Each year the winter season brings certain familiar sights and experiences: shorter and colder days, warmer drinks, and in many areas of the country snow and ice. Snow and ice make any form of travel treacherous, including traveling by foot. These dangers can be compounded when snow melts and refreezes, when there are large snowdrifts, and/or when snow plows pile snow on top of patches of ice.
Property owners are not weathermen – a business or store owner has as much control over the weather as does the customers who frequent his or her store. Business owners and other property owners may continue to invite customers or visitors onto their premises even during inclement weather; however, in so doing they must be careful. Slips and falls because of snow and ice can cause catastrophic injuries to customers and result in the property owner being found liable for the cost of these injuries.
Shoveling Snow to Prevent Slip and Falls on Snow and Ice
Does a property owner have to shovel snow and/or salt his or her walkways when it snows? This is a difficult question to answer with a simple yes or no. Some states and municipalities do require private property owners like homeowners and businesses to shovel their walkways and sidewalks adjoining their property within a certain amount of time after the snow has ceased to fall. Property owners who fail to do so are usually assessed a fine and/or the cost to city crews for performing the task. In such locations, the fact that a property owner failed to fulfill this obligation may be utilized as evidence of careless or indifferent behavior by the owner in the event someone slips and falls on snow or ice located on the owner’s property.
However, what if the owner lives in a city or state that does not have any law requiring property owners to remove snow and ice from their walkways? If the property owner expects visitors or customers, premises liability law would still require the removal of the snow and ice in a timely fashion. Snow and ice are significant slip hazards, and premises liability law requires property owners to take reasonable measures to address hazards that may appear on their property from time to time (like snow and ice). If the property owner fails to do so, this failure can still be considered negligence even though there was no statute or ordinance “requiring” the property owner to remove the snow and ice.
Moreover, a property owner may find him- or herself in trouble if he or she undertakes to remove the snow and ice but fails to do a thorough job. Leaving a snow and ice removal job half-done may be even more likely to cause a slip and fall accident as visitors and guests may assume that the owner’s walkways and sidewalks are clean and safe and may fail to remain vigilant for slick spots.
Slip and Fall on Snow and Ice Accidents Indoors
The owner’s attention cannot remain outside only, however. When guests and visitors enter the owner’s building, they are likely to bring snow and water from the outside in with them. This can make entrances and exits dangerous places to walk. Just as an owner must take reasonable measures to safeguard his or her customers and visitors outside the building, the owner must also make the inside safe and free of obstacles as well. An owner may do this by placing warning signs near the entrances and exits alerting people to the presence of slick substances, by setting out absorbent mats to dry the area and provide visitors with some traction, and other similar measures.
Slip and Fall on Snow and Ice Accidents Due to Remaining Open for Business
Business owners must make a judgment call as to whether to remain open for business after a significant snowfall or ice event. On the one hand, business owners may not wish to close and miss doing business for a day (even if business may be slow). On the other hand, remaining open for business means the owner must make his or her property safe for individuals who do choose to patronize the business.
When you or a loved one slip on snow and ice while visiting a business or a neighbor or friend, you may expect to be left with one or more serious injury types. These can alter your life and the life of your family for a significant amount of time – perhaps even for the rest of your life. Do not delay in seeking out Stern Law, PLLC for assistance. We will evaluate the facts of your case, including what steps the owner of the property where you fell took to safeguard you and other visitors. Where the owner failed to take reasonable steps, our firm will pursue compensation for your expenses and losses with vigor and resolve. Contact Stern Law, PLLC at (844) 808-7529 to learn more about the services we can provide to slip and fall victims.