The winter months in Massachusetts can host some very cold weather. A significant amount of snow can fall in a matter of hours, leaving roads and sidewalks nearly impassable. A thin layer of ice could also coat roadways and sidewalks, making them dangerous. Warmer weather during the winter months can be dangerous because it can lead to black ice formation after the sun sets, resulting in a hard-to-see coat of ice on most roads.
When winter weather creates snow drifts or icy patches on sidewalks or in parking lots, people could very easily end up hurt. Those walking outside during or after a storm could slip on an icy patch of sidewalk and fall, possibly suffering broken bones or brain injuries as a result. They may then have hospital bills and possibly lost income to consider. Those who do physical jobs may not be able to work with a broken bone. Someone with a brain injury might even need to change careers if their symptoms are significant enough.
The property owner is likely liable
Massachusetts state law allows local municipalities to enact statutes about snow and ice removal. Local authorities can arrange to provide snow and ice removal as a service to the local population or through certain parts of a town.
However, many municipalities do not enact such rules or only provide snow and ice removal in very specific areas. For the most part, the individuals or businesses that own real property have a responsibility to maintain the sidewalks abutting that property. Businesses and landlords are usually also liable for keeping parking lots safe when the weather is quite cold.
If a business or property owner failed to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and parking lots, that failure could lead to liability. If someone falls and gets hurt, property owners or occupants may be financially responsible for the costs generated. Often, homeowners insurance or special forms of business insurance coverage can help pay for premises liability claims caused by winter weather slip-and-falls. Even if the person who got injured must file a lawsuit, it is often an insurance provider, not a property owned, that ultimately pays for someone’s injuries or lost wages.
Understanding who might be liable and where compensation comes from may help people feel more comfortable about taking legal action after a winter weather incident caused by dangerous sidewalks or parking lots.