Snow & Ice Accidents
The winter months brings inclement weather and if you are a property owner, you have an obligation to keep your premises free and of ice and snow.
The property owner is not automatically responsible to a person who falls on their property on snow and ice. There is no duty of the property owner to clean the snow and ice during a storm. The storm must end and the property owner has a reasonable amount of time from the end of the storm to clean the premises. Many municipalities have a statute that allows a property owner a certain number of hours to clean their premises. Even when the sidewalk is owned by the municipality, the statute switches the burden to the adjoining property owners to clean the snow and ice from the sidewalk.
If a property owner has had a reasonable amount of time to clear the premises, and fails to do so, and an individual slips and falls on the snow and ice, the property owner can be held responsible for the injuries sustained by the injured person for both monetary loss and pain and suffering.
Many snow and ice cases occur in parking lots of shopping malls and stores. In these cases, the commercial buildings’ sidewalks and parking lots are cared for by a snow plowing company. The commercial property owner can be held responsible along with the snow plowing company. The duty of the snow plower becomes greater if they have attempted to clean the parking lots or sidewalks and have done a poor job or make large piles of snow which later melt and refreeze. The property owner and snow plower can be held responsible to an injured person if they clean the premises and fail to use sand or salt to melt the remaining snow and ice.
Snow and ice cases against municipalities are almost impossible to prove. Most if not all municipalities have a snow and ice ordinance which basically states that if you fall on snow and ice, and the property belongs to a municipality, and the municipality has not received a prior written notice of the condition, then you may not bring an action against them. Municipalities almost never get prior written notice and thus a case that was brought against them would be dismissed.
The only time a municipality may be held liable for an accident for slip and fall on snow and ice is if the municipality created the condition. For example, if the municipality piled snow on their own property which caused the adjourning property owner’s side walk to be blocked, or that pile of snow melted, and re-froze causing ice, and this causes a pedestrian to fall and injure themselves, then the municipality can be held liable. In short, the municipality must create the dangerous condition in order to be held liable for any accidents which occur as a result of their negligence.
If the property owner clears the sidewalk of snow and ice, but leaves an unsafe condition after attempting to clean the sidewalk, the property owner can be held liable to a person who falls on their sidewalk. For example, the property owner clears away all snow and ice after the storm stops, but does not spread sand or salt to prevent re-freezing, than he can still be held liable if a personal slips and falls on his property. Therefore, all property owners should be aware of their duties in inclement weather to avoid any unnecessary injuries of pedestrians legally and lawfully ambulating on their property.
If you have sustained an injury from falling on snow and ice, contact The Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC so we can begin the process for recovery of your medical bills as well as pain and suffering.