Snow, Ice Removal A Matter Of Safety, Liability 2-04-2011 - WNEM TV 5

Snow, Ice Removal A Matter Of Safety, Liability 2-04-2011

SAGINAW, Mich.As residents and business owners tire of clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, they are probably not thinking about lawsuits, fines and jail time. But maybe they should. The public's demand for winter safety and mobility isn't confined to roadways alone; it also includes pedestrian safety and mobility.
A few years ago, the Salt Institute conducted an informal survey of county and municipal agencies regarding their practices of sidewalk snow clearing. Eighty-three percent of the agencies have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice "within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm." Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets, to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to fines of up to $500.
There is also the possibility of a lawsuit alleging negligence if sidewalks and parking lots are not properly maintained and a pedestrian slips and is injured. Often the homeowner, business owner and municipality are all named in such lawsuits. Over half of the agencies which responded to the survey reported being sued for a sidewalk accident.
Some property owners cite confusion over the liability involved with the decision "to shovel or not to shovel." The common misconception is that by not shoveling, plowing or spreading salt, one cannot be sued for clearing surfaces poorly in case of a pedestrian slip and fall.
While laws vary by state and municipality, most mandate clearing and offer some level of protection for reasonable efforts. For instance, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who "removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton."
Property owners should check their state laws and local ordinances and then take the required actions, which may include hiring a private contractor to clear areas of snow and ice if they are unable to do it themselves.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
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