Visitor Question

Claim for slipping on ice while shoveling snow at a vacation rental?

Submitted By: Shanta (White Oak, Texas)

Ten days ago, we were on our second night at a ranch in Colorado with cabins. There was a major snow storm which dumped quite a bit of snow before we returned to the cabin. Our cabin had a hill driveway. We tried numerous times to get up the drive but slid back down. Since we had our 2 and 3 year old grand kids, I decided we needed to get up the hill.

There were snow shovels outside the cabin so I thought I would shovel a little bit of the snow to help get up the hill, not realizing there had already been an accumulation of ice underneath. As I was walking back towards the car I fell on the ice. I blacked out twice. A neighbor called the grounds maintenance who we later learned had plows and sanding trucks that should have already taken care of this.

EMT were called to assess me, and they agreed I probably had a concussion. They stated they could take me to the hospital or my son and husband could drive. So my son and husband drove me immediately to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with a concussion.

A few days later my neck and tail bone got really sore. I saw my doctor when I returned home, who stated I also have whiplash and a bruised tailbone. My doctor took me off work at least 1 week, but could be longer. I just want a refund for my stay and my doctor bills paid. Not sure where to go from here. Any information you can provide would be helpful. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Shanta,

In the State of Texas there is a two (2) year statute of limitations on personal injury claims. This means you must settle your personal injury claim within two years of the date of injury, or file a lawsuit. If you wait until after that time, you will lose your right to recover compensation from the property owner. Because your injury occurred within the last few weeks you will not immediately be concerned about the time limit.

Based on the facts, you appear to have a strong basis for a personal injury claim. Under the legal doctrine of Premises Liability, property owners are required to do everything within reason to make their property safe for all persons who legally enter upon it. In this case it appears the property owner may have failed in his or her duty to protect you from injury.

There are a couple of caveats…

First: The definition of Premises Liability includes the phrase “within reason,” referring to a property owner’s responsibility to maintain their property. In other words, there may be a question of whether the property owner did everything “within reason” to keep the driveway clear of ice and snow.

The property owner may take the position s/he cleared the ice on a daily basis, or at least every few days, and even with such vigilance the snow and ice accumulated faster than it could reasonably be removed.  Whether or not the vigilance was within reason may ultimately have to be decided by a court.

Second: In Texas there is a statute commonly referred to as Modified Comparative Negligence, which applies to “slip and fall” claims and most other injury claims. Modified Comparative Negligence determines the amount to which the injured person contributed to his or her injury.

If  it is found an injured person contributed to his or her own injuries by a percentage greater than fifty (50%) percent, the injured person is barred from recovery from the property owner. If it is determined the injured person’s negligence was less than 50%, the recovery will be reduced accordingly.

To read Texas law on the issue of Modified Comparative Negligence see:
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 33.001

Some examples of contributory negligence which may affect an injury claim are:

  • You had been previously warned of the danger
  • You had been drinking alcohol before you fell
  • You were playing in the ice instead of walking, etc.

Based on the facts you present there doesn’t seem to be any contributory negligence.

Because there are two important legal issues involved in this claim, you would be best served by visiting with several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most personal injury attorneys will not charge any fee for an initial office consultation.

If an attorney accepts the case, it will very be likely be on a contingency fee basis. This means you will not have to pay any legal fees in advance. If and when your attorney settles your claim or prevails in court, the attorney will be paid approximately 33.3% percent of your gross settlement or court award. In the event your attorney is unsuccessful in settling your claim or prevailing in court, you will not be responsible for the payment of any legal fees.

Learn more here: Duties of Property Owners and Visitors

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck with your claim,

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