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Property Owner Liability for a Fall Caused by Snow or Ice

stepping on icy sidewalkPennsylvania has already seen its fair share of snow and winter has not even begun. As we experience more icy/snowy conditions, there is a higher risk of falls on snow or ice, particularly in parking lots and when walking into and out of stores and on sidewalks.

If you suffer an injury caused by snow or ice, you may be able to file a claim against the property owner. Below, learn more about when property owners could potentially be held liable for injuries caused by falls on snow or ice.

When Are Property Owners Required to Remove Snow?

Property owners in Pennsylvania have up to 24 hours, or a reasonable amount of time after it stops snowing, to either issue a warning to visitors or make the area safe by removing the snow or ice.

Pennsylvania uses the Hills and Ridges Doctrine for determining when property owners may be liable for a fall caused by snow or ice. Under this doctrine, a property owner can be held liable for slips and falls when:

  1. Snow and ice built up around where the person fell and created ridges or elevations so large they unreasonably obstructed travel and were a danger to pedestrians.
  2. The property owner knew about the accumulation or should have known about it because the condition lasted for such a long period of time.
  3. The snow and ice are what caused the visitor to slip and fall.

This doctrine does not apply to situations in which the property owner’s own negligence caused the dangerous condition, such as not clearing drain pipes or by having defective walkways. This doctrine usually insulates property owners from liability resulting from falls that occur because of freshly fallen snow or black ice they were not aware of.

Some municipalities like Philadelphia have detailed regulations on snow removal – the amount that needs to be removed and when it must be done.  

Duty of Care Owed to Visitors

Property owners owe a duty of care to visitors on their property. The specific duty of care that is owed to a visitor depends on the visitor’s legal status at the time of the accident:

  • Invitee – An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property, usually for the property owner’s financial gain, such as a customer in a store. These visitors are owed the highest duty of care. Property owners must take all reasonable steps to prevent invitees from harm. They must conduct routine inspections of the property, repair hazards that are discovered and warn people about any known dangers.
  • Licensee – A licensee is a person who has permission to be on the property or has a legal right to be there, such as a friend or visiting family member. Property owners must keep the property safe, avoid creating dangerous conditions on the property and warn visitors of any known dangers on the property.
  • Trespasser – A trespasser has no legal right to be on the property. The slightest duty of care is owed to this group of visitors since they do not have permission to be on the property. Property owners do not need to warn trespassers about dangers on the property. However, property owners cannot create dangers on the property that could potentially harm a trespasser.

Contact Schmidt Kramer After a Slip and Fall Accident

If you were injured by slipping and falling because of snow or ice, it is important to discuss the situation with a qualified attorney.

The dedicated Harrisburg slip and fall lawyers at Schmidt Kramer offer a free consultation with no obligation for taking legal action. If you have a case, we are prepared to represent you on contingency – there are no fees unless you receive compensation.

The legal team at Schmidt Kramer is dedicated to helping you recover full compensation after being injured due to the negligence of others.

You can reach our firm anytime by calling (717) 888-8888.