As the weather gets colder in New England, many people are already carrying out winterization measures to protect their homes and businesses. Road salt has been purchased, shovels dug out of garages, and tires swapped out. With all this attention paid—and rightfully paid—to the hazards of traveling on foot or by car through a winter wonderland. However, paying attention to snow on the ground should not come at the expense of preparing for snow on roofs and eaves, which poses an entirely different set of risks to guests, neighbors, customers, and all pedestrians.
While slip-and-fall, or slip-and-crash, accidents immediately come to mind as common winter hazards, falling ice and snow from roofs can also cause serious injury to the unsuspecting traveler. Serious head, neck and back injuries, including severe concussions, can result from a snowpack sliding off a steep roof and onto an unlucky passerby. Along with the possibility of a concussion and neck injuries, if the passerby is knocked off his or her feet there might also be the typical injuries of a slip-and-fall accident.
If such a sliding snowpack is heavy enough, or includes a hefty chunk of ice, it may very well knock the person unconscious or cause deep lacerations. Even a small amount of falling snow and ice from a sign, building ledge, or scaffolding can cause serious bodily damage and long term injury.
In general, the responsibility for keeping roofs reasonably clear, or marking off potential “falling ice” areas as a warning to pedestrians, falls to the party also responsible for clearing walkways and driveways of snow. Homeowners bear full responsibility and liability, as do people renting houses or other single-family options. For triple-deckers and larger multi-family units, the responsibility falls to the landlord. The same general principles apply to a business—a freestanding business takes responsibility for property maintenance, while one inside a strip mall or shopping center passes that responsibility onto the property owner or manager.
Unfortunately, not all business owners or landlords take care of this winter maintenance task. As a result, pedestrians, tenants, and customers are unknowingly put at risk, with serious injuries resulting. In a worst-case scenario, a landlord or business owner’s refusal to remove snow and ice from above can lead to long term injuries and even death.
If you have been injured by falling ice as the result of someone else’s negligence, call our office today to discuss your case and learn your options.