As Snowstorm Nemo Approaches, Keep Winter Sidewalk Safety in Mind
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on February 8th, 2013
As the powerful Storm Nemo, which is being called a blizzard as it approaches New England, heads through Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley this weekend, it’s not expected to bring us the same high winds and heavy snows that are forecast for New York City, Boston and further north.
But whatever snow, ice, slush and messy stuff it does dump here from the skies, we’ll all have to clean it up with shovels, snowblowers, ice melt and other tools.
That means it’s a great time to review the legal ramifications that can affect homeowners, business owners, renters and other property owners if they don’t shovel and clear their sidewalks and other public areas.
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.
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.
“Private plows piling snow in the street after city teams have cleared the road is illegal as well as a hazard to drivers and pedestrians,” according to the city’s website.
When it comes to snow and ice after storms, the most important and potentially damaging thing to remember for property owners is that they have legal liability if they don’t clear the sidewalks on their 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. Your financial security can be at stake.
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.
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.
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.
It’s an important courtesy for everyone involved, and you will avoid lots of legal headaches if you follow these rules.
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.
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.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or someone you love is ever seriously injured due to a slip or fall incident anywhere in the United States. At MyPhillyLawyer, you can consult with a qualified, experienced and compassionate attorney to explore all of your legal rights.
We represent the families of victims who are seriously injured or even killed in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.
Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-(866) 352-4572 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.
When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.