Can You Sue When Bad Weather Causes Injury?

No one can control the weather. So when an accident happens during bad weather, victims may wonder if and how they can be compensated for their injuries. You can't sue Mother Nature, so do you have any other options? 

Yes. Here are three key things every accident victim needs to know about premises liability during weather events. 

1. Bad Weather Doesn't Negate Responsibility

No matter what the weather was like, don't assume that it's the end of the story. There may still be responsibility or failure on the part of some human party. 

If you slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk, the landowner may be liable for failure to shovel it completely. If they did shovel it but some ice remained, they may be negligent for not putting up warning signs. Did the warning sign blow away in a storm? The owner could be responsible for not securing it. In short, other factors could be at work. 

2. You'll Need to Prove Negligence

Just because someone suffers an accident, such as a trip-and-fall, on someone else's property doesn't automatically make the landowner liable. The same is true for accidents that happen due to weather. Instead, you'll have to show how the other party was negligent in some way beyond the natural cause. 

In general, negligence in premises liability means that the other party knew of a dangerous situation but failed to take reasonable precautions. If a patch of ice regularly forms in a particular part of the sidewalk all winter long, failure to warn pedestrians is negligent. However, the landowner doesn't necessarily have to know that ice had formed on this particular day. It had happened enough times that the owner should have known and taken measures. 

3. Your Status Matters

Why were you on the property? This may not always seem like a relevant question, but it makes a big difference in premises liability. That's because owners and managers have different levels of responsibility toward different visitors. The duty of care toward a trespasser often includes only the intentional causing of harm. However, the duty of care toward a customer is at its highest. 

Consider that icy sidewalk at a retail store. Because customers are expected and invited for the benefit of the store, the store managers owe the customers a great responsibility to find and fix hazards or warn customers about them. An outside salesperson, on the other hand, is accepted but not necessarily invited for the store's benefit. The store usually still has a responsibility to provide warnings about or fix known dangers but may not be liable for searching them out or taking extra steps to prevent harm. 

Where to Start

Liability when there are multiple causes — especially both natural and human-made ones — is tricky. Contact a law firm like Siben & Siben LLP to learn more.