For years tales have been told of the “perfect murder” being committed with an icicle. A weapon that melts away even before the body is discovered? Ingenious. While most if not all of these stories seem at best improbable, they persist, perhaps in part due to the lack of a clear consensus of whether an icicle could in fact serve as a weapon.
Putting their utility as murder weapons aside, however, these formations do pose some danger to the unwary. Over the course of a long Canadian winter, heat radiating through a building’s roof melts accumulated snow. This water runs down and then refreezes when it reaches the edge of the roof, creating icicles that can measure up to several metres in length. While rarely sharp enough to actually impale a human (sorry, potential icicle murderers), an icicle may weigh many kilos. When one breaks loose and falls (and, eventually, they all do) from even a few metres up, anyone unfortunate enough to be standing below it may be seriously injured or even killed.
While there appear to be no reliable icicle injury or death statistics available in either Canada or the United States, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has warned employers that the multiple dangers associated with snow and ice removal include being struck by falling ice.
If you are a homeowner, or a commercial building owner or manager, the easiest way to avoid the formation of potentially hazardous icicles is regular removal of accumulated snow. Long handled snow rakes are widely available, although it may be wise to hire a professional if a ladder is required in order to reach the roof. Installation of commercially available electric heat cables or tape along the edge of the roof may keep large icicles from forming while also preventing ice dams that can result in water infiltration and damage.
Fortunately, large icicles are nearly always readily visible and can usually easily be avoided. If you are struck, however, your injuries may be more serious than they appear, particularly if you are stuck in the head. If you continue to feel confused for some time after the blow or you develop a headache or nausea, you may have suffered a concussion. In this case it’s always smart to promptly consult a medical professional.
Under the B.C. Premises Liability Act, an “occupier” of a structure (frequently, but not always, the owner) must make the building “reasonably safe”. This means the occupier must take steps to either remove or otherwise address hazards related to the condition of the property or the activities of the occupier or any known third parties. An occupier’s failure to take such actions can result in legal liability for injuries suffered by a tenant or visitor. Trespassers and persons present to commit a crime generally are not protected.
On the other hand, the occupier generally will not be liable to a person who willingly assumes the risk of injury. Of course, an injured visitor may deny having been aware of the danger. For this reason, the question of liability in a falling ice or snow case will often turn on whether the occupier had placed
warning signs, a temporary cordon or other appropriate warnings in the area.
British Columbia Occupier Liability Lawyers
If you’ve been injured by a dangerous condition in someone else’s dwelling or place of business, the team of lawyers at Diamond and Diamond is ready to help. Call our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations. Our team of personal injury lawyers represents clients throughout British Columbia.