After a winter storm, sidewalks can be particularly hazardous. Ice and compacted snow can make the pavement slippery, and snow can conceal loose gravel, ice and other hazards. Even when taking care on these slick surfaces, you may slip and fall. If you slip and are injured as a result, can you hold property owners accountable for the icy sidewalk that caused you to fall?
Property owners must have shown negligence.
While a property owner’s sidewalk may be hazardous, that does not necessarily mean that they are liable for a fall on that property. In order to be liable, an accident must meet specific criteria:
- There was a “dangerous condition” on the property.
- The property owner knew that the hazard existed and did not fix it, created the hazard or allowed a hazard to continue for an unreasonable length of time.
- Despite your best effort to take care while moving through the property, the hazard led to your injuries.
For example, if a store owner left an icy sidewalk untreated for days after a snowstorm, then a court may consider them negligent if one of their customers slips and falls on that sidewalk.
Residential and commercial property owners have different regulations.
In New Jersey, commercial property owners and multiple-family dwellings like apartment buildings have a specific duty to keep their property in a condition that allows customers to enter and exit their business safely. This includes making an effort to remove dangerous conditions like snow and ice from their sidewalks so that the public can enter a store or restaurant.
Homeowners in single-family homes, on the other hand, do not necessarily have a duty to remove snow and ice under state law or to warn passers-by about a slippery condition. However, if they created a slipping hazard by spilling water onto their sidewalk or made the danger worse in some way, they may still be held liable for a slip that occurs on their property. They may also be subject to stricter regulations under the laws of their city.
If you wonder whether you can hold property owners responsible for their part in your fall on a slippery sidewalk, consider speaking to an attorney about your accident.