We're both blessed and cursed to live in a part of the world where a pop-up storm can just drop 6+ inches of snow. Depending upon where, exactly, you live, not cleaning up that snow could cost you.
In this post, we are going to talk about the possible legal and financial ramifications of not clearing your sidewalks and walkways after a snowfall.
We're Talking Lawsuits
As a property owner, you have a legal obligation to keep your property free and clear of ice and snow. If you fail to do so and someone slips and falls on your property because of your failure to remove a snow and/or ice hazard, the person who fell could file a lawsuit against you. In some states, failure to remove a snow and/or ice hazard is also a violation of the law.
It's not just private walkways you need to keep clear, like walkways up to your front door. Public areas, such as sidewalks, are also your responsibility. In fact, if a poorly-placed downspout is causing water to run onto a sidewalk, where it then freezes, this is also your legal responsibility.
We're Talking Fines
In places like New York City and Bridgeport, Connecticut, local laws require landowners to keep public sidewalks clear of ice and snow in an effort to prevent slip-and-fall injuries. In NYC, for instance, even if there is no accident involved, failure to clear your sidewalk could result in a $150 fine and/or 10 days in jail!
Communities that have laws requiring you to clean up snow and ice also have a time requirement that states how long you have to perform the cleanup. In some instances, the language is a little flexible, stating "a reasonable amount of time." In other places, Boston, for example, you have three hours from the time the snow stops falling to shovel it.
While it's good practice to know what your local requirements are, it's still a good rule of thumb to not wait more than a few hours from the end of a snowfall to shovel your sidewalks and walkways. This is a good way to avoid both legal and financial risks. While states like Ohio don't legally require you to clear the snow ever, you could still be subject to lawsuits in the event of an accident that stems from failure to clear the snow.
The Insurance Option
No matter how good of a shoveler you may be, it's entirely possible that you will miss a spot on occasion. For this reason, it's not a terrible idea to have liability insurance to cover possible court costs and judgements against you, should a slip-and-fall suit occur. In general, liability limits start at around $100k. The Insurance Information Institute recommends at least $300k worth of liability protection.
While nobody likes shoveling snow, nobody likes slipping and falling on icy, snowy sidewalks and walkways either. While some communities have laws regarding shoveling sidewalks, the possibility of a lawsuit for accidents resulting from failure to clean up exists no matter where you live. In the end, it's best to get your walks cleaned up as soon as you can following a storm.
Of course, if you are looking for commercial snow removal services, we'd sure appreciate it if you would give E.P.M. LawnScape and Supply an opportunity. Simply contact us online or call us at (517) 990-0110 today!