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Can You Sue After A PA Slip & Fall Accident On A Snow Covered Or Icy Sidewalk While Walking Your Dog?

 

A:

One question we got recently was from a resident in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County, PA who slipped and fell on a snow covered sidewalk in front of a neighbor's house while walking his dog in his residential neighborhood.  He asked:

Can I ask my neighbor to pay for my medical expenses? I fractured my ankle from the fall and can't go to work for several weeks.  Is there any way I can recover for my lost wages from work?

This is our answer to his questions:

You may be able to recover financial compensation from your neighbor if he/she was negligent in maintaining his/her sidewalk pursuant to Pennsylvania slip and fall accident law.  In this case, because the sidewalk was covered with snow, the neighbor may be negligent if he/she failed to clear the sidewalk of snow and ice.

In order to determine whether a homeowner is negligent, there are various factors we must consider.

1. How long was the snow on the sidewalk?

Though PA homeowners need to clear their sidewalk after a snow fall, they are not required to do so immediately after the snow fall.  That would be unreasonable.  If there is a snow storm while a homeowner is at work, the law does not require the homeowner to leave his/her job and come back to shovel the snow from the sidewalk.  However, let's assume the snow has been there for 3 days, the homeowner may be liable for a pedestrian's injuries and accident because he failed to remove the snow in those 3 days.

Therefore, in your case, I would need to know when your accident happened and find out how long the snow had been on the sidewalk.  If the snow was fresh, i.e., from a few hours before you walked your dog, the homeowner is probably not liable for your injuries because he did not have a chance to clear the snow yet.  However, if the snow was there from 3 days ago, then your neighbor may be negligent.

2.  Did the neighbor have notice of the dangerous condition (snow/ice) on the sidewalk?

This factor is related to the one we just discussed.  In any PA slip and fall accident case, an injured victim must prove that the responsible party knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. 

Applying this principle to your slip and fall case, we would have to determine whether your neighbor knew or should have known about the snow on the sidewalk.  If there was a big snow storm 3 days prior to your slip and fall accident, and your neighbor was home, he would have had actual notice that a dangerous condition (snow) existed on his sidewalk.

However, if your neighbor shoveled the sidewalk prior to your fall and you slipped on ice after the melted snow turned into ice overnight, it may be harder to prove that the homeowner had notice of the ice.

Related: I slipped on snow and fell on a sidewalk in Philadelphia the day after a snow storm and hurt my shoulder and wrist. Can I sue?

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