Don’t Get Sued: Shovel Your Sidewalks After It Snows To Prevent Lawsuits

June 28th, 2018

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


It’s been a relatively mild winter across the Philadelphia region this season, but this weekend’s forecast for a light snowfall is a great reminder to remain vigilant about keeping your sidewalks clear of snow and ice for pedestrians. Just a couple inches of snow was expected here, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but a lot could still fall in the next six weeks of winter that lie ahead.

So what’s the big deal about a little snow? Actually, the legal ramifications can be quite serious if you don’t do your civic duty and shovel and clear your walks.

First, there’s the matter of fines you’ll have to pay if you are ticketed for not shoveling. In Philadelphia, fines can range from $50 for a first offense up to $300, plus penalties for late payments, according to the Philadelphia Code, Section 10-720.

Don't forget to shovel your sidewalks within 6 hours of a snowstorm. Image credit: ©

Don't forget to shovel your sidewalks within 6 hours of a snowstorm. Image credit: ©

But even more important and potentially damaging to your financial security is the legal liability that occurs if you don’t clear the walks on your property and someone slips and falls and is seriously injured. You certainly don’t want someone getting injured on your property because of something you failed to do.

Slip and fall injuries are common because accidents and incidents do happen when weather conditions are poor as pedestrians try to navigate slippery streets, sidewalks, building vestibules and other areas. Your best bet is to prevent such injuries at the start – and their potentially costly lawsuits – by making sure to shovel promptly after a snow storm.

This weekend’s snowy forecast is a perfect time for homeowners, renters and business owners to review their snowfall responsibilities.

The City of Philadelphia isn’t the only community that has shoveling laws. Be sure to check with your local municipality to find out about the specific rules and fines in your community. Most municipalities have laws requiring that sidewalks be cleared within six hours after a snowstorm, just like Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, the City Code requires a path to be shoveled that is at least 36 inches wide and is completely clear of snow and ice on any sidewalk. If the sidewalk between a building and the curb is less than 36 inches wide, then the safe path being created through the snow and ice should be at least 12 inches wide, according to the code. And under the law, you are responsible to do this whether you are the property owner, renter or real estate agent.

There are even rules about what to do with the snow you are shoveling. Are you thinking about shoveling the snow off the walks and back into the street? Don’t do it, the city says. That’s also against the law, and it’s dangerous for vehicles passing through on your street. Just put the snow safely onto the grass or between the curb and sidewalk to make things easier for everyone and to keep the streets clear, too.

If sidewalks aren’t being cleared in the city, you can report such violations by calling the Philadelphia Streets Department Customer Affairs department at 215-686-5560 or by contacting the city’s 3-1-1 assistance department.

And please remember, in the midst of all of these snow removal rules and regulations, don’t get mad about the existence of these laws. They’re there not to bug you but to protect us all when we are pedestrians. They’re there to make sure that we can all traverse our neighborhoods safely when inclement weather arrives with a vengeance.

You’d likely appreciate these rules if they prevent you from being injured if you slipped and fell while you are walking on someone else’s uncleared sidewalks, wouldn’t you?

As a property owner and as a pedestrian, you can appreciate such common sense and preventative actions by others in your community.

These kinds of slip and fall injuries are one of the most common types of personal injuries, leading to one of the most common types of lawsuits. For homeowners, it’s definitely something you want to avoid.

So get out there and enjoy the waning weeks of winter while keeping yourself , your family and your neighbors safer when it comes to sidewalks and snow and ice.

If you are seriously injured in a winter slip and fall accident, be sure to contact a competent, caring and professional attorney to assist you with your case as you seek treatment for your injuries and compensation for your pain and suffering.

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