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Who is Responsible for Injuries On Snowy Sidewalks?

Cobblestone sidewalk covered with ice and snow

New York winters can be magical. Beautiful, delicate white snowflakes fall gently upon the evergreens and the rooftops of homes. As gorgeous as a snowy New York winter can be, the snow can also present dangerous conditions. Snow covered sidewalks can make trekking through town difficult and dangerous. If you have fallen and injured yourself on the snowy or icy sidewalk, who is responsible? It depends on the conditions and whether the property owner or the city/municipality was negligent. Simply put, there is no bright line test.

A property owner has a duty to maintain his premises in a reasonably safe condition. If you are a tenant of the property owner and the sidewalk/walkway from your apartment to your garage is icy, your landlord might be held liable. If you are a member of the public and you fall on an icy or snowy patch of sidewalk while walking around the neighborhood, the owner or the city might be held liable. In any case, you must prove that the owner (1) had actual notice of the unsafe condition (i.e. snow covered sidewalk) or (2) had constructive notice of the unsafe condition (i.e. there was a heavy snowfall over the weekend and it’s now Tuesday and it still hasn’t been shoveled); (3) failed to correct it; and (4) you were injured.

Certain exceptions may apply depending on the site of the property and whether it is, in part or in whole, owner occupied. Cities or municipalities may be liable for your injuries if the landowner is exempted from liability. Of course, you would still have to prove notice (actual or constructive) on the part of the city or other municipality. To make matters even more complicated, many New York towns and villages have “prior written notice” statutes which require actual, written notice of a dangerous condition before the municipality can be held liable. In these cases, proving the city’s liability can be even more difficult, although there are exceptions to the notice requirement even where the city has enacted a prior written notice law.

In any event, the most important part of your case is gathering and preserving evidence.

If you fall on an icy or snowy sidewalk, you should obtain:

  • The name and contact information of the property owner(s) and any eyewitnesses;
  • The owner’s insurance information;
  • The police report, if applicable;
  • Photographs of the area and your injuries. Take photos with a cell phone or a camera.

If you have been injured as a result of falling on a sidewalk, it is most important that you first seek medical care. Simply thinking that you’re “okay” and not seeking medical assistance could exacerbate your injuries and create issues in documenting your injuries. Always seek prompt medical attention and consult with a qualified slip-and-fall attorney. Our firm has handled thousands of New York slip-and-fall cases and is ready to discuss your case in a free no-obligation consultation.

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