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Are homeowners targets for premises liability suits in ice falls?

When it comes to clearing your sidewalk in the wintertime, could you be found liable in civil court for someone who slips and falls?Premises liability is a tricky topic, and homeowners need to know whether they could be held personally responsible for someone else's accident on their icy sidewalks. Today, we take the guesswork out of cleaning up your hazardous conditions and preparing for future winter weather.

What are your responsibilities in New Jersey when it comes to keeping your sidewalks clear? Most insurance agents in the area say that homeowners are expected to clear sidewalks within a reasonable amount of time - they do not have to do so immediately. However, if a homeowner allows ice to build up on the sidewalk because of some kind of dangerous property condition - like a downspout that is causing hazardous amounts of ice to build up - then, they could be held responsible for a fall.

What about the people who are walking on the sidewalk? Yes, sometimes those pedestrians are actually deemed liable for their own slip-and-fall accidents. Insurance experts say that pedestrians who intentionally walk on the ice with the goal to slip, fall, and defraud insurance companies could have serious consequences. Injuries in these instances must be legitimate, not intentionally self-inflicted, if the victim intends to obtain financial compensation.

So, what should homeowners do? The best course of action for any property owner is to provide adequate safety and security for those who may be traversing or visiting their property. Victims who slip and fall on icy sidewalks may be entitled to financial compensation, so it just makes sense to take care of your walkways instead of taking that risk.

Source: WBAY, "Who is responsible for ice injuries?," Michelle Clemens, Feb. 07, 2017

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