Who is Responsible for Clearing a Public Sidewalk of Snow and Ice in Connecticut?
With winter upon us once again, homeowners and owners of commercial properties need to refresh their memories about their responsibilities to pedestrian safety, and specifically the question of who is responsible for clearing a public sidewalk of snow and ice in Connecticut. The legal question is not entirely clear, as different municipalities in the state have different ordinances regarding whether or not a local municipality is responsible and whether property owners are required to remove the snow and ice. But even without a specific, overriding law, if the owner of a property is aware – or should have been aware – that their property presents a danger, then they can be held legally and financially responsible for any injuries that result from them not taking proper care. At Jonathan Perkins Injury Law, we have seen far too many people suffer serious injury as a result of property owners failing to shovel and salt. We encourage everybody to look out for their neighbors this year by taking appropriate action.
The question of who is required to clear snow and ice revolves around a legal principle known as premises liability. Generally speaking, a property owner, or in their absence whoever they have put in charge of the custody or control of their property, has what is known as a duty of care to ensure that people who are on their premises are not subjected to any hazardous conditions, and that if somebody is injured as a result of a hazard that the owner knew or should have known about and did not address, then the owner can be held responsible. A person who has fallen because of unshoveled snow or ice can generally prevail in a personal injury lawsuit if they can prove that a dangerous condition existed, that the person who had the duty of care knew or should have known about the condition, and that the situation had been present for a long enough period of time that they could have remedied the situation. In effect, this means that if it the snow and ice have been present for a few days and has not been cleared away, then the owner can be held responsible, but if it iced overnight and the slip and fall accident took place at 6 in the morning, it is less likely that they will be because they did not have the time to get it cleaned up. The same is true in Connecticut of an ongoing storm: even though a property owner has a duty to remove dangerous accumulations of ice and snow, the law generally permits them to wait until the end of a storm, plus a reasonable amount of time afterwards to remove what has accumulated.
Every situation is different, and what is most important for all sides is keeping people safe. At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we encourage property owners to be vigilant in shoveling and salting in order to minimize the risk of people getting injured on your property, and we encourage all those walking to take extra care during inclement weather. If you do suffer an injury as a result of an unshoveled walk, contact us to set up a free consultation to discuss your rights and whether you are eligible to receive compensation.