Snow and Ice Hazards – Who is Responsible?

Today’s winter storm is expected to bring the deepest snowfall since January 2016. With this massive winter storm, you can expect to see snow and ice on driveways, sidewalks, and other public and private walkways. Falls are inevitable, often resulting in serious injuries and even death. Who is responsible for maintaining these walkways in a safe condition?

In general, property owners may be liable for slip and fall injuries if they either caused the dangerous condition or if they were aware of the dangerous condition and failed to correct it. In the case of snow and ice, the following conditions may create liability:

  • The snowfall was sufficient to create a dangerous condition. There is no law establishing exactly how much snow is considered dangerous, but the accumulation must be enough to make walking difficult. In some cases, even a small amount of snow, followed by freezing rain or ice, may be sufficient to create a dangerous condition.
  • The owner was aware of the dangerous condition and did not correct it. The owner may have actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. The owner has actual knowledge when he either observes the condition himself or is told about it. Constructive knowledge can be attributed to the property owner when the dangerous condition is visible, apparent, and has existed for a sufficient period of time that the owner should have known about it.
  • The owner created the dangerous condition. For example, if the owner tried to remove snow from a driveway and pushed it onto a sidewalk, he created a dangerous condition. Likewise, if the owner tried to melt snow from a walkway and created icy patches where snow once was, he has also created a dangerous condition.
  • The owner failed to remedy the dangerous condition within a reasonable amount of time.

New York law places responsibility on property owners to clear snow and ice and establishes time frames when this should be done. The property owner is not required to clear snow and ice while snow is actually falling but must do so within a certain time after a snowfall. If the snowfall occurs during daylight hours (7am-5pm), the property owner must remove accumulated snow and ice within four hours. If the snowfall ends between 5pm and 9pm, the snow and ice must be cleared within 14 hours. If the snowfall ends during the night, the owner must clear snow and ice before 11am the next morning. Failure to clear snow and ice can result in a fine and lead to legal liability for injuries.

Establishing liability for injuries sustained on snowy walkways can be difficult and complex. Talk to a New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible after any slip and fall on an icy or snowy sidewalk, parking lot, stairway, or walkway. The attorneys at Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C. are here to help 24 hours a day. Call us at 212-227-4000 to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.