stairs and slopes. You should put away your phone or finish your coffee before trying to maneuver tricky terrain like this: empty hands means you can reach out and catch yourself if you begin to slip, or use them to help balance yourself if necessary.

Use rock salt or gravel/sand on your steps and walkways. These will provide traction for your feet and keep any visitors for the holiday season safe when they arrive for a party or presents. Be forewarned that while rock salt can melt the ice from your pathways, it creates puddles of water, and if it gets below freezing for too long, those puddles can form back into ice. It’s best to put out the salt when you know it’s going to be warmer and sunny, so that the water can evaporate.

The winter doesn’t need to be a trudge through darkness to spring. It can be enjoyed with friends and family in the warmth of a good home, so long as everyone arrives safely. It’s important to be cautious of ice and winter weather when the temperatures begin to drop, so take the right precautions or you could end up in the hospital or worse. If you’ve fallen because someone else didn’t properly clear their sidewalk, or perhaps the store you were visiting didn’t properly clean up their entryway, then you could have a case on your hands. Contact the Mississippi premises liability lawyers Merkel & Cocke, P.A. at 662.627.9641, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment at one of our offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, or Oxford. Proudly serving Tupelo, the Gulf Coast, and all of Mississippi.