By Revelli & Luzzo

Winter in Massachusetts is a time of snow, ice and even hail. Property owners now have to worry about the potential liability they face from snow and ice, which can cause slip and fall injuries more than ever before. In 2010, the MA Supreme Court basically changed property liability rules from the long standing principle that owners were only liable for “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice.

What is unnatural accumulation?
Massachusetts defined unnatural accumulation as piles of shoveled snow, snow that has been tamped down by foot traffic and even ice patches that are formed because water was dripping from a gutter or off a roof. There may be other cases where this may apply, but in general, this is what is considered.

Prior to 2010 an injured person could only recover against a property owner if they suffered injury resulting from an “unnatural” accumulation. Today it is now possible to recover for injuries suffered as a result of any accumulation of snow and ice where the property owner failed to exercise “reasonable care.”

Under what is known as “reasonable care” ordinances, Boston business owners are allowed up to three hours to clear snow and ice from their storefronts. Residents are allowed up to six hours. Worcester on the other hand is allowed up to 10 hours.

Understanding the potential for injury
Unfortunately, slip and fall accidents on slippery sidewalks or staircases can cause serious injury. Injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises but can also be fatal in some instances. Property owners are required to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance but in many cases, a slip and fall accident that causes spinal cord injury, brain damage or a fatality will not be nearly enough to cover the expenses of the person injured.

What to do if you are a victim
If you fall on another person’s property because they failed to keep the area free from snow or ice, you may have a personal injury case. In Massachusetts, a personal injury attorney who knows how the rules apply may be able to help you file a suit against the property owner. Keep in mind, even if the injuries seem minor initially, you should seek out immediate medical care as often injuries do not show up for 24 hours or more after a serious fall. There are some other steps you can take that can help your personal injury attorney including:

  • Photographs – if possible, take photographs of the area where you fell. These photographs should be taken from a number of angles and should show the hazard.
  • Witnesses – if anyone saw you fall, you should ask for their names and telephone numbers. It is helpful to have this information in the event you are able to file a personal injury claim.
  • Determine the owner – find out who owns the property where you fell. This information will be used by your attorney to determine who is responsible for your accident.

Property owners are obligated to provide for the safety of visitors and those who are walking legally on their property. This includes the sidewalks in front of their property. If you are injured after you seek medical attention, contact our personal injury attorneys to review your case.