If you are like many people and have a public sidewalk running alongside your residence, local law likely requires you to keep it clear of ice, snow and other substances that might cause people to lose their footing and fall. And if someone slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of your home, you might find yourself on the receiving end of hefty lawsuit. Likewise, if you are a pedestrian and a homeowner or renter refuses to reasonably maintain a sidewalk and you somehow lose your footing as a result and sustain injury, you would have a very strong legal case against that person.
Winter Boosts Slip-and-Fall Rates
As anyone who has ventured out into the snowy streets on foot during the winter can affirm, walking on icy and snow-covered sidewalks can be very difficult. As should be expected, the rates of slip-and-fall accidents generally rise during the winter when ice becomes the primary culprit of people losing their footing and landing awkwardly on very hard sidewalk surfaces. And anytime there is the potential for sustaining any level of injury from slipping and falling, those responsible for maintaining the surfaces of sidewalks and other walkways are vulnerable to potentially high-dollar personal injury lawsuits. But so long as reasonable efforts are made to keep walkways as safely passable as possible, lawsuits are less likely and injuries more infrequent.
Municipalities Still Perform Primary Maintenance
While residents generally are responsible for clearing the snow, ice and other slippery substances from sidewalks, local governments most often are responsible for primary maintenance. For most people, removing snow accumulation and throwing salt or sand down on icy walkways generally is enough to reasonably protect pedestrians. And such actions will help shield residents against potential lawsuits. But when sidewalks are broken, uneven or otherwise in disrepair, the local municipality usually is responsible for repairing damaged public sidewalks. Residents are not liable for personal injuries caused by damaged or uneven sidewalks.
Have you or a family member ever slipped and fell on an icy walkway and sustained some sort of injury?