There is a general concept under premises liability law that the owner of a property – or whoever is in control of the property – owes a legal duty of care to keep the premises safe and free of hazards. This means that there is a legal obligation to do this. Some responsibilities include keeping sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and other common areas free from snow and ice.
Beyond Slip & Falls
Snow and ice conditions that are commonly part of any New York winter often result in an increase in injuries as a result of the hazardous weather. While slip and falls are common, there are other ways in which a person may be injured in the snow due to the negligence of a property owner. Winter storms can create a legal tightrope that an owner must walk. This is because slip and falls are not the only injuries a person may suffer due to negligent maintenance of property. Snow storms can knock down trees, break power lines, or cause wear and tear on scaffolding and buildings, resulting in falling debris. These hazards may force pedestrians to walk in the streets instead of the sidewalks to avoid snow.
Identifying Who is to Blame
Injuries suffered as a result of negligent maintenance of a property after a snowfall can vary. Leaving hazardous conditions can open a property owner to being vulnerable to litigation. There are three common groups of property owners who may be held liable if you or someone you know has been injured due to improper maintained relating to snow: (1) commercial establishments, (2) residential properties, and (3) governmental properties.
A legal duty of care is owed by a property owner to invitees and licensees, but not trespassers. An invitee is a person who provides a material benefit to the owner. This may include but is not limited to hotel guests, retail shoppers, and mail delivery personnel. A licensee, on the other hand, is a person whose purpose is not primarily business-related but instead social. Some examples include children, party guests, friends, neighbors and social guests. A property owner does not owe a legal duty of care to a trespasser, who is someone that is unlawfully on the property.
Because there is no bright line rule that exists determining how much ice or snow equals negligent behavior – or how much time a property owner has to clear ice or snow before being held responsible – the possible liability found depending on whether or not negligence was involved depends on the particular facts of the case. Ice and snow are distinguishable from more obvious hazards such as potholes because much can be accumulated over night if the storm is bad enough. A person claiming personal injury has the burden to prove the defendant owed a legal duty that was violated and that breach was the actual and legal cause of the injuries suffered.
New York Premises Accident Attorneys
If you or someone you know has been seriously injured as a result of an icy or snowy sidewalk, or as a result of any other negligent act, contact an experienced New York premises accident attorney today. With years of experience successfully litigating personal injury cases for numerous clients, the attorneys at Grant & Longworth will fight for the rights of victims who have suffered damages. Call toll-free, 24-hours a day, (800) 836-3519 to schedule your initial consultation.