Winter brings colder weather and new safety concerns for those driving or walking, even short distances. Anytime you know you’ll be traveling in an area experiencing low temperatures, there are some precautions you should be aware of to prevent a slip and fall injury to yourself or loved ones.
Moving on foot can be dangerous when there are slippery ice patches on the ground. There are many different formations of ice that might be present depending on the temperature, air humidity, and general geography of where you are.
The most dangerous type is called glaze ice. It’s a thin, clear, smooth layer that can form on nearly any surface. When it collects on plants, it can weigh them down and cause any affected parts to break off. When this happens with trees it creates the risk of branches falling on any nearby pedestrians. Always avoid walking beneath a tree you see coated with ice.
When it accumulates on a street, glaze ice is often referred to as “black ice.” It does not actually have any black pigment of its own, but is instead transparent and shows the color of the road below, making it appear dark. Driving over black ice is an extremely common cause of car accidents in the winter because it can be almost impossible for motorists to see the ice, as it blends in to the street. Drivers should move slowly in any area where there is known to be ice. When walking, it’s a little easier to notice black ice because you have a better view of the ground in front of you. So, when you’re on foot, periodically look down to see if you observe any icy spots in the distance, and stay away from them so you don’t slip and fall.
In addition to being vigilant, it’s vital to obtain proper seasonal footwear. You’ll want to find a pair of boots made to withstand frozen conditions – they should be capable of keeping your feet warm, of course, but also offer you better traction over icy surfaces. Look for boots that have rubber soles identified as non-slip.
If you see glaze ice on land you own or areas around it, such as the sidewalk in front of your home, there are steps you can take to decrease the danger it poses. Spreading rock salt on the ice will help melt it more quickly while also creating a rough, textured surface, greatly reducing the chance of a slip and fall incident for anyone walking on it. It’s key to not overdo it on ice-melting salt, though; using too much is obviously a poor financial choice, but it can also end up damaging the concrete. We recommend following the manufacturer’s directions closely, and don’t be tempted to go overboard.
In Michigan, there is no statewide law obliging citizens to remove snow or ice from their sidewalks, but the legislature allows for the passage of city ordinances that make this requirement. This is addressed in Sections 103.3 and 67.9. You can contact your city’s government to see what local laws may apply to you, or search for yourself on Municode Library.
Many states, including Michigan, uphold what is called the “open and obvious” doctrine, which means that an owner is not responsible for injuries sustained on his or her property if the condition should have been obvious to a typical person. In other words, if you had a slip and fall on someone else’s sidewalk because of a patch of ice, a court may find that you should have been aware of it and taken care to avoid it. If there is proof that a property owner was truly negligent, a suit may be possible.
Whiting Law can help you figure out if you have a viable case or not. Contact us for answers to your questions and for more advice on wintertime safety and to stay up-to-date on the latest legal news in Michigan.