When sidewalks are slippery and someone falls as a result of poorly shoveled or salted walkways, the liability usually lies with the person who is responsible for tending those sidewalks. That can fall on a variety of entities, and liability rules vary from one state to the next. This makes slip and fall cases involving ice and snow fairly complex. Those seeking personal injury help after a slip and fall accident must be able to pinpoint responsibility in order to seek compensation from the correct party.
The Key in Slip and Fall Accidents Is Duty of Care
In a slip and fall accident involving icy or showy sidewalks, the key to discerning liability lies in the duty of care. In most cases, a property’s owner has a duty of care to maintain public areas on the property. This includes sidewalks. That duty includes inspecting the sidewalks, removing accumulated snow and ice in a reasonable period of time, and reducing the risk of a slip and fall accident as much as possible.
Sometimes property owners will ask a plowing company to perform these duties. However, this does not pass the duty of care on to the company. It remains the property owner’s responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the job gets done.
People also have a duty of care to exercise reasonable caution when walking in public areas during ice or snow events. Failing to take that care could put the injured person in the position of being liable for the accident. If a person is acting in an unsafe manner on icy sidewalks and falls, they may not be able to seek as much compensation, or even file a lawsuit at all, from the property owner.
The Question of Negligence
If someone fails to perform his or her duty of care to remove snow and ice from a property’s sidewalk, he or she may be found as being negligent if someone else is injured from a fall. The negligence rules in that state would impact whether this negligence is grounds for a lawsuit.
Some states have a natural accumulation rule that removes negligence and liability from a property’s owner during a snow event. This rule accounts for the fact that property owners may not be able to remove snow and ice quickly in a snow storm. If the amounts on the sidewalks are in line with the natural accumulation in the area and do not include extra snow or ice placed on the walking paths by the property owner, then the property owner may be exempt from liability.
Liability on Public Sidewalks
On public sidewalks, liability questions become trickier after a snow or ice storm. If the public sidewalks are in front of someone’s home, the homeowner may be liable for snow and ice removal. If the public sidewalks are in front of a business, the business owner may be liable. In sidewalks in public areas, the town may be liable. However, this liability depends largely on state laws.