Homeowner Liability: Winter Slip and Fall Prevention
Winter is right around the corner. With the upcoming holiday parties and get-togethers, you’re sure to have a visitor or two. At Meshbesher & Spence, we hope that everyone – homeowner and guest alike – stays safe during these gatherings and for the duration of the winter.
As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your property is safely maintained so that no one gets injured. In the legal world, this is called premises liability. Taking a half hour or so to survey your property for potential hazards and rectify dangerous conditions is worth the time. It ensures the safety and well-being of your family and visitors, and also protects you, as a homeowner, against possible slip and fall liability.
With an average annual snowfall of 36-70 inches (according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources), snow, ice, and water accumulated from melting snow are the primary concerns for Minnesotan homeowners.
Home Inspection Checklist
First, it’s a good idea to read through your homeowner’s insurance to verify what your coverage is and what you’re responsibilities precisely are.
Keep outdoor steps and walkways clear of snow and ice. Property owners in Minnesota are also required to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks that are adjacent to their property. All walkways and sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours, but it should be done as soon as possible because if you wait, and it is determined that you did not have a valid reason for waiting, you can still be held liable in a slip and fall injury suit.
Salting your driveway/walkway is not required, but it is a good idea to coat these surfaces with salt or sand (cat litter works too) to provide traction for vehicles and walkers. Be especially aware of black ice and be sure to get those areas.
Harsh weather conditions can cause pavement to crack and break apart. While you are shoveling and salting, examine your driveway and walkways for any holes or cracks that could cause a fall. If there is a hazard that cannot immediately be fixed, put up a warning sign or block it off.
Make sure that indoor entrances are kept dry. Snow from boots discarded by the door can melt, forming a pool of water that an unsuspecting person can slip on. It’s a good idea to have a mat or some newspaper down to collect any accumulated wetness.
Check your rain spouts. Make sure they are clear so that water can run freely out. Also, make sure there are no icicles hanging from them or the eaves of your house – particularly above entryways, walkways, and driveways. Don’t forget the garage.
Make sure your outdoor lighting is in proper working order and that it provides sufficient lighting and visibility for walking from the street to your front door.
Make arrangements for a friend or relative to maintain your premises if you are out of town or otherwise unable to do it yourself.
One thing is for certain, you’ll feel a lot better knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to keep yourself, your family and the mailman safe throughout the season. Once the shoveling is done, and the icicles are removed you can treat yourself to a cup of hot chocolate or a put your feet up by the fire and enjoy the holiday season.