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Who Is Responsible for Clearing Snow and Ice?

Snow and Ice on Sidewalk

You're heading out to work and notice that your walkway and steps got icy overnight. You glance back at the bag of salt on your porch, but you're already running late and figure that the ice will probably melt by the time you get home. You get in the car and don't give it a second thought.

Or maybe it snowed overnight and your sidewalk is covered. It doesn't look very deep, though, and your shovel is all the way in the garage. You figure you'll get to it later because it might snow more anyway – no sense in shoveling twice.

These scenarios might sound familiar and they probably seem pretty innocent. However, they both put you at legal risk of a slip and fall claim.

Premises Liability – Removing Snow and Ice

Essentially, premises liability means a property owner is responsible for keeping his or her property safe. If a mailman or a visitor falls because you didn't shovel and salt your walkway, you could be responsible for covering that person's injuries.

If you own your home…

Homeowners are responsible for removing snow and ice. If you have homeowner's insurance, your policy will cover the costs if someone else is injured, up to the maximum amount of coverage available. If the medical bills are higher than the coverage you have, you can be held personally responsible for those costs.

If you rent…

If you rent your home, you may or may not be responsible for removing ice and snow.

  • If you rent or lease a single family home, you are likely responsible for taking care of snow and ice.
  • If you live in an apartment complex with several other units, the landlord or property management company should be responsible for removing snow and ice. However, always read your rental agreement thoroughly – there may be a clause in the contract stating you must take care of snow and ice removal.
  • If you live in a retirement community or rent from a company that manages properties for retirement-age tenants, they may take care of all maintenance and landscaping – including snow and ice removal.

Remember, every municipality has different laws regarding snow and ice removal for sidewalks. If you don't know the laws for your area, be sure to find out as soon as possible by calling your local municipality office.

What Happens if Someone is Hurt on Your Property

If someone is hurt at your home, one of these three conditions must be met for you to be held legally responsible:

  • You must have caused or created the dangerous conditions
  • You must have known about the dangerous condition but didn't fix it
  • You should have known about the dangerous condition

If one of these is true, then a claim will generally go through your homeowner's insurance first. Liability/homeowner's insurance is designed to cover unintentional injuries on your property. If you don't have enough liability insurance to cover the claim, you may be held personally responsible for the injured person's expenses related to the accident.

Tips for Keeping Your Property Safe

There are several things you can do to avoid slips and falls and keep your property safe:

  • Review your homeowner's insurance or check your lease agreement to make sure you fully understand what your coverage is and who is responsible for snow and ice removal.
  • Watch for spouts coming from the roof – they can cause ice patches or dangerous icicles. If a downspout is near a sidewalk or driveway, take extra caution to clear it.
  • If you're out of town or physically unable to remove snow and ice, you still must arrange to have someone else clear your sidewalks and driveways.
  • If you have icicles hanging from your home, block off the area with orange cones or brightly colored construction tape until you can remove them.
  • Take notice of other safety hazards while removing snow and ice. Water expands when it freezes, so large cracks and holes can appear in your sidewalk, which poses a tripping hazard. Be sure your outdoor lighting is adequate as well.

Ordinances for Snow and Ice Removal

All municipalities have different ordinances. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for example, you have 24 hours to clear sidewalks and walkways of snow and ice. If you fail to clear public pathways and someone reports you to the City of Pittsburgh, you may receive a citation and face fines.

However, that doesn't mean you should wait 24 hours to pull out the shovel or salt – the City of Pittsburgh expects you to clear your areas within a "reasonable" amount of time. If you had ample opportunity to clear your walkways before 24 hours were up but failed to do so, anyone injured on your property may still hold you responsible for their injuries.

Make sure you check the ordinances where you live.

Winter Slip & Fall Videos

Attorney Cynthia Danel covers injuries and premises liability due to slip-and-fall accidents in the videos below.

Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident? Hire an Experienced Attorney Today

If you were injured in a slip, trip, or fall accident that was caused by snow or ice, you may be confused about what you should do now. You may be worried about filing a claim, especially if you were visiting a friend, family member, or neighbor. Don't worry – in most instances, premises liability claims are filed against an insurance company, not the homeowner.

Before you give a statement to the insurance company or sign your rights away, contact us to find out if you have a case. Get started now by taking advantage of our free legal evaluation. Call 1-866-9-4EDGAR (1-866-943-3427), or fill out the form at the top right of this webpage to get started.

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