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All Montana residents exit their doors with a certain amount of caution during the winter months.  Ice can be lurking where you least expect it, and what appears to be a minor puddle can result in a bruised butt in no time if you don’t exercise your winter judgment.  Winter is the season of slip and falls, while some may be minor and merely a source of bruised ego, others can result in twisted ankles, concussions, broken bones, and, in some cases, even worse consequences. When a serious personal injury occurs and coincides with a slip and fall, the victim may be facing costly medical expenses, lost wages, and suffering. For this reason, if you own a business or other property in Montana, it’s essential that you maintain your property, including walkways and driveways for winter conditions.  This will help to prevent slips and falls, and, ultimately, prevent a lawsuit.

An important question to ask yourself is, “Will I be responsible if someone slips and falls on my property?”  It’s a pretty safe bet in general to assume that if you own the property, then an injured person’s lawsuit can be directed at you – whether you are liable or not.  Additionally, if you are a manager of a company or a small business owner, a lawsuit will probably try to hold your company liable.  Lawsuits are expensive, and small steps of caution and driveway maintenance could save you thousands in the long run.

Liability must always be determined in slip and fall lawsuits, but the court will also consider the following factors before holding a property owner legally responsible:

·         The property owner knew about the hazard and did not try to correct it

·         The property owner should have known about the hazard and taken steps to prevent injury, just as any “reasonable person” would have done

As a landowner, you can take steps to prevent injuries on your property. First, assess any potential hazards on your property (inspect walkways, stairs, surfaces, check for ice dams, etc.).  Second, brainstorm ways to control the hazards (discuss maintenance plans with snow removal crews, keep walkways free of ice, and install slip resistant flooring materials). Third, post signs warning of possible slippery conditions.

Of course, there is some leniency during major winter storms. You shouldn’t have to brave a blizzard and put yourself at risk just to eliminate every potential risk. Nevertheless, it’s important to be proactive and eliminate risks when possible. If you were in a slip and fall, whether you are the business owner or the injured party, contact the attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley, PLLP.  They have defended and prosecuted numerous lawsuits dealing with slip and falls and would be happy to explore your options with you.  Set up a free consultation with our office today.