Slip & Falls and your Liability

Winter in New England always brings its share of challenges.

Whether it’s dressing in layers, giving extra time for your commute or even checking your roof for ice dams, winter sure does keep you on your toes. If you are a homeowner, business owner or both, one issue you want to be aware of is slip and falls. All across the nation as sidewalks and parking lots freeze over, the cases of weather-related slip and falls keeps growing. Do you know what your rights and responsibilities are and how to protect yourself?

In 2010, Massachusetts adopted the Test of Reasonableness. This standard judges an individual’s actions in light of what an average, reasonable person would do. If the insured’s actions fall outside of this, it is considered unreasonable. Here are some things to consider:

-The Test of Reasonableness applies to personal and commercial properties.

-Weather is taken into account, but if there are issues that compound in conjunction with the weather, you may still be liable (i.e. leaky drain pipes or a dripping rooftop that lead to an icy walkway).

-Melting and re-freezing that goes on prior to a snowstorm can also cause liability issues if walkways, driveways and parking lots are not salted in a timely manner.

– Your liability does not end at your property line. In many states, even adjacent spaces can fall under the jurisdiction of the bordering owner.

Tips for protecting yourself against a slip and fall lawsuit

-As soon as it’s practical, go outside and clean up snow and ice.

-If you are a commercial property owner, make sure all employees are trained and knowledgeable on how to act quickly in bad weather situations.

-During a snowstorm that lasts for multiple hours, get outside and shovel during lull periods.

-If you are unable to shovel, contract with a local plow before a big storm hits. If it is a small personal property maybe ask a neighbor to shovel a path.

-Make sure that you have adequate liability insurance. This will depend on if you are a personal property or commercial owner. If you are unsure, contact us to go over the coverage with you.

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