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Someone Didn’t Shovel their Sidewalk in CT. Can I Sue?

In the state of Connecticut, the winters can be long and precipitation can be deep. Snow and ice create a real hazard, and the risk of injuries caused by slipping and falling is significant. If you have been hurt as a result of falling on a sidewalk that has not been shoveled or is covered with ice, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages for the injuries you’ve sustained. The important question that needs to be answered is, “Who is responsible?” The answer depends on whether the property is public or private.

The Connecticut Sidewalk Law establishes that when a sidewalk is public, such as on a commercial street, abutting landowners are not responsible for the safety of the sidewalk in front of their property. The law says that is the individual municipality that has that duty, and that if the municipality fails to keep the sidewalk clear then they are liable for damages. That being said, there are two exceptions to the rule.  One exception is if a statute or ordinance has specifically shifted that responsibility to the landowner whose property abuts the sidewalk, and the second is if the landowner has taken some kind of action that created an unsafe condition. Because Connecticut enacted legislation that permitted municipalities to shift the obligation to keep the sidewalks clear to property owners, almost all municipalities in the state have done so.

It is important to remember that the expectation that a property owner will keep their sidewalks free of snow and ice is carefully prescribed, and the ability to file suit is not automatic. Certain allowances are made, and an injured party must be able to show that the property owner had what is known as “actual or constructive notice” of the dangerous condition. This means that the ice and snow must have been present long enough that it would be reasonably expected that the property owner would have discovered it. This expectation takes into account factors such as the rigors of winter, allowing the defendant to wait til the end of a storm and for a period thereafter.  In many cases, a property owner may argue that they were not aware that their sidewalk was icy – in these cases, weather reports and meteorological data can be used to provide proof of how long a dangerous condition was present.

In addition to proving that sufficient time went by without the property owner clearing snow, you also will need to be able to prove that they actually failed to do so. If a property owner can show good reason why a specific area was not yet shoveled, their lack of action may be deemed justifiable by the courts. Additionally, you will need to prove that you did not contribute to your own accident and exercised reasonable care to avoid being injured.

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident caused by an unshoveled or icy sidewalk, Perkins Law can help. Contact us today and we’ll review the specifics of your situation. We are here to help.