Important Snow Shoveling Responsibilities
February 18, 2021
With yet another snowfall, it is important to know the rules that govern who is responsible for shoveling snow and clearing sidewalks. These rules vary based on where a person lives, but a citywide ordinance in Philadelphia requires all homeowners, landlords, businesses, and even renters to remove snow from their sidewalks within six hours of an accumulation.
Those who do not follow the rules face hefty fines from the Philadelphia Streets Department. Tickets for snow removal violations range from $50 to $300. But there are other important reasons to follow the city’s snow removal ordinances, too, such as protecting unsuspecting individuals from the serious injuries that they can sustain from slipping and falling on unmaintained sidewalks. These types of accidents cause millions of preventable injuries every year, with the National Safety Council (NSC) estimating as many as eight million emergency room department visits related to slips and falls annually.
Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip and falls cause a range of injuries. Depending on the severity of the injury, an individual may require prolonged medical care, have to take time off from work, or experience a marked change in their quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the most common injuries that individuals sustain from slip and falls include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs
- Broken bones
- Spinal injuries
- Contusions, lacerations, cuts, and abrasions
- Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles
Slip and fall accidents are even more likely to occur during the winter months due to the frequency of inclement weather conditions. That is why it is crucial that we all take the necessary steps to limit well-known slip and fall hazards.
Snow Removal and Safety Recommendations
While some renters are legally obligated to remove snow and ice from a property, not all are. According to the rules in Philadelphia, all renters, homeowners, and businesses must clear a safe walking path within six hours of a snowfall unless they live in an apartment building or a building with more than one unit. In those types of units, building owners or agents are typically responsible for removing snow and ice. However, renters should still read the terms of their lease to verify who is responsible for maintaining the property after a snowstorm.
According to a spokesperson from the Philadelphia Streets Department, the citywide ordinance requires that the walking path be 36 inches wide unless the width of the pavement from a person’s property line to the curb is smaller than that. If it is, the path can be narrower but must be a minimum of 12 inches wide for people to safely walk. It is also a good idea to use a commercial salt or deicer to limit ice accumulation on the sidewalk. Philadelphians should also remember that it is illegal to remove snow from a sidewalk or from around a parked car and to deposit it back onto a plowed street. Not only does this create hazards for pedestrians, but also for drivers. Business, homeowners, and renters who are responsible for maintaining their properties should clear the following areas from hazardous snow accumulation:
- Sidewalks (and even those adjacent to some businesses) and/or walkways
- Parking lots
- Building entrances
Slip and falls do not just happen outside – they happen inside, too. It is a good idea to have a mat in the entryway of your home or apartment so that people can dry off before they enter. Business owners must also ensure that they clearly label any wet or slippery floors and clean them in a timely manner.
Similarly to the increase of slip and fall accidents that happen during and after a snowstorm, there can also be an influx of motor vehicle accidents. To reduce these accident rates, Philadelphia legislation requires car owners to clean their vehicles off before they get behind the wheel and drive. Making sure a vehicle is cleaned off helps limit accidents that occur from poor visibility and other cold weather conditions. It also saves pedestrians and other vehicles from being hit with potentially deadly amounts of snow and/or ice that can fly off a moving vehicle.
Here are a few other useful steps that everyone can take to limit some of the slip and fall hazards they face while walking:
- Keep an eye out for spots of black ice and slippery entranceways
- Walk carefully and slowly
- Try to keep your hands out of your pockets (and try not to carry anything in your hands, either!). If you fall, this gives you a better chance of catching yourself
- Avoid slippery curbs and uneven surfaces
- If you suspect an area is slippery or icy, gently tap it with your foot before you walk across it
Whether or not a city has ordinances in place to require homeowners, renters, landlords, and business to remove snow and ice promptly, it is a good habit to have throughout the winter months. When a person is injured as a result of an establishment or individual’s failure to adequately remove snow or ice, he or she may be able to file a legal claim and recover a settlement that can help pay for medical bills, treatments, and other damages. If you would like to find out more about filing a slip and fall claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, Galfand Berger LLP serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.