The Seattle area is famous for its rain, but it also occasionally gets snow — certainly not as some parts of the country, but enough to create difficulties for its residents. If it gets deep enough, cities may have to send out plows to clear the streets. In some cases, cities will also salt the roads to speed up the melting of snow and ice.
Meanwhile, snow and ice can collect on sidewalks and other common areas, creating slip hazards.
Who is responsible for clearing these hazards? The general answer is that property owners and/or occupants are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the sidewalks next to their property. If they invite the public to use their parking lots and other outside areas, they must also clear these areas.
For more specific answers, the answers depend upon the local ordinances that apply. Many local governments not only require property owners to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks, but also impose deadlines for the removal. For instance, Seattle requires owners and occupants to make reasonable efforts to clear snow “in a timely manner” so as to prevent it from becoming dangerous. Yakima requires that owners or occupants remove snow by 9 a.m. the next morning after a snowstorm.
After an injury
Of course, the fact that these ordinances exist doesn’t mean that everyone will follow them. Sometimes, property owners forget to clear sidewalks, and sometimes they are unable to do so. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes passers-by slip and fall.
In most cases, these falls result in little more than a bruised ego, but they can also lead to broken bones and worse. After a serious injury, the injured and their families can face enormous medical expenses and other damages.
They may be able to recover compensation for their damages through a personal injury lawsuit based on the argument that the property owner neglected to clear their sidewalks.