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Mind your step to avoid hospital and courtroom visits this winter

Slips, trips and falls happen throughout the year. However, chances of slip-and-fall accidents are significantly higher as New Year approaches. Snow and ice are your biggest enemies when you visit Pennsylvania shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, apartment buildings or office complexes. Although property owners must make reasonable efforts to prevent incidents that could injure guests and patrons, many of them fail to implement plans for ice and snow removal.

If you should suffer injuries from a fall on the property of someone who neglected to take the necessary steps to remove snow and ice hazards, you might have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against that property owner. However, your fall will not necessarily be a landlord's fault, and the burden to prove negligence will be on you.

Snow and ice removal strategy

A diligent property owner will establish and implement a workable plan for ice and snow removal. The property owner might choose to task in-house employees with the responsibility or hire a contractor for the job. If the plan involves employees, the employer must provide adequate training and equipment, and he or she must have personal protective gear like gloves, insulated boots and warm jackets. Keeping a duty schedule and a removal log could be useful in the event of a lawsuit.

Similarly, a record of removal done by a contractor, with documented details of the times they rendered the service, can remove liability from the property owner. If the contractor provided substandard work, he or she might be deemed liable. A landlord would be wise to inspect the property and monitor the contractor's effectiveness.

Contents of a snow removal plan

There are steps that you would likely expect a property owner to include in an effective snow removal plan. The following are the steps that you could expect a property owner to take:

  • Assess the hazards and identify high-risk areas like uneven or sloped surfaces, dimly lit areas and high-traffic areas.
  • Post warning signs about hidden hazards in high-traffic regions, such as signposts, grates, curbs and fire hydrants.
  • Replace inadequate lighting to improve visibility.
  • Determine the most effective way to melt ice and allow enough time for chemicals such as calcium chloride to take effect.
  • Keep entrances free of slippery, melted ice that people track in from outside.
  • Keep a lookout for refreezing where melting snow runs over walkways.
  • Check for hazards caused by inadequate drainage to eliminate puddles that might form in high-traffic pedestrian areas.
  • Identify downspouts that allow water discharge onto walkways and relocate them.
  • Take care not to reduce visibility with stockpiled snow.

Ideal situations

If only all property owners were diligent enough to take these steps, you and all your loved ones might avoid slip-and-fall accidents and unanticipated hospital stays and income losses during the holidays. If you are the victim of a property owner's negligence, you can pursue financial relief through the Pennsylvania civil justice system. Premises liability is a complicated field of the law, and an experienced personal injury attorney might be a valuable asset to have in your corner.

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