The Slippery Situation with Weather-Related Injuries in North Carolina


As the temperatures dip below freezing this winter there will be ice and this presents obvious problems as we travel.  Whether on foot or in a vehicle, nobody has excellent traction on a sheet of ice.  Unfortunately, some people may experience falls and other accidents involving icy surfaces.  Naturally the thought may arise as to whom, if anyone, may be legally liable for any injuries or damages sustained.  And this is where we have to talk…..

In North Carolina, we have contributory negligence which serves to make personal injury claims a bit more difficult to sustain.  In our state if a person is injured due to the alleged negligence of another the person must also show that he or she was not negligent.  A classic example of how contributory negligence can be a problem is a fall on a patch of ice in a parking lot.  If you are walking and can see or should see the ice but don’t see it and fall you may not have a viable claim.  The law holds you responsible for maintaining a proper lookout and being reasonably vigilant as you travel.  Even if the owner of the parking lot failed to remove the ice or put up any signs warning of the ice (and the owner may not even be legally required to do so) an injured person’s failure to see what could have been seen may be enough to take the owner off the proverbial hook.

Given the nature of personal injury claims in North Carolina a lot of facts and factors come into play and you should ALWAYS consult with an attorney before deciding to handle a claim on your own.  Here are some quick tips for staying safe when travelling in bad weather:

WALKING

  • Wear shoes in good condition and with good traction
  • Avoid walking or traveling when you are under the influence of alcohol or medication
  • Frequently look down and ahead as you walk
  • Try not to carry items that may obscure your view of your path
  • Maintain a steady, balanced pace..avoid running, jumping, or other sudden movements that may cause a loss of balance

DRIVING

  • Be sure your vehicle’s tires have sufficient tread, inflation, and are otherwise in good condition
  • Check your vehicle’s windshield wipers and use your defroster(s)
  • Remove all ice and snow—or as much as possible—from your vehicle before driving
  • Leave sufficient distance between you and other vehicles on the road or highway
  • Burn your headlights when visibility is poor and use hazard lights/emergency lights if necessary
  • Be extra vigilant in falling weather (rain, sleet, snow, hail)

The contributory negligence rule also applies to damage to your vehicle so if you are found contributorily negligent you may recover nothing.  If you do happen to sustain an injury or damages due in a weather-related incident contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a consultation.  Be careful and here’s hoping you get an opportunity to stay inside and see at least one good snowfall this winter.

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