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During the winter months, many of us look forward to the first snowfall. Aside from snow’s beauty, both adults and children enjoy winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and ice skating. But, as is the case of many of the things we enjoy, there is a downside. In the northeast, January 2011 has started off as an unusually dangerous winter.

Unfortunately, during this time of year we see more cases of people getting hurt by slipping on ice or compacted snow; and the injuries from those falls can be quite serious. People commonly break their wrists, fracture their hip or pelvis, or suffer disabling neck and back injuries. In some states, such as New Jersey, the law makes it the responsibility of the property owner to remove snow and ice because a person walking on someone else’s property has no reason or obligation to clean that sidewalk to avoid harm to others.

Landlords, storekeepers, business owners, and in some cases even homeowners are required to clean their sidewalks and parking lots by removing snow and spreading salt on ice to prevent injuries to other people. Now, in New Jersey, a homeowner has no obligation to clear their sidewalks, but if they do, they must clean it well and make it safe for the public. But, be aware that some townships have municipal ordinances that require property owners to clean their walks and driveways within a certain time period after a snowfall, such as 8 hours. For example, Jersey City, New Jersey’s ordinance reads as follows:

Chapter 296 (Streets and Sidewalks) of the Jersey City Municipal Code includes the following sections pertaining to snow removal:

§ 296-1. Duties of owners or occupants; time for removal. (Remove within 8 hours of snowfall):
Every owner, occupant or person having charge of a building or vacant lot shall, in case of a snowfall, clear such snow from the sidewalks and gutters thereof to the extent of one foot outside the curb in front of the building or lot, as well as on the side thereof where the building or lot faces on more than one street, within eight hours after the snow has fallen. If the snow has fallen during the night, removal shall be finished within eight hours after sunrise.

Many times, snow or ice will conceal a defect, such as a pothole or uneven pavement which makes the condition even more dangerous. Poor placement of downspouts may drain water onto a sidewalk or driveway which can freeze and be extremely hazardous. Poor lighting, lack of floor mats, and unlevel stairs or pavement can cause an injury.

Despite paying careful attention many people still fall and injure themselves. We urge you to be very careful this time of year when walking outside. If you were injured due to a fall, its best that you do report the accident to the owner of the property and if possible have pictures taken of the accident scene.

Snow and ice cases require the expertise of a skilled personal injury lawyer who will retain the proper expert witness to prove a case.

Remember during the winter months to be extra careful when walking outside and maintaining your property.

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