New Jerseyans Must Remain Aware Of Icy Conditions As Spring Arrives
With spring quickly approaching in New Jersey, it is easy to forget the hazards associated with winter weather – especially as snow is literally melting beneath our feet. However, it is important for those in New Jersey to remember that early spring-like weather can bring about a whole new set of dangerous conditions.
For instance, during this time of year it is quite possible for temperatures to continue to drop below freezing at night – even if it was warmer during the day – meaning that all of the snow that melted that day may refreeze into a smooth, and treacherous, layer of ice. These slick icy surfaces can appear almost anywhere, but are especially dangerous for pedestrians when they form on sidewalks. Unfortunately, countless unsuspecting victims in New Jersey slip on these icy sidewalk patches every year.
Who Is Liable For Icy Sidewalks In New Jersey?
When a pedestrian is injured on an icy New Jersey sidewalk, they can easily suffer severe injuries, such as broken bones or concussions. In these situations, pedestrians need to know who can be held liable for failing to maintain safe sidewalks – which can be quite confusing in New Jersey.
Under New Jersey law, generally only commercial property owners can be held liable to pedestrians who injure themselves on abutting icy sidewalks. Interestingly, old New Jersey common law previously stated that commercial property owners could not be held liable for dangerous sidewalks, but that law was changed based on the fact that commercial property owners often exercise significant interests in the right to use sidewalks beyond normal public use.
Conversely when it comes to residential properties, New Jersey continues to follow the common law rule – meaning residential property owners have no duty to keep their abutting public sidewalks free of snow and ice. In fact, even a local ordinance requiring the residential property owner to clear the snow or ice cannot create tort liability for pedestrian slip-and-fall injuries. And although the homeowner can be fined by the city for violating such an ordinance, they cannot be held liable to injured pedestrians.
However, it is important to note that even though a homeowner generally cannot be liable for injuries sustained as a result of the homeowner’s failure to clear snow and ice, they may be liable if they elect to clear the snow and ice and do so in a negligent way. For instance, in a relatively recent New Jersey Supreme Court case it was stated, “If a property owner decide[s] to remove snow from a public sidewalk, he would not be liable to a person who injured himself on the sidewalk unless through [the owner’s] negligence a new element of danger or hazard, other than one caused by natural forces, [is] added to the safe use of the sidewalk by a pedestrian.”
As you can imagine, responsibility for icy sidewalk injuries can be difficult to assess in New Jersey as liability can easily vary depending on even the minutest detail. Accordingly, if you or a loved one has been injured after slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine what your rights may be given your circumstances.