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Winter Dangers: Snow and Ice

September 14, 2017

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

According to various news outlets, including PennLive, we are in for a “snowier-than-normal” winter this year in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Some people love snow and cannot wait to make snowmen, snow angels, and more. Others simply wish that snow would disappear once and for all. Regardless of what category you fall in, snow is a reality in Pennsylvania. Most of us have to encounter it, interact with it, and commute through it. Such unavoidable interactions, however, can sometimes lead to accidents and dangers involving snow and ice on others’ property. If you fall victim to such an accident, make sure you know what to do.

Hills and Ridges

Premises liability falls under the negligence umbrella of possible legal actions against a person or organization. In the winter months, premises liability actions are sometimes due to snowy and icy conditions upon another’s property.

Pennsylvania law recognizes that it cannot ask property owners to constantly clear their premises of snow and ice. This task becomes even harder when snow is in the process of coming down. As already stated, for those living in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, snow and ice are simply facts of our geographic region. However, this does not mean that property owners have a pass when it comes to clearing dangerous snowy and icy conditions on their property. The state recognizes what is called the “hills and ridges doctrine.” This doctrine, or rule, essentially gives the property owner a reasonable amount of time to clear the dangerous snowy and icy conditions. However, if the snow collects to the point where it forms “hills” and “ridges,” then the property owner is likely not addressing the snow and ice within a reasonable time. If somebody then falls on the property, the chances of demonstrating the property owner’s liability to the victim are higher.

What Proof is Needed?

For most premises liability incidents, the state requires the victim to sue the responsible party within two years of the incident. After filing, it is time to prove that the defendant is liable. The courts in Pennsylvania have repeatedly held that in order to recover in a premises liability action involving snow, ice, or both, the slip and fall victim must show three things:

  • The snow and ice accumulated to elevations and character that obstructed pedestrian travel and movement,
  • The property owner had notice of the condition, and
  • The dangerous ice and snow accumulation caused the plaintiff to fall.

We can prove these elements by presenting evidence surrounding the time of the fall. For instance, witness testimony, documents, and even video surveillance can show a jury that the snow and ice did accumulate, the owner had notice, and that the accumulation was the reason for the fall. Medical records are also vital in order to show the sustained injuries.

Get Ready and Stay Safe

We want you to have fun this winter and to stay safe. Enjoy the snow and the glistening trees. Nobody plans on slipping and falling, but if you happen to catch yourself in that difficult predicament, you will want to make sure that your needs are addressed. The Philadelphia injury attorneys here at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are ready to help.



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