New Yorkers are used to snow and ice. We see an average of 25 inches a year of the white stuff. What are a few inches or a few feet? New York is a very walkable city, so we plow, people shovel, and we get on with life. Sometimes you can’t help a fall on ice. But not every slip in winter is an unavoidable accident.
Who Has a Duty to Clear Ice and Snow?
In New York, anyone who owns, occupies, leases, or controls property has a duty to keep the premises relatively safe. If the owner or property manager creates a dangerous condition on the property, they can be held liable for any injuries that result from the dangerous condition. Similarly, if the property owner or manager knew or should have known of a dangerous condition and failed to remedy the situation, they may also be held liable for any injuries.
When weather conditions cause ice and snow to accumulate, property owners and managers have a reasonable amount of time to shovel or plow. Under New York City Administrative Code §16-123, property managers have four hours after the snow stops to clean the sidewalks adjoining their property. Although this rule doesn’t apply between 9 pm and 7 am. If the ice or snowpack is too hard to remove without damaging the pavement, the property owner must spread ashes, sand, sawdust, or something similar on the pavement and then remove the ice and snow as soon as possible.
So, if you fall on icy steps at 6:30 am after a snowstorm, the property owner might not be liable. Snow happens, and they can only remove it so fast. However, if the property owner diverted a drain spout onto the steps that caused it to be wet and then frozen, they may be liable for creating a dangerous condition on the property.
What Should You Do if You Fall?
First, if you fall, you should seek medical attention right away for any urgent or life-threatening injuries. Document the conditions of the property or sidewalk if you can, as well as your injuries. When you seek medical treatment, you will create also create a record of your injuries. Finally, you should seek legal advice.