As autumn turns into winter, snow and ice are coming soon to Cleveland. As the snow piles up, snow removal becomes an issue for property owners.
Ideally, everyone will safely clear their entranceways and exits, sidewalks, and parking lots this winter, and there will be minimal risk of getting seriously hurt in a slip-and-fall accident. But we know this won’t happen. Inevitably, some owners of area stores, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, hotels and apartment buildings — any place that contains a private sidewalk — will do a poor job of shoveling that walk. And sooner or later, somebody will slip on some ice buried under some unshoveled snow and badly hurt themselves.
Is there a duty to shovel snow?
Generally, owners and occupiers of land owe no duty to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow, or warn people of dangers associated with natural accumulations of ice and snow, on their property. Natural accumulations are those caused by nature, versus man-made accumulations which are called unnatural accumulations. Even if freeze and thaw cycles cause the formation of ice under snow and the ice is hidden, that ice is considered a natural accumulation by Ohio courts and someone slipping and falling due to that ice cannot hold the property owner responsible.
However, a property owner does owe a duty to remove or warn of dangers of unnatural accumulations of ice and snow. The most common examples of unnatural accumulations are those caused by improper drainage systems or broken gutters that allow the pooling of water in an unlikely place that later freezes. That is an unnatural accumulation of ice because something man-made caused the condition and created a danger. In that case, someone slipping and falling on that ice may have a claim against the property owner.
What you can do if a property owner failed their duty to you
If you suffer an injury due to a slip and fall caused by an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow, you may be entitled to compensation to recover for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contacting experienced injury attorneys is the best way to protect yourself after such a fall.