Winter in some regions means a frequent accumulation of snowfall on surfaces like driveways and sidewalks. In a climate like New Jersey’s, this can mean an ongoing duty to clear snow from public spaces, whether it’s a home or place of business.
It’s a property owner’s duty to make sure ice and snow are removed from these pathways. Failure to do so can result in a host of legal issues.
Can I hold the property owner responsible?
Slip and fall accidents have the potential to cause severe injury. Ice and snow on a sidewalk are especially dangerous, especially for older people.
If you fall due to ice, you may be able to hold a property owner responsible, as long as you can prove that they were negligent in clearing the walkway. Factors will be considered like how much time has gone by since the snowfall, how much fell, the severity of the winter storm, and where on the property the accident took place.
There is a distinction between natural and unnatural snow and ice buildup. Natural buildup is what accumulates during a storm. Property owners cannot be held liable for someone slipping purely on what builds up in the middle of a winter weather event.
Negligence opens up liability
Unnatural buildup, on the other hand, refers to conditions that have formed due to negligence on the property owner’s part. For example, if after subsequent snowfalls a person doesn’t clear their sidewalks properly, and a layer of ice accumulates that causes uneven surfaces and slippery conditions beneath freshly fallen snow, they’ll likely be held responsible for a fall that occurs.
Another potential accidents where damages might be sought include a buildup of ice on an overhanging roof that drips and refreezes water on a walkway. In this case, the failure to clear ice properly from other places on the property can result in hazardous surfaces.
If you’ve been injured after slipping on a public walking space due to ice, talk to a lawyer about the possibility of recovering damages from the incident.