Cold and dark conditions aren’t the only unpleasant part of winter. In the cold weather, even the lightest precipitation or the smallest puddle can become a significant hazard. When property owners fail to appreciate the dangers that ice and snow can create, something as simple as crossing a parking lot or walking down a sidewalk becomes a potentially dangerous task for anyone who attempts it. However, the degree of responsibility property owners and lessees have is not always clear.
When those in possession of real property open it up to the public for their own purposes (such as when businesses invite customers into their stores) they have a high duty to keep that property free of hazards that are either known or reasonably discoverable. In the case of snow and ice, the scope of this obligation depends on the nature of the slipperiness:
- In the case of natural accumulation such as from falling or drifting snow, property owners have a duty to take action within a reasonable period of time. Obviously, property owners cannot be expected to keep their walkways free from slippery conditions in the middle of a snowfall. But if they allow slippery conditions to remain for an unreasonable period, they may be liable.
- In the case of unnaturally occurring slippery conditions, property owners have a greater duty. When a condition of the property, such as a depression that allows water to pool or a leaky pipe, creates the slick spot, property owners are expected to be more proactive, based on the supposition that the owner should have known of that condition and could have taken steps to prevent it from creating a dangerous slick spot.
In the case of public sidewalks within municipal limits, property owners or lessors generally have an obligation to keep clear the sidewalks that abut their properties. This means that if a local business fails to clear its sidewalk within a reasonable time after a snowstorm, that business may be responsible if a pedestrian falls while walking past.
Slips on ice and snow are capable of producing serious and permanent injuries. But assigning blame and responsibility is not always straightforward. An experienced Montgomery County slip and fall lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of your accident to determine who may be liable for your injuries. Schedule your free consultation with Mayerson Injury Law, P.C. today!