Can You Sue a Homeowner for Unshoveled Sidewalks in Pennsylvania?
Throughout most of the United States, the property owner – not the city or local municipality – is responsible for keeping their sidewalk safe. This means keeping leaves from accumulating, repairing uneven pavement, or clearing snow and ice. Icy sidewalks are a common problem in the winter, and homeowners are often responsible for any injuries their icy sidewalks cause. If you or a loved one fell on an icy sidewalk in PA, take your case to the Philadelphia slip and fall victim lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm, today.
Suing for a Fall on a Snowy or Icy Sidewalk in Philadelphia
In many cases, a snowy sidewalk is just as slippery as an icy sidewalk. Loosely-packed snow can be a slipping hazard, especially for injured or elderly people who have a harder time getting around. If the snow is left there for too long, it can melt, refreeze, and harden into packed ice. This can be not only a hard, physical obstacle that risks tripping and falling, but also a slipping hazard. You can often sue for damages after a fall on an icy sidewalk.
In some towns and cities, there are specific rules for shoveling your sidewalk. These laws may come with fines and tickets to help enforce the rule, enhancing the overall safety of the community. Since these rules are in place to keep others safe, breaking this rule may be enough to prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
For example, Philadelphia Code 10-720 requires removing snow within 6 hours after the snow has stopped falling. It requires you to clear a 36” wide path. The rule also allows the building owner or tenant to be held responsible for violations. For multifamily homes (e.g. apartment buildings), it is the owner’s responsibility to have the sidewalk cleared.
Rules like this may help define the specific duty the building owner must fulfil. Without a statute on point, the general duty may be far less strict. The building owner may only need to clear a reasonably sized walkway that is reasonably clear of ice and debris. This rule may not be as strict as Philly’s rule, but it may still allow many victims to hold the negligent building owner responsible for accidents their icy sidewalks cause. It may be stricter in other ways, such as the timing element. Where Philly’s law gives the owner 6 hours after the snow stops falling, the general duty may require them to clear the sidewalk while snow is still coming down, or in a more prompt timeframe.
Determining the specific duty in light of the specifics of your case is often a large part of these kinds of injury lawsuits. Factors like the weather conditions, the effectiveness of de-icing techniques (e.g. salting the sidewalk), the number of times the snow was cleared before the fall, and other factors may influence the court’s ruling.
Lawsuits for Slipping on Icy Sidewalks in PA
If you are severely injured, suing a homeowner for failing to clear their sidewalk might be your best way to get your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering compensated. Some falls have particularly severe injuries, especially if you suffered brain injuries, injured your back, or suffered a broken or fractured bone. You may have medical bills piling up, may need to miss work during your recovery, and may experience severe pain and suffering. Filing a lawsuit may get all of these compensated as “damages.”
Choosing a target for the lawsuit (the “defendant”) is the first step. While your attorney can research the proper person to sue, the correct party is usually the owner of the building adjacent to the sidewalk where you fell. This means if the building is a commercial property (e.g. store or restaurant), you sue the owner. For a home, you sue either the tenant or the landlord – or join them both in the lawsuit and determine who is at fault later. For a multifamily home like an apartment building, you usually sue the owner of the building, and not necessarily any tenants. Lastly, the government is often not responsible for sidewalks, and puts the duty on the property owner instead.
The lawsuit itself requires proving four elements. The first is the duty, discussed above. Determining the proper duty helps determine what the defendant was legally required to do. Second, you prove how they breached that duty. This shows what they did wrong to let you be injured. Third, you must prove their failures caused your injuries. Lastly, you prove the specific damages (e.g. medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering) you incurred, and the specific values they should pay you. If you can prove all of these elements, you should be able to win your lawsuit.
Philadelphia Slip and Fall Lawyers
If you or a loved one fell on an icy sidewalk, you may want to file a lawsuit against the negligent building owner. The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have decades of experience representing slip and fall injury victims. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (215) 246-9000.