Clearing icy sidewalkOver my 23 years of practice in Upstate NY and PA, I have handled my share of tragic cases due to falls on snow and ice:

  • a woman from Ithaca, NY who suffered a permanent brain injury due to hitting her head on an ice sidewalk outside a Corning, NY pizzeria;
  • a construction worker from Elmira who was caused to suffer a nasty, spiral fracture of his femur when caused to fall on icy steps at a Waverly, NY factory;
  • a Binghamton, NY man who badly injured his back in a twisting fall in a shopping mall parking lot.

Each of these cases resulted in very substantial payments by the insurance carriers for the property owners.

The sad part about each of these cases was just how easily they could have been avoided had the property owner just taken the simple (and legally required) step of keeping their property free of snow and ice.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a property owner myself, I know that it’s often a pain in the neck to keep my home and my office clear of snow and ice but I also know that it is my legal responsibility to do so and even more important, I sure don’t want to see one of my family, friends or clients hurt just because I was too lazy to make sure that I kept my property safe.

During the cold and stormy months of winter, it seems as if we just get the sidewalks cleared before Mother Nature strikes with another storm. A new layer of snow and ice coats the area, making roads and sidewalks slippery and dangerous until we can treat and clear them again.

I want to share some advice about winter conditions and legal liability. This is good information to remember, no matter what your “walk” in life. You may a business or building owner with the responsibility of keeping sidewalks and entrances clear and safe, or you could be a victim of a nasty fall on ice, trying to figure out what your legal rights are.

I was inspired to share some information about this issue by a post, Snow and Ice: Five Ways to Avoid Legal Liability by attorney Tim Rayne. Tim’s tips address the potential liability of property owners. He basically cautions them to:

Determine who is responsible for keeping walking areas free of snow and ice. It may be the property owner, or it could be the municipality – the key is to KNOW for SURE and assume the responsibility if it is yours.

Treat ice and snow effectively and get rid of it quickly. Don’t dawdle! If you are a property owner, and you don’t address dangerous walking conditions quickly, you are opening yourself up to a lawsuit.

I want to add that if you are a pedestrian and you note poor conditions, be sure and tell the property owner. You don’t want to be the victim of a slip and fall accident – or allow anyone else to be, either.

And finally, Tim tells property owners to be sure and have enough liability insurance to cover the cost of perhaps serious injuries to victims of slip and fall accidents.

I know from my 20+ years of experience handling personal injury cases that even when insurance adequately covers the costs of physical recovery, serious injuries have repercussions in victims’ family life, careers, mental state and more. First and foremost, we need to keep people aware of their responsibilities and/or risk during this sometimes treacherous season.  Stay safe!

Thanks for reading,


James B. Reed, Esq.
NY Fall and Injury Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
E-mail me at for two free books:

NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.