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Falling snow, slippery ice: Liability and winter hazards

Winter hazards can lead to serious accidents. When is a property owner liable?

Winter in New York can be a beautiful sight. A storm can pass through and cover the city in a fresh coat of fluffy, white snow. Icicles can form off rooftops, making buildings look like something straight out of a fairy tale. Beautiful as this season can be, it also comes with dangers.

Those who are encounter these winter hazards do not always enjoy the beauty. In some cases, these hazards can result in serious injury. A glistening ice patch can lead to a broken hip, a soaring icicle can cause a laceration that requires dozens of stitches to heal.

Victims of winter accidents can find themselves facing medical bills and missed wages due to a serious injury. In these cases, our legal system may expect another individual or business to provide a safe environment, to take steps to reduce the risk of injury during inclement weather. How does liability work in these situations? The following examples provide some guidance.

Example #1: Slip and fall while walking on a sidewalk

A pedestrian who slips and suffers a serious injury while strolling down the sidewalk may have a claim against the owner of the property adjacent to the sidewalk. In order to have a successful claim, the victim generally needs to establish the property owner failed to care for the sidewalks in a legally reasonable manner. Property owners are required to ensure their property is free of dangerous conditions that could result in injury. Property owners may be liable if they know of a danger, such as an icy section of sidewalk, and fail to take steps to fix it. In this case, using salt or other deicer to remove the hazard.

Example #2: Ice or snow falls from roof and causes injury

New York is known for skyscrapers and large buildings. Removing snow and ice from roofs in these structures is difficult, but a failure to do so can result in serious injury. Liability in these accidents often follows a similar path as slip and falls.

A man from Midtown provides an example. He was injured when a slab of ice struck him after falling from the roof of a large building. The man had warned the property owner earlier that day of the hazard, and the owner failed to remove the danger. The man needed 80 stitches for the laceration caused by the ice, which cut his face across his nose and lip. He successfully filed suit against the business owners to help cover the costs that resulted from this injury.

Take home lesson: Hold property owners responsible for winter accidents

Those who are injured in a winter accident where property was not safely maintained can hold the property owner responsible for their negligence. An attorney experienced in these cases can review the evidence and discuss available legal remedies.