When blustery winter weather strikes, the roads, parking lots and sidewalks in New Jersey can turn into sheets of ice. Slippery walking surfaces are a risk for the public. Someone walking to work might slip and fall, suffering a brain injury or breaking their arm.
Depending on what someone does for a living, the injury they suffer in a slip-and-fall out on an icy section of sidewalk might mean taking weeks off of work. Losing out on wages while also having a bunch of medical bills coming in is a bad situation for any working-class American.
Do those hurt on slippery sidewalks simply have to accept their losses, or do they have any other options in New Jersey?
If the sidewalk was in front of a business, the business may be liable
Sidewalks and parking lots help make businesses accessible to the public. Both those who own a commercial property and those who rent business space have an obligation to the public to maintain their facilities and make them safe.
For sidewalks and parking lots, prompt removal of ice and snow accumulation is crucial for safety. While pedestrians who slip on the sidewalk may not be able to bring a claim against a homeowner who didn’t shovel their sidewalk, they may have a claim against a business that fails to do the same. The state expects business to keep their adjacent sidewalks clear and safe for the public.
Letting snow and ice accumulate is essentially negligence
Reasonableness is important in premises liability cases. Someone who gets hurt on a business’s property will usually have to show that the business either broke the law or was negligent. Negligence is a legal standard that relies on the behavior and perceptions of the average, reasonable person.
The requirement to maintain safe facilities would include removing ice and snow from walkways in the eyes of almost any average person. While many people can walk on accumulated ice and snow without issue, anyone could accidentally slip. Children, older adults and those with mobility issues are at increased risk of falling on ice, and people understand that risk.
Businesses that don’t clear their sidewalks and parking lots knowingly leave hazards in place that could cause someone to get hurt. Building a premises liability claim after a slip-and-fall incident often requires medical documentation of injuries and a careful explanation of the circumstances that led to the fall.