Who is Liable for a Slip and Fall on Ice at Your Home?

Posted on Jan 23, 2019

Slip and fall injuries are tricky things, legally speaking.

That doesn’t mean that homeowners bear no legal responsibility, or liability, for slip and fall injuries occurring on their property. When people slip and fall on ice at your home, whether it be a guest, the mailman or a stranger, a few things must be proven to hold you responsible for their slip and fall on your property.

Responsibility for Ice and Snow Removal

For the law to view you as responsible, you must have behaved (or failed to do so) in a negligent manner that caused the accident.

When it comes to ice and snow, it is notoriously difficult to get large awards against homeowners in Northern states where ice and snow are common for slip and fall suits, according to AllLaw.com. This may be largely because jurors feel this is a known hazard and, as likely homeowners themselves, jurors are reluctant to issue large verdicts against other homeowners. It is too easy to see themselves in the same situation.

While you do bear responsibility for removing snow and ice from walkways, outdoor stairways, and sidewalks on your property, the expectations for removal must be reasonable.

For instance, you can’t reasonably be expected to be outside at 2:00 a.m. with a snow shovel and salt thrower to remove ice as soon as it comes down.

Most cities have ordinances requiring removal within so many hours of the end of a snow or ice event. That means that if the slip and fall occurs within those covered hours, the onus is on the person visiting the home or walking on the sidewalk to be cautious.

That being said, you could be held legally responsible if you are found to have been negligent in your snow and ice removal efforts.

For instance, if you have neglected to clear your sidewalk through several snow and/or ice events and have a sidewalk that is a hazard, you could be held responsible. Old ice melts during the heat of the day and refreezes at night, leaving sidewalks dangerous and could result in you being held liable for injuries.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

There is little you can do to prevent a lawsuit from taking place if someone, such as a guest, slips and falls because of ice on your property.

Ideally, you want to remove ice and snow from your property as quickly as possible to avoid potential problems. You may even consider hiring a service to clear your property if you are unable to remove it promptly.

Don’t forget to salt your walkways before snow and ice events to make removal as easy as possible and to help melt it pre-emptively.

Insurance Coverage

Make sure your home insurance policy provides protection for slips and falls on ice at your home. You also want to make sure you have a sufficient amount of coverage.

If you do get sued or are threatened with a lawsuit, make sure you notify your insurance agent immediately. Don’t think that because you don’t believe you are at fault, that you need not respond to the letter or the suit. You do need to do that right away. However, do not contact the attorney representing the allegedly injured person yourself. The insurance company will respond on your behalf. It’s one of the reasons you bought insurance: to pay and claims or judgments for which you are legally obligated and to provide for an attorney to represent you.

Contact us here at Otterstedt Insurance Agency to learn what you can do to protect yourself from a slip and fall incident at your home.

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