Winter Weather Liabilities

If you deal with either commercial or residential property, you are responsible for the side effects of winter. In legal terms, snow and ice are the same as any other hazard presented on a property. And just like any other hazard, property managers can be held liable if they cause injury. To avoid litigation resulting from winter injuries, it is important that you are vigilant in your snow and ice removal efforts.

Recognizing And Preventing Hazards

Winter brings a variety of hazards that you need to prepare for. However, slips and falls are by far the most common injuries associated with winter weather conditions. Diligent snow and ice removal can go far in keeping walkways and parking lots safe.

Not all winter hazards are under foot, however. Icicles, along with other accumulations of frozen or heavy snow above walkways and building entrances, can cause serious injury if they fall on those below. Remove icicles and other buildup as soon as possible.

Performing preventative maintenance in the summer and fall can also keep you prepared for winter storms. Make sure eaves are properly installed, and check that downspouts are aimed away from walkways to stop freezing water creating a hazard due to cooler night-time temperatures.

Transferring Responsibilities To Tenants

For smaller residential rentals, such as single family homes or duplexes, the responsibility for snow and ice removal is commonly accepted by the tenant. Make sure responsibility is clearly established, the lease should include a provision citing the tenants as responsible for any snow and/or ice removal.

Contracting Snow Removal

First, make sure the contractor has sufficient resources to meet your demands. It is important that they can be on-site quickly after, or even during, a snowfall to make sure walkways and parking areas are cleared.

Second, make sure the company you hire carries the proper insurance, covering both its operations and its employees. The last thing you want is to end up being liable for a worker's injury when liability for injury is the very thing you were trying to avoid. Hiring a removal service does not absolve you of liability. If the company you hire does not show up at all, you are still the party responsible for any injury resulting from a winter hazard.

For additional questions on your risks and exposures, or on appropriate coverages to protect you from liability, contact Heritage Insurance Ltd today.

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