Most recent Texas decisions indicate your apartment complex would not be liable for your injuries if ice naturally accumulated on the grounds.
It’s a nightmare scenario. You’re walking down your steps or to your car after a recent ice storm, like the one we had in late February this year. As you walk, you Slip and fall due to ice on the ground.
While you weren’t hurt severely, you did sprain your ankle, aggravate a past back injury, and bruise the side of your head. You also missed a couple days of work.
Now you have a difficult decision to make: should you file an insurance claim and/or potentially sue your apartment complex?
Proving liability in this situation isn’t black-and-white. The majority of Courts in Texas now draw a distinction between natural accumulation of ice (“act of God”) and unnatural accumulation. What’s the difference and why does it matter?
Most recent Texas decisions indicate your apartment complex would not be liable for your injuries if ice naturally accumulated on the grounds. Under these decisions ice results from weather conditions alone and your apartment complex has no duty to put salt down on the sidewalk.
Unnatural accumulation, however, is an entirely different matter.
Let’s say that temperatures were freezing but there was no precipitation and, therefore, no chance for ice. Now assume your apartment complex neglected to turn off their sprinkler system and created the dangerous condition, i.e. the presence of ice when otherwise none would have existed. In this scenario a jury could determine they knew or should have known of the dangerous condition since they created it.
Were you negligent in any way?
For example, let’s say part of the walkway had the ice completely removed already. Instead of choosing the safe route, you walked up the icy part.
The jury and judge could see that as your negligence. Or, maybe you decided to drink some alcohol and then go outside and take a walk. You have some responsibility in that situation as well. Or maybe you decided to run on the ice as a joke.
Just remember…the court’s going to check your behavior too!
If your apartment complex is negligent, you can claim against their insurance.
- Have a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage, and up to $500,000 or more.
- Pay $5,000 – $10,000 for “medical payments”
Should you have to pay for injuries that were not your fault?
If they were careless and negligent, you may very well have a slip and fall case, but if it was just ice from natural accumulation, you probably don’t. If you are uncertain, talk to a Dallas personal injury law firm that offers a free consultation and find out for sure.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.