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The Snow is Coming, Do I have To Shovel?Blog, Litigation Attorneys
Posted in on February 4, 2016
With the first major snow storm of 2016 threatening Massachusetts, one question on everyone’s mind, besides whether or not they have enough bread and milk, is “do I really have to shovel?” If you live in Massachusetts the answer is YES! With the passage of the Massachusetts snow removal law in 2010 property owners are under a legal duty to keep their property free from dangerous snow and ice. Under the 2010 Supreme Judicial Court ruling, all property owners (rental or owner occupied) can be held liable for failing to remove snow and ice from their property. The old rule was that owners didn’t have to remove “natural accumulations” of snow and ice, but the court overruled that in favor of a general obligation to keep property safe for all visitors and guests. To be clear this law applies to ALL property owners, not just landlords. Therefore if a visitor to your home slips and falls on snow or ice that you left on your walkway, you are liable if that person is injured. The good news is that most homeowner’s or commercial general liability policies will cover slip and falls on property, however you want to confirm with your carrier that you have sufficient coverage.
In addition to keeping your property clear of snow and ice, many Massachusetts cities and towns have passed all types of new snow removal ordinances and by-laws regulating whether owners must shovel public/private sidewalks, and how long they have to clear snow. In many cities and towns a property owner will be fined for failing to clear the snow on the municipal sidewalk in front of their residence or business. In more residential areas, often the town public works department will clear the sidewalks, however the default rule is that property owners are generally responsible for clearing their own sidewalks and driveways. Before the beginning of the snow season we urge all property owners to acquaint themselves with their local snow removal bylaws and ordinances.
Lastly remember that your obligation to clear snow and ice is ongoing. If you have shoveled, sanded and threw down rock salt for good measure and your driveway or walkway freezes over during the night creating black ice, you will be liable if someone falls. To stay safe, to create a safe environment for your visitors, and to keep yourself free from liability we suggest you shovel early, shovel often, and stay on top of ice patches with sand and rock salt. For more information about the snow and ice removal law contact our litigation attorneys in Quincy.