People can often be dismissive of injuries that occur because of uncleaned snow and ice, but we have personally been involved in cases where victims have sustained severe, life-altering injuries. Particularly in cases involving working parents and professionals, the loss of ability to work following such an accident can be devastating to a family.
New Snow Removal Ordinance for City of Albany Residents
Residents of the City of Albany, New York, will soon have to be much more diligent about clearing snow and ice from their sidewalks following a storm. The Common Council's measure requires that property owners clear their sidewalks within twenty-four hours after a storm, or face fines up to several hundred dollars for violations. According to the Albany Times Union, this ordinance removed what was an extra twenty-four-hour window for property owners to clear their sidewalks.
General obligations of property owners in New York
Property owners in New York, and in the City of Albany, are responsible to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. The failure to do so, generally, can place them at risk if someone is injured because of their failure to maintain the property.
A property owner, for example, who is aware of a damaged step, has an obligation to repair that step. If the owner does not repair it, and someone gets injured because of the damaged step, the property owner will likely be responsible.
Liability for snow removal following a storm (the “storm in progress” doctrine)
The same holds true in the case of snow removal. A property owner has a legal obligation to clear snow and ice from their property within a “reasonable” period of time following a storm. What is reasonable? That, of course, is somewhat subjective, but generally courts say that a few hours, at a minimum, is reasonable. If, for example, a storm happens during the day, while the property owner is at work; it is likely that a court would say that it was reasonable for the owner to clear the snow when he returned from work in the evening.
Twenty-four hours to clear snow and ice is stretching it, however, and pedestrians in Albany should be aware that if they are injured because a property owner has not cleared a sidewalk for twenty-three hours after a storm, the property owner may very well be liable.
The most important thing to do after a slip and fall accident
If you are a victim of a slip and fall accident, the most important thing to do is take (or have taken) photos of the condition of the area of the fall as close in time as possible to when you fell. Liability in New York slip and fall cases often rests on the condition of the property at the time of the fall (and whether the owner knew, or reasonably should have known, of its existence), and as a result the best way to establish that condition is through photographs.
If you have been injured, and did not take photographs, you are not doomed. There are other methods of establishing fault, through both testimony and forensic meteorological proof. The latter helps to establish when the snow fall ceased, how much snow accumulated, and whether any freeze/thaw/re-freeze may have occurred which would have made the condition even worse.
If you have sustained severe injures because of an uncleaned sidewalk or parking lot, and have lost income or the ability to go about your daily activities, contact us today. We help families navigate through good times and bad, and we are happy to hear your story.