It is the bane of every Philadelphians’ existence: navigating icy, snowy and slushy sidewalks throughout the city each winter. Not only is it messy and slow-going, but it raises the risk of falling each time that you step outside. Slip and fall accidents can lead to serious injuries.
In many cases, the homeowner may be responsible for the damages suffered by the person who failed to clear his or her sidewalk from dangers, such as snow or ice.
Winter Weather Dangers Aren’t Over
Although we have been enjoying an unseasonably warm stretch of weather, most Philadelphia-area residents know that these higher temperatures are just a tease. In eastern Pennsylvania, winter isn’t truly over just yet. Last year, Philadelphia’s biggest snowfall of the season happened on March 14, 2017. Philadelphia also saw massive March snowstorms in 1993 and 1958. This leaves us with at least thirty more days of potential snow and ice storms to watch out for — and that also means snowy roads and slippery sidewalks.
Even if Philadelphia does not get a blizzard, the fact remains that even a light dusting of snow or freezing rain can lead to danger, particularly for the city’s many pedestrians. Slip and fall accidents can be incredibly dangerous, leading to broken bones, concussions or worse. One misstep on an uncleared sidewalk, and you can go down, striking your head on the concrete sidewalk, curb, or even a stair. It is so important to know what the law is regarding sidewalk clearing — and that a skilled Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer can help you recover if you have been injured in an accident.
Philadelphia Law on Sidewalk Clearing
Under the Philadelphia City Code, you have six hours after the snow has stopped to clear a path 36 inches (three feet wide) on all sidewalks that abut the building or premises. If the sidewalk is less than three feet wide, the path can be one foot wide. This path must be thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. For residents who live in a multifamily unit, such as an apartment building, the owner of the building or his or her agent is responsible for clearing the snow and ice from the sidewalk.
Importantly, you cannot simply shovel the snow onto the street; that is not allowed under the rules (“Snow or ice…shall not be placed or piled in the street.”). If you fail to comply with these rules you can be fined anywhere from $50 to $300.
Pennsylvania Homeowners Can Be Held Responsible for Slip and Falls on Icy Sidewalks
If a person does not comply with Philadelphia’s ordinance regarding snow removal, will someone who slips and falls on the snowy or icy sidewalk be able to recover for damages? The answer will depend on a number of factors.
In Pennsylvania, if there is a general accumulation of snow and ice, such as during a snowstorm, then it will be more difficult to hold a homeowner liable. That is because Pennsylvania courts generally require that the person who fell prove that (1) there was some sort of defect in the walkway that the landowner knew about or should have known about, and (2) the defect, and not just the snowy and icy conditions, caused the fall.
Because it will often be impossible for homeowners to keep their sidewalks clear during a snowstorm, pedestrians should exercise extra caution. The homeowner will usually only be held responsible for a fall if there was some sort of defect in the sidewalk that he or she knew about, and the defect is what caused the person to fall.
However, if there were not generally snowy conditions, it will likely be easier to prove that a homeowner is a fault. For example, if a storm has ended and a sidewalk has some icy patches on it that have not been salted, a homeowner may be found liable for the fall. That is because — unlike during a snowstorm — a homeowner should be able to treat the icy patch fairly easily.
Call a Philadelphia Slip & Fall Attorney Today
The facts of each slip and fall case are different, and require the help of an experienced Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer. A seasoned attorney can analyze the details of your case and determine if you may be able to recover for your losses.
At Solnick & Associates, our attorneys have more than three decades of combined experience working with clients to help them recover from their injuries. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today.