Winters in Boston and throughout New England bring certain hazards not found in the warmer climates. Snow and ice on sidewalks and driveways present dangers to all persons where a slip and fall can result in injuries ranging from minor sprains and bruises to broken limbs and traumatic head injuries.

But what is the responsibility of homeowners, retail business owners and municipalities to clear the hazard when their property abuts a sidewalk where snow and ice has accumulated? In most cases, it depends on the city ordinance, the status of the owner, and if there is a high volume of foot traffic on that particular stretch of sidewalk.

Negligence of Landowners

Any landowner is required to keep his/her premises safe from defects. Business owners must regularly inspect their premises for hazards and take reasonable steps to remove them. If a hazard was present for a certain period of time, a trier-of-fact may conclude that it was present long enough so that the owner should have been aware of it and either took precautions to warn persons legally on their property or to remove the danger. Homeowners have a duty to warn or to remove hazards of which they are aware.

For snow and ice accumulation, a business owner has a duty to make the sidewalk area in front of its business safe for its patrons or customers by shoveling and clearing the sidewalk. For homeowners whose residences abut a walkway and who have a driveway where foot traffic is light, they may be able to wait until the storm has passed before removing the snow and ice.

Many cities and towns have ordinances that provide a window within which commercial businesses and private homeowners must remove ice and snow from areas for which it has a responsibility to keep safe. In Boston, there is city ordinance that allows businesses 3-hours from the time the storm is over to clear snow from sidewalks. Homeowners have 6-hours to clear off snow. Other towns, like Worcester, give their homeowners a 10-hour window. Fines range from $50 for homeowners to $200 for commercial businesses for non-compliance.

For renters, landlords are required to keep all means of ingress and egress free from obstructions at all times. Landlords can only require tenants to remove snow and ice from areas that are not shared with other tenants so long as this obligation is indicated in the written lease. Practically, this would only apply to entranceways.

Homeowners and businessowners should not assume that they will not be held liable for an slip and fall if the accident occurs within the window of time required for them to act. For example, if the storm ends just before the business opens and it is obvious that icy conditions are presenting hazards for people but the owner neglects to clear the area and someone is injured 2 ½ hours after the storm ended, a jury could still conclude that the owner was negligent in not keeping the sidewalk clear. Similarly, if it is obvious that icy conditions are putting patrons or customers at risk but the owner neglects to remove the danger because it still has another hour or so to remove the ice, an injured customer may still allege the owner had reasonable notice of the hazard but failed to remedy it.

Likewise, even if the business or private owner clears the sidewalk of snow but an overnight freeze produces a black ice condition, the owner’s failure to remove the condition could expose him to liability for a slip and fall.

If you are injured on a sidewalk, you must notify the landowner within 30-days of the incident or you risk waiving your right to present an injury claim. In any case, contact an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer to handle your claim from the outset.

If the sidewalk where your injury occurred abutted a public building, then you would have to bring a claim against the municipality. The 30-day time limit for bringing the claim applies to counties, towns and cities as well. There are also caps on damages for claims against municipalities.

These claims can be complex so having a Boston personal injury lawyer handle your claim is essential.

Damages in Slip and Fall Accidents

Damages in slip and fall accidents vary widely and are based on the nature and extent of your injury. What you may receive in compensation also depends on proving liability as well as providing documentation of your damages and how the injury has affected your life.

Damages typically include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

Retain the Law Firm of Lovenberg & Associates

The attorneys at Lovenberg & Associates are Boston personal injury lawyers who have decades of experience in handling the most complex injury matters and have a record of enviable success that has brought millions of dollars to satisfied clients. Call their office today at (617) 973-9950 for a consultation about your injury claim.