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When the ‘Winter-Wonderland’ Leads to Snow and Ice Injuries

A person walking on the sidewalk covered with snow with footprints on the snow

As all New Yorker’s know by now, the Tri-State area is in the midst of what is historically the snowiest part of the winter season. While most residents stay warm and dry in their houses and apartments–watching endless news coverage and social media feeds showing beautiful pictures of accumulating snow, kids on sleds and dogs frolicking– eventually, within our complex lives of jobs, school and appointments we all must venture out. This can lead, in many cases, to nothing but frustration.

At some point, all New York City residents have been put in that precarious position where the sidewalk they need to traverse remain covered with snow. Even worse, many of these sidewalks in the highly populated areas of New York require us to follow in the literal “footsteps” of those who have braved the elements before us, leading to a mess of compacted snow, ice and perilous uneven piles.

In addition, failure to remove snow and ice on the part of property owners can result in catastrophic injuries. Because of the violent and unexpected nature in which the body falls, with no chance to brace oneself, injuries resulting from these fall accidents are often severe. These accidents can result in fractured bones, traumatic brain injuries (T.B.I.), soft tissue damage, and tears involving ligaments of the wrists, shoulders, knees and ankles.

Which leads to the question…

Who is Responsible for the Removal of Snow and Ice on NYC Sidewalks, and When?

In NYC, strict laws exist which require property owners to timely take all reasonable steps to remove snow and ice to prevent the general public from slipping and falling, subjecting them to the injuries

In most cases, the City of New York has what has been referred to as the “four-hour rule.” This gives property owners and/or building managers four (4) hours to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks that surround their property. This period begins to expire once all precipitation has stopped falling.

New York City Code Section 16-123 requires property owners, lessees, tenants, occupants, or other responsible parties in charge of any building or lot in the city adjacent to a sidewalk to remove “snow or ice … or other material from the sidewalk and gutter” surrounding the property within four hours of when snow ceases to fall.

The code also goes on to require that where hard-frozen ice cannot be removed immediately, the owner must spread sand, sawdust or other materials, and clear these surfaces when weather permits.

In the interest of fairness to businesses and homeowners who cannot get out in the middle of the night, if the snowfall ends during daylight hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., property owners must clear their walkways within the required four hours. However, if snowfall ends overnight between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., property owners have until 11:00a.m. to clear their walkways.

When Can Property Owners Be Responsible for Injuries?

The law in New York allows an injured party who has been hurt by slipping on snow or ice, that was not properly cleared from a New York City sidewalk, to hold the property owner or manager liable under the following conditions:

  • The accident was directly caused by the unsafe conditions resulting from not clearing ice or snow in a timely manner
  • The property owner/manager knew about the ice or snow but did not take steps to correct it.
  • The property owner/manager should have known about the ice or snow because a reasonable person taking care of the property would have discovered and corrected the hazardous condition.

But simply clearing the sidewalk of snow is not the only requirement of an owner or maintenance company. Many other scenarios lead to liability for personal injuries.

Improper Snow Removal

When the owner/maintenance company attempts to remove the snow and creates a more dangerous condition in doing so by snow placement. This also includes leaving traces of ice or allowing snow to melt and “refreeze’ on sidewalks and paved surfaces without being remedied.

Neglecting Snow on Elevated Surfaces

Property owners can also potentially be at fault if snow is allowed to melt from rooftops and awnings and the melted water is not properly collected and deposited in safe areas by the roof systems and diverted onto walking surfaces. This can occur from dripping eaves or gutters or by drain spouts allowing water to collect on pavement, and to freeze.

Unsafe Snowplow Operation

As is the case for a City as large as New York and the surrounding suburbs, many businesses in New York contract with snow removal and plowing businesses in their stead to clear snow and ice from parking lots and sidewalks. Snowplow operators have a responsibility to operate plows in a safe manner so as not to endanger others. They have an ultimate responsibility to not strike pedestrians or cause motor vehicle accidents by crashing into vehicles while performing their operations.

Indoor Winter Precautions

Liability can be established, as well, by a failure to properly protect the immediate front hallways and entrances of businesses where snow and ice are allowed to be brought into the property by boots and other footwear, causing slippery floors to exist.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words…

The most important piece of advice to any person unfortunately involved in one of these horrific accidents, is to use technology to your advantage. Photos and/or videos of the dangerous conditions are essential for the successful prosecution of any snow and ice case.

A property owner’s favorite defense is to claim that such an icy condition did not exist or was properly maintained. A picture can act as the ultimate proof to disprove such a defense.

If at all possible, never leave the scene of an accident without taking pictures of the snowy and icy conditions. Also, if you’re alone, inquire as to whether anyone saw you fall or can describe the dangerous snow and ice condition. This will go a long way in having a successful outcome and allowing you to be properly compensated for your injuries.

Consult With a NYC Accident Attorney

At Pazer Epstein Jaffe Fein & Gozenput, P.C. our attorneys have successfully handled cases involving all of these storm related situations of negligence against property owners. Whether it be a slip and fall on improperly removed snow or ice, or technical cases involving the diversion of water allowed to freeze onto entrance stairs or pathways, the analysis of an attorney is essential for success.

Some of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe and Fein’s recent successes on snow and ice case include:

  • $355,000 for a 50-year-old male who fractured his ankle and needed surgery due to a homeowner allowing melted snow from a roof be diverted by the houses leaders and gutters onto his driveway’s walkway;
  • $300,000 for a 37 year old male who fractured his ankle and required surgery when he fell from entrance steps to a house where melting snow was allowed to drip and freeze on the steps.
  • $250,000 for a 54 year old male who fractured his ankle and required surgery when he slipped and fell in the parking lot of a 7-11 convenience store that was improperly plowed and salted.

The law firm of Pazer Epstein Jaffe and Fein P.C. will continue to fight for the rights of those injured by improperly maintained premises that allow snow and ice to remain in a dangerous condition. We are committed to caring for the welfare of the injured.

Call the firm of Pazer Epstein Jaffe and Fein P.C. at (212) 227-1212 as soon as your able to discuss your weather-related accident and what your next steps should be, or fill out our form for a free consultation at any time.

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