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Tips to Avoid a Winter Slip and Fall Accident in Washington State

Winter in Washington can be great fun, but it brings with it certain hazards. Between snow accumulation, sidewalks becoming icy, and shoppers bringing water from snow and rain into stores, slipping hazards are abundant this time of year.

More than 8,750,000 Americans suffered injuries in slips, trips, and falls in 2013 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While most of these injuries are minor, they can be severe, leading to emergency room visits, hospitalization, disability, and even death. Make an effort this winter to be more aware of slipping hazards created by the winter weather.

How can I prevent winter slips, trips, and falls?

There are a number of precautions you can take to prevent falls, especially during the winter months, when icy and wet conditions increase the risk of slip and fall injuries.

  • Be aware of slipping hazards: A slip and fall accident often happens when someone slips in water, loses traction in ice and snow, or trips over a change in incline, a gap in the sidewalk, or a hole in the ground. Other hazards such as poor lighting or uneven stairs can also cause falls.
  • Avoid icy surfaces: Be sure to put salt on your steps, sidewalk, and driveway when snow or ice is in the forecast, and only patronize businesses that have removed ice and snow from their entryways and parking lots. If possible, make a detour around the icy area.
  • Wear the right shoes: Choosing supportive, slip-resistant footwear that is proper for winter weather is key in preventing slips and falls due to wet or frozen conditions. Washington State gets a lot of wet weather during winter, so waterproof boots are a good investment. If you want to wear other shoes, carry them with you and put them on whenever you have to go outdoors.
  • Be cautious in entryways: These areas tend to get slippery when it is wet outside. People wipe their shoes on mats provided by store owners, though some water on slick floors is inevitable in these areas. Use any mats provided and alert staff if the mat is saturated.
  • Use an umbrella bag: If the store supplies umbrella bags, be sure to use one. You can avoid tracking water around the store in which you or someone else could slip and fall.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings: Wet or slick floors are often marked with signs, allowing you to avoid the area or take extra precautions to prevent a fall. It is also important to focus on where you are going rather than on your phone or other distraction. If you need to take a phone call or send a text, find a bench to sit down.
  • Carry a flashlight: A flashlight can help illuminate areas and expose icy patches.
  • Keep your hands free: Many people walk with their hands in their pockets, especially in blustery winter weather. When the ground is slick, though, this is not the best idea. If you slip on ice or in standing water, your arms can help you regain your balance, or to land safely if you fall.
  • Do not carry too much: If you are juggling a large load while walking on a wet or frozen surface, it can easily throw you off balance. At the same time, the item you are carrying occupies your hands, preventing you from using them to break your fall.
  • Test questionable surfaces first: If an area looks icy, test it first with your toe before you put your full weight on it.
  • Take small steps: Smaller, slower, more careful steps are preferable to large, quick ones when the ground is slick. Use handrails or other support when available to help keep your feet under you.
  • Walk slowly: Do not walk fast or run in wet weather. Just because you do not see ice or water, does not mean it is not there. The faster you are moving, the harder it will be to slow down and avoid slick areas.
  • Get help if you need it: If you are older and need help walking on snow and ice, do not hesitate to ask.
  • Do not walk during winter storms: Walking in a blizzard can greatly decrease your visibility causing a slip and fall accident.

What do I do if I could not prevent my accident?

If you could not prevent your accident, be sure to get medical care.

Slip and fall accidents typically fall under premises liability claims. Owners are under an obligation to keep their property safe for others who visit or patronize their business. Allowing dangerous conditions such as wet floors to remain without remedy can subject the property owner to liability in a trip, slip, or fall accident under Washington law.

If possible, document the scene. This may include taking pictures and getting contact information from witnesses. When filing a claim for a slip and fall accident, you need to present evidence to show there were hazardous conditions that led to the fall.

If you suffered injuries in a fall on someone else’s property and believe you may be eligible for compensation, the slip and fall attorneys at McMenamin & McMenamin, PS can help evaluate your case, gather evidence, and represent you in negotiations with the property owner’s insurance company. We will also advocate for you in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary. Contact us at 360-452-9242 today to get started.

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