Winter Is Coming: Help for Homeowners
As difficult as it is to believe, summer is over and the chilly mornings over the last few weeks are serving notice that winter is on the way. Before you know it, the temperature will be below freezing and we’ll be stocking up on bread and water in preparation for the next big storm that’s about to hit.
And obviously, with winter, comes snow and ice which means more car accidents and more slip and falls as treacherous road and sidewalk conditions wreak havoc. While it would be easy for me to devote this blog post to talking about the importance of taking greater precautions when dealing with inclement weather, you all know that already.
So rather than do that, I’m going to go in a different direction which I think will also help inform and enlighten people, but in a different way. I am going to talk specifically about how you can help protect yourself against potential personal injury claims and lawsuits by others when winter weather strikes.
When it comes to driving in wintery weather, being especially vigilant and cognizant of a couple of factors could significantly decrease your odds of causing an accident and by extension, being the defendant in a lawsuit. First, remember that in winter, the days are shorter and the nights longer. Will this may seem obvious, it carries with it greater risk of accident because of decreased visibility.
Where the summer months bring sunny commutes, in winter it is normally dark. So, for most people, the majority of time spent on the road occurs with significantly decreased visibility. Being mindful of that fact alone can go a long way towards protecting you and your loved ones from harm.
Second, pay attention to weather reports and road conditions. Simply being informed results in more care and attention on the road which, in turn, will result in fewer accidents. Additionally, being better informed about road conditions before you venture out can help determine whether you should be on the road at all.
Sometimes waiting an hour or two can be the difference between treacherous road conditions or a much safer and uneventful ride. There is no substitute for advance knowledge and information.
In addition to the perils of driving in winter, there is also the very serious issue of snow and ice on sidewalks and the potential for injury. Again, rather than talk about what happens if you get injured (editor’s Note: Obviously you call Dubo Law!), I want to focus on how to protect yourself against claims from others.
As some of you might be aware, it is the responsibility of the homeowner (or renter if applicable), to make sure that the sidewalks outside their house are cleared of any snow or ice. Failure to do so could result in your being responsible for an injury sustained by someone who slips and falls on a sidewalk deemed your responsibility.
However, what many do not know is that both Baltimore City and Baltimore County have local ordinances that govern this specific issue and dictate not only that homeowners have this responsibility, but also how long they have to clear the affected areas. Baltimore County Local Ordinance §18-3-107(a) states that:
Within 24 hours after the fall of any snow, each person or public institution occupying or using a residential, commercial, or industrial building in any manner or for any purpose shall remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, the snow from the foot pavements fronting the respective houses, stores, shops, stables, houses of worship, lots occupied by any buildings, unoccupied buildings, and unoccupied lots that run along streets in the county.
By contrast, Baltimore City, although also requiring snow and ice removal, has a different time frame:
305.8 Snow and ice on sidewalks. After any snowfall that results in an accumulation of snow or ice on the ground, the snow and ice must be removed and cleared away from all sidewalks that abut the premises.
305.8.1 Time for compliance. The snow and ice must be removed and cleared away:
- within 6 hours after the snow has stopped falling; or
- if the snow stopped falling between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m., before 11 a.m.
Baltimore City IPMC §305.8 and 305.8.1 (2015).
It can certainly be argued that these provisions establish a duty on the part of the property owner to clear the area of snow and ice within the timeframes set forth and that the failure to do so could constitute the basis for a negligence claim based on the failure to comply.
Moreover, pay attention to a subtle, but significant difference between the two ordinances. Baltimore County’s 24 hour time period begins when the snow starts falling as opposed to Baltimore City which requires removal within 6 hours after the snow has stopped falling. Either way, making sure you are in compliance with whichever ordinance applies to you can go a long way towards potentially immunizing yourself against a claim or lawsuit.
Please be safe and exercise caution and hopefully you can all make it through the long and dreary Maryland winter months unscathed.
And if you or a loved one has a Maryland slip and fall personal injury case, contact Dubo Law at (443) 275-6345. As a personal injury lawyer with experience handling slip and fall accidents, we can make sure you are compensated for your physical injury, lost wages, and mental anguish.