Are Businesses Responsible for Shoveling Their Own Sidewalks?

January 29, 2015 / 12:00 am

Q. Are business owners legally responsible for shoveling the sidewalks around their shops or offices?

Yes, absolutely. Business owners are responsible for the state of sidewalks around their properties, and that’s especially true in the instance of a severe weather event, such as a snow storm.

Q. What are business owners expected to do?

Business owners are expected to provide safe walkways that will allow shoppers to move from street parking to the store’s entrance without needing to climb over any kind of snow bank. In practice, this means clearing the sidewalk all the way down to the pavement and ensuring there is no black ice that could still cause someone to fall.

It’s important to know where the snow can be moved — under current law, it’s illegal to push snow into streets or alleyways. Many businesses choose to resolve this issue by pushing the snow closer to their stores, but away from the walkways.

Whether or not this is practical depends on the property itself. If you’re not sure about where you can legally deposit accumulations of snow, the legal team at Penglase & Benson can examine the area for you and show you the correct areas. Pushing snow into incorrect areas could result in fines — for this reason, it’s best to clear out all snow as soon as it’s safe and practical to do so.

In addition to the basic clearing required for business owners, properties on corners have additional responsibilities. Each corner is expected to have curb cuts to the gutters, as well as safe walkways for people using crosswalks to get across the street. Failing to connect a clear passage could also result in fines for the property.

The Doylestown municipal government recommends using sand to help prevent slips and falls. The borough also recommends clearing the snow as quickly as possible to stop it from refreezing and creating additional layers of ice.

Under current law, snow needs to be cleared within 10 hours of a snowfall’s end. Any snow that accumulates overnight should be gone by 10 a.m. the next morning. Repeated failure to properly remove snow and ice could result in citations from the borough.

Neither absence nor health-related issues excuse a property owner from the need to ensure that the sidewalks are free of snow. If you or your employees are unable to clear the snow yourselves, you should ask for help before the beginning of the snow season.

Finally, remember that clearing out snow 15 feet from your property in the direction snow plows travel (which is typically, but not always, on the left side of the road) can help prevent large accumulations on sidewalks and make later removal easier.

Q. What if you or someone else slipped and fell on an improperly cleared sidewalk?

If you or someone you know was injured as a result of property issues for which a business owner was liable, you may be able to seek recompense through the legal system by contacting a PA injury attorney.

It’s important that you contact a legal professional as soon as possible who is skilled in PA personal injury law. Changing weather conditions could melt or spread the ice that caused the problem, and the court’s understanding of what actually happened — including how much ice was actually present at the sense of the incident — could have an effect on the ruling.

If you believe you may have a case, contact Penglase & Benson at 215-348-4416 to explain the situation and schedule an initial consultation. You may be eligible for reimbursement of medical expenses or other financial compensation.

Legal Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, it is possible that the applicable laws have been changed since publication. For up-to-date information on your responsibilities as a business owner, contact Penglase & Benson, another qualified PA injury attorney, or search for information published by the appropriate governing body.