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Most Pennsylvanians know all too well the many challenges inherent to getting around areas of the state in the winter. Snow and ice create numerous hazards for people operating motor vehicles as well as pedestrians using local walkways.
When a person suffers a serious injury as the result of a slip and fall accident caused by snow or ice, the property owner may be liable for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages if the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. Pennsylvania courts generally adhere to the “Hills and Ridges” doctrine in such cases, which holds that is no liability is created by a general slippery condition on sidewalks and it must appear that there were dangerous conditions due to ridges or elevations allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time or created by a defendant's negligence.
Did you sustain catastrophic injuries as the result of a slip and fall accident caused by snow or ice in southeastern Pennsylvania? Ciccarelli Law Offices can help determine if another party was liable and hold that party accountable.
Our personal injury lawyers in West Chester have office locations in Philadelphia, Malvern, Plymouth Square, Radnor, Springfield, Kennett Square, King of Prussia, and Lancaster. You can have our attorneys review your case and answer all of your legal questions when you call (610) 719-3190 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.
The seminal case relating to the “Hills and Ridges” doctrine is Rinaldi v. Levine, 176 A.2d 623 (Pa. 1962). The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that an abutting property owner is primarily liable for the removal of ice and snow upon the sidewalk, but the law does not require that such abutting owner keep the sidewalk free from snow and ice at all times, as "to hold otherwise would require the impossible in view of the climatic conditions."
The Supreme Court cited the following text from its opinion in Whitton v. H.A. Gable Co., 331 Pa. 429, 431, 200 A. 2d 644 as clearly expressing "the quantum of duty imposed on the abutting owner":
"There is no absolute duty on the part of a landowner to keep his premises and sidewalks free from snow and ice at all times. These formations are natural phenomena incidental to our climate. See Goodman v. Corn Exchange National Bank & Trust Co. et al., 331 Pa. 587; Thomas v. City of New Castle, 96 Pa. Superior Ct. 251, 253; Bailey v. Oil City et al., 305 Pa. 325, 328; Kohler et ux. v. Penn Township, 305 Pa. 330, 332; Beebe et al. v. Philadelphia, 312 Pa. 214. Snow and ice upon a pavement create merely transient danger and the only duty upon the property owner or tenant is to act within a reasonable time after notice to remove it when it is in a dangerous condition. See Philadelphia v. Bergdoll, 252 Pa. 545, 551; Goodman v. Corn Exchange National Bank & Trust Co. et al., supra. There is no liability created by a general slippery condition on sidewalks. It must appear that there were dangerous conditions due to ridges or elevations which were allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time, or were created by defendant's antecedent negligence."
The Court further noted in Whitton that when a property owner is charged with negligence in permitting the accumulation of snow or ice on his sidewalk, the plaintiff must prove:
"Absent proof of all such facts, plaintiff has no basis for recovery," the Court wrote.
In best case scenarios, slip and fall incidents in snow or ice result in little more than moments of embarrassment without any physical injury. Certain kinds of falls, however, on certain kinds of surfaces or in certain kinds of settings, can result in very severe harm for the victims.
People may suffer serious injuries such as the following, all of which can require extensive medical care and possibly result in a victim being unable to return to work:
Businesses or landlords can be liable for snow or ice that causes falls on their property when they knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. A key consideration in cases involving landlords is whether the landlord was in or out of possession of the premises. Landlords with offices on premises are generally considered to be in possession and have a duty to keep the premises safe, but landlords who rent out the property to other tenants may not be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on the property.
Winter Driving | Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) — PennDOT is responsible for planning, building, and maintaining Pennsylvania’s network of state highways, including the interstate highway system. On this section of the PennDOT website, you can download a PDF version of the agency's Winter Driving Guide. You can also access a winter fact sheet, winter emergency kit list, and winter storm tactics.
Winter Storms | Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) — PEMA helps communities and citizens mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other humanmade disasters. Use this website to review winter storm terms. You can also learn how to prepare for a winter storm emergency.
If you suffered serious injuries in a slip and fall accident caused by snow or ice in southeastern Pennsylvania, it will be in your best interest to quickly seek legal representation. Ciccarelli Law Offices represents individuals in communities throughout Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, and the greater Philadelphia area.
Our West Chester personal injury attorneys represent clients on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay us nothing unless you receive a monetary award. Call (610) 719-3190 or fill out an online contact form to have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.