WINTER IS UPON US!
Last week, this blog reminded people to double-check their insurance coverage and to use the New Year as a time to do a "spring cleaning" as it were of our unfinished projects (like checking insurance policies!).
In the hope that some of you have actually done this, it is now time to move on to the winter driving, walking, and maneuvering season. I'm thankful to have gotten in one last bicycle ride this week just ahead of the snow. While I do see others out there in snowy, cold, and downright dangerous weather, I think my daredevil days are past, so I'm probably indoors for at least a little while.
Unfortunately, most of us probably have to either drive, walk, or otherwise commute, ambulate, and get around in these conditions. We live in the Midwest and we know that winter comes with some frustrations and some dangers.
Try to plan ahead and be prepared so you can minimize these dangers to you and your family.
SAFE DRIVING TIPS:
- Drive defensively. It takes longer to stop, is harder to see (due to the blowing snow and/or the sun's reflection off of the snow), and driving is less predictable when there is snow, ice, or slush on the ground. It can be even more perilous when salt is placed onto the road, only to let single digit temps re-freeze the melted snow. Add to that another layer of flurries on top and you have unseen ice! When you drive in snow and ice, drive smarter, safer, slower, and more gradually. It simply takes longer to get places.
- Make sure you can see. Clean your windows (not just a hole in the windshield!), mirrors, back window, and side windows. Make sure your windshield fluid is topped off and carry extra in the trunk.
- Have a snow brush and scraper with you.
- Keep flares in the trunk along with salt and cold weather gear for that "just in case" emergency.
- Have your cell phone with you and charged up so that you can contact help if you are stranded.
- Keep your insurance card with you just in case you are involved in a collision.
GENERAL WINTER SAFETY TIPS:
- If you live in the City of Chicago, you are required to clear snow and ice from any public walkways that abut the property of your home or business. Keep in mind, this is against the general rule that says you do not have such a duty.
- The best thing to do is to clear ice and snow the best way you can for overall safety. If you do a mediocre or inconsistent job of it, you are likely going to have difficulty defending any lawsuits or claims from people claiming they were injured falling on your property. If you clear, do a good job.
- Also, keep in mind that people who fall on UNnatural accumulations of ice and snow may be able to pursue a claim against the owner or manager of a property but generally are precluded from pursuing for a NATURAL accumulation. Simply, if you plow snow to a higher corner of a parking lot that slopes downward and know it will melt from there into a lower area causing a build up of ice, you could be "on the hook." On the other hand, if you are careful to plow snow to a lower area, you will likely be deemed to have behaved reasonably. If you plow or shovel snow but leave a layer of ice on the walkway or steps, you likely have not behaved reasonably under the law. There are endless and confusing variations and interpretations of case law so the lesson to take away is if you live in the City of Chicago, you should learn your duties by contacting your Alderman's office. If you live in a municipality that also has ordinances requiring snow removal, you should learn what your duties are in this regard. When in doubt, ask your elected representative!
- Be prepared by wearing warm clothing, weather-appropriate shoes (girls, the open toed shoes just don't work when it's below freezing and guys, those gym shoes really don't do much against 6 inches of snow), gloves, and something on your head. Unless you are blessed with a great head of hair, a hat does wonders for keeping heat in.
- Walk carefully. Even areas that are salted and plowed can be cursed by the thaw-freeze-melt-refreeze cycle. Be wary of what is underfoot and walk defensively.
- Be especially careful in explaining to smaller children that snow piles make them harder to see. Make sure they understand to be extremely careful crossing streets and are sure cars see them and are able to stop before venturing forth.
IF THE WORST HAPPENS:
- If you fall while walking, get into a car crash, or otherwise have an emergency occur, make sure you follow these basic and common sense steps:
- Call 911
- Report the incident to your insurance carrier and/or exchange insurance information with the other driver(s) involved
- Take photos of any damage or injuries
- Photograph the scene and any conditions or signage giving rise to the incident, such as wet floor signs (or lack thereof), ice formations, snow piled in dangerous areas, or the like
- Seek medical attention immediately if you are hurt
- Contact a lawyer
ENJOY THE WINTER!
Many of us probably have tired of the long Chicago winters but lack the ability to relocate to sunnier climates for a variety of reasons. Other people enjoy the winters.
Whichever category you include yourself in, remember to go with the flow, make the best of it, and prepare for the worst. With a bit of planning, preparation, and extra care, winter can be an enjoyable and beautiful experience (just repeat this next time you are stuck in a snow-induced traffic jam without cursing me, please!).
Please contact me if you have any questions.
I AM PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT FOUR VERY SHORT YET INFORMATIVE VIDEOS HAVE BEEN ADDED TO MY WEBSITE. THEY PROVIDE YOU WITH STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS MIRRORING MUCH OF THE ADVICE GIVEN HERE ON WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A MOTOR VEHICLE INCIDIENT, SUSTAIN A SLIP AND FALL-TYPE INJURY, OR ARE INJURED WHILE WORKING. PLEASE VIEW THEM AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!