Who Is Liable for an Icy Sidewalk?

Categories: Slip / Fall

slip and fall on sidewalk

Pennsylvania’s Trusted Liability Attorney

Winters in Pennsylvania bring snow, colder temperatures, and plenty of ice. With ice and snow littering the walkways around town, there are bound to be some slips and falls this season. If you slipped and injured yourself on a sidewalk, who would be liable for your injuries?

Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as you might think. Instead, it comes down to numerous factors – and in some cases, no one may be liable.

If you have been injured on an icy sidewalk, it is best to speak with an injury attorney in your area. While this article briefly discusses the liability, it is by no means a substitute for genuine legal advice.

Examining the Duty of Care as it Relates to Icy Sidewalks in Philadelphia

To succeed with a slip and fall case, you must show that the owner was negligent or did something wrong. Just because you fell on a sidewalk does not mean the property owner was negligent. Also, an icy walkway does not automatically imply someone was careless.

Instead, you must show that the sidewalk presented an unreasonable risk and that the owner knew about the risk or hazard and failed to correct it.

To do this, you must show there was a duty of care, and that the duty of care was violated in some manner.

Equally, you must prove that you did not violate your duty of care. As a Pennsylvania resident, you know that the sidewalks after a snow storm or icy night will be slippery. Therefore, you must exercise caution when walking on those paths. If you were to sprint across an icy path, knowing there was a risk of slipping and falling, you could not hold a property owner liable for those injuries.

An example of when a homeowner might be negligent:

There was a snowstorm the night before. The homeowner knew about the snowstorm, and when he left for work the next day, he saw the icy conditions of his sidewalk and walkways. However, he ignored them and went to work. Mid-day, someone uses the sidewalk and slips and falls. Because the owner knew his sidewalks were icy and a risk but failed to act, he could be liable.

In another example, the homeowner goes to bed at 10:00 pm. There is a snowstorm that strikes just after. A woman is jogging at 4:00am and slips and falls on the icy sidewalk. Because the event happened overnight and the homeowner had not woken to see the condition or correct the hazard – the homeowner would not be liable because they had no reasonable opportunity to fix the risks.

The Natural Accumulation Rules Might Apply

Most states now use a reasonable accumulation rule to avoid unnecessary lawsuits against cities and homeowners. Therefore, the courts consider what is reasonable to expect of a property owner after a snow storm or when icy conditions are present.

Under accumulation rules, the courts would consider:

  • the natural accumulation of snow or ice,  
  • whether the property owner interfered with that collection, or
  • if they had a reasonable amount of time to react to the accumulation.

For example, a homeowner left a garden hose on overnight, which created an overly icy walkway. In this instance, the homeowner interfered with the “natural” accumulation by creating more ice than would typically be present overnight.

Also, the area plays a role in determining what is reasonable. For example, what is reasonable accumulation here in Pennsylvania is not the same as Minnesota or Utah.

What About Public Sidewalks?

Public sidewalks are a different story. When you encounter an icy public sidewalk, the liability comes down to the state or city laws. In some instances, a city may be liable for the upkeep of the paths, while other times the property owner and city could be liable.

Special Rules When Filing a Lawsuit Against a City or Municipality

If your slip and fall happened on an icy public sidewalk, you must realize that claims against the city are different than those against a private citizen. You are limited on how much time you have for filing your claim. Furthermore, you must notify the city of your intent to file a complaint, and you may encounter limits on your damages. Generally speaking, a municipality is NOT responsible for ice and snow on sidewalks. In fact, the only time they are liable is if THEY created the condition by, for example, a leaking fire hydrant that spills onto the sidwealk and freezes.

It is best that you speak with an attorney any time you are dealing with an injury on public property. An attorney can assess the situation, decide what deadlines apply to your case, and ensure you follow the correct steps so that you can receive damages.

What Damages Can You Receive in a Slip and Fall?

Damages in a slip and fall case vary depending on the liability and the extent of the injuries. Some damages that you may receive include:

  • Medical Costs
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Wages
  • Permanent Disability
  • Loss of Companionship or Consortium

Proving Liability in Your Case

Proving liability in a slip and fall case, especially icy sidewalks, is extraordinarily complicated. Sometimes it comes down to which side has more evidence. One of the more powerful pieces of evidence you could have is photographs. After all, ice melts quickly, and if you do not have a picture of the accident scene the day and time it happened, you may have no evidence the sidewalk was even icy or dangerous.

Tips for Increasing Your Compensation

  • Take pictures of the accident scene immediately after it occurs.
  • Locate witnesses at the scene and get their contact information.
  • Seek medical attention immediately after the accident.
  • Follow through with all doctor’s instructions.
  • Speak with an injury attorney as soon as possible.

Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident? Contact an Experienced Injury Attorney Today

If you have been seriously injured in a slip and fall accident on an icy sidewalk, you need an attorney by your side who can help you with your case. Speak with attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. now to explore your options.

Schedule a free consultation now at 215-771-0430 on his cell, the office at 800-465-8795, or by completing an online contact form.