With winter upon us, property owners should be mindful of their seasonal safety obligations. Under Pennsylvania Slip and Fall law, property owners are obligated to use reasonable care to make their properties safe for visitors. When a storm causes snow or ice to develop, property owners must try to clear the property and make parking lots and sidewalks safe. If they make a reasonable effort, then property owners are protected from liability.
If a property owner does not make a reasonable effort and allows dangerous levels of ice and snow to form on walking surfaces, then they are liable if someone falls and gets hurt.
The law provides protection to property owners by recognizing that it is not possible for them to keep their properties safe at every minute of every day – especially during and immediately after snow or ice storms. As such, property owners are only required to make reasonable cleanup efforts. However, if property owners ignore their duties and allow the property to remain unsafe for an unreasonable amount of time, then they are liable for any resulting injuries.
In slip and fall cases on commercial property, there are often numerous people or entities that may be held responsible for someone’s injuries. For instance, if a business rents space from a property owner, both the property owner and the tenant may be named as defendants by someone injured on the property. In that case, the tenant is known as a possessor of the property, and has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent injury to those on the premises under its control. A possessor might also be a party who manages or maintains the property, such as a management company.
To reduce the potential for slip and fall accidents, consider the following safety tips:
General Safety Tips to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
- Maintain adequate lighting around your home, parking areas, sidewalks, and stairways to make areas safer for pedestrians. Commercial LED lights are commonly recommended for business and provide additional security benefits.
- Ensure that gutters and downspouts do not drain water onto walkways or parking areas. Water and puddles can easily lead to slips and can become icy if the temperature drops below freezing.
- Quickly clean up any spills around your buildings. Conduct detailed inspections of the business work area on a regular basis. This includes the interior and exterior to quickly identify potential hazards. Post warning signs to alert tenants about the hazard, while repairs or clean-up efforts are made.
- Repair or replace torn carpets, rugs, loose or missing floor tiles, or any other flooring materials.
- Consider a removal plan for snow and ice on sidewalks, stairs, parking areas, and around dumpsters.
- Always repair potholes or uneven surfaces in driveways and parking lots.
Walkways and Lawn Areas
- Repair uneven surfaces, large cracks, or bumps in the sidewalk.
- Remove obstructions from walkways, such as ladders and other maintenance equipment.
- If there is a lawn sprinkler system, turn it off and drain the system when the temperature nears freezing. If you don’t, the pipes can freeze and create leaks and icy patches.
If a Slip and Fall Accident Occurs on Your Property
- Investigate and keep a record of incidents, including who was involved, dates, and circumstances. Management should review all incident reports.
- If the injuries warrant it, seek medical attention for the person. Allow medical and emergency personnel to take care of the injured person.
- Gather important information, like name and contact phone number, of the person that suffered the fall. Also collect other details like the time and place of the incident. If possible, take pictures of the exact location where it happened.
- If you and/or the person who suffered the accident determine a claim is needed, promptly contact your insurance company. Follow their process to document the claim accurately, in a timely manner.
To better understand your safety obligations as a residential or commercial property manager, contact MBM’s Real Estate Team today.