Winter in Connecticut means time to get the shovel, salt and sand ready for the inevitable ice and/or snow storms. And while winter in New England can be pretty to look at but it can also be dangerous for those walking outside. In fact, in the two decades that I have practiced law some of the worst injuries I have seen are by injured clients from falling on ice and/or snow.
Connecticut law states that under certain circumstances a landowner can be liable to a person on his property for a dangerous accumulation of ice and snow. The rule of law is that an owner may await the end of a freezing rain or sleet storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow from its outside entrance walks, platforms, and steps. Then, an owner may, without violating its duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of business invitees, await the end of a freezing rain, sleet or snow storm or a reasonable time thereafter before removing sleet and snow from its outside walk and steps since removal would be ineffective, generally, during the continuation of a snowstorm in progress.
Most municipalities have a local ordinance (law) that governs how long after a snow storm ice/snow removal must take place and it varies from place to place so check your local ordinances. Remember, property owners are also responsible for cleaning the sidewalks to the front and/or side of their property too.
Generally speaking, what is a “reasonable time” to begin snow removal is fact driven and based on when a storm stops but I recommend property owners remove snow, salt and sand as soon as possible after the storm, and almost always no longer than 3 – 6 hours, just to be safe. Remember, ice melts and refreezes so property owners should inspect and replace salt and/or sand as needed and regularly.
The law also requires people walking on another’s property to exercise responsibility too. A person walking outside in ice and/or snow has to exercise reasonable care. Always wear sensible and weather appropriate footwear, look where you are walking and use handrails when available and take other reasonable precautions when walking outside.
If you fall and are hurt on someone else’s property report the matter immediately if you are able and seek immediate medical attention.
If you think your injuries were caused by the property owner failing to exercise reasonable care I recommend that you also contact an experienced premises liability attorney. Property owners and their insurance companies almost always fight these claims vigorously and you will need an advocate that is experienced in these types of cases.
Jim Miron is the former mayor of the Town of Stratford and Chairman of the Personal Injury Department at Zeisler & Zeisler, P.C. a Bridgeport law firm representing injured people statewide.