As Winter seems to be on its way out in some parts of the country, it has continued to rage in others: namely America’s northern half. America’s southern states get to enjoy more than a “foot of sunshine” while others are stuck under a foot of snow. And this creates the everyday winter problems for those who live in America’s northern states: having to wait 30 minutes to an hour for your car to heat up just so you can go to work or school, trudging through snow on your way to your favorite restaurant or bar, putting on an obscene amount of layers to deal with chilling winds, and most prominently if you’re a homeowner, the management and maintenance of your property. As a personal injury lawyer can support, the last entry in that list adds a whole host of time consuming problems to one’s everyday life. It is necessary that they be addressed regularly because of the longstanding and enduring consequences that will emerge in the future if they’re neglected.
Homeowners do everything from shoveling snow off the driveway, sidewalk and even the roof if the structural integrity of the property demands it. But apart from the property’s stability, one also needs to remove snow to prevent accidental injuries. And while it varies from state to state, some states do in fact hold the homeowner liable if someone else is injured due to accumulated ice or snow injuries. This is doubly true for hotel and other hospitality business owners who are required to reasonably remove hazards that could cause injury.
And the operative word here is reasonable. As it is for any other hazard, the courts recognize that humans aren’t all-knowing, omnipresent beings that can sense accidents and remove them at the same time that they’re performing other tasks. What needs to be seen is that one puts forth the effort if it seems to have noticed it and has the time to address it. To deliberately ignore the opportunity to remove the hazard for what is deemed a lesser purpose is negligence. Homeowners however can be off the hook if the weather itself is being “unreasonable” that is, the weather is unleashing more snow that can’t be reasonably cleared to stay cleared. The focus then becomes one whether the injured individual made an assumption of risk before crossing into the zone of injury. That is if they saw the potential for injury in a certain area but crossed into it anyway.
Thanks to Rasmussen and Miner for their expertise on accumulated snow-related injuries.