Who is Responsible if You Slip and Fall After a Snowstorm in VA?
Bad weather, such as ice and snow, is a big factor in causing injuries. Not only does it make it more difficult to drive safely on the roads, but it can create hazardous conditions for pedestrians. Unfortunately, even when there is bad weather, most people still have to go to work or go about their day.
Whether you are a business or individual, it is important to know what the law expects of you. When there has been a snowfall, Virginia law can be summarized as follows:
An occupant of commercial premises has a duty to an invitee to use ordinary care to remove ice or snow from outdoor entrance walks, steps, porches, stoops and parking lots within a reasonable time after the freezing rain or snow stops falling.
A landlord has a duty to a tenant to use ordinary care to remove ice or snow from outdoor
entrance walks, steps, porches, stoops and parking lots under his control within a reasonable time after the snow or freezing rain stops falling.
If the commercial premises or landlord fails to remove the ice or snow within a reasonable time, then they are negligent.
You may be wondering what a “reasonable time” means in this context. Each case should be assessed on its own facts and circumstances. In a legal dispute, each side will be permitted to present evidence and facts to help the jury decide whether the clean up happened within a “reasonable time.” A jury would have to look at facts such as:
- How much precipitation fell
- What kind of precipitation fell
- What time did the precipitation occur
- Was there an attempt to remove the snow and ice
- Was there any attempt to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice, such as putting down sand or salt
- How long was the area cleared or uncleared
And of course, how long has it been since the precipitation fell?
Some cities and counties have enacted local codes that may also be admissible, especially with respect to public areas such as sidewalks. For example, Section 33-14 of the Code for the City of Virginia Beach requires the owner or occupant of any lot or parcel of land in the city to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of such lot or parcel within six (6) hours after such time as such removal can first be reasonably effected. Note that this code is not limited to commercial entities or landlords.
As a pedestrian, individuals should be aware that they have some responsibilities also. They have to be wary of risks that are open and obvious, such as a huge patch of ice that is clearly visible. Pedestrians should also be aware that they can also be found to have “assumed the risk” of injury if they chose to trek in what are obviously perilous conditions, such as during an ice storm.
As with most injury claims, you must look at the specific facts and circumstances of each case. An experienced attorney can always help you navigate the process. If you have been injured in a slip or fall, please reach out to our office for a free consultation.
By Allan Serrano, October 5, 2023