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Who is responsible for icy or wet sidewalks or walkways?


While the summer is still hot, you may not be thinking about the risk of snow and ice. Winter is just around the corner, though, and because of this it’s important to know your town’s laws for premises liability and keeping roads and communities safe from slip-and-fall accidents caused by ice and snow.

No one wants to slip on ice or to fall on a wet patch left by melting snow. It’s very likely that you’ve fallen and hurt yourself in the past; even one thin, slick patch of ice can lead to a nasty fall that could cause cuts, head injuries, or other serious harm to your body. Who would you blame if a sidewalk wasn’t cleared? Who would be responsible if an icicle fell from a room and impaled you or struck you, causing contusions or other injuries?

Massachusetts has laws for each and every one of these situations. For instance, it’s important to know that if snow or ice falls from a roof and hurts someone on the sidewalk below, it’s the owner of the property’s responsibility. According to Massachusetts’s laws, it’s the responsibility of the building owner or his or her agent to remove snow and ice from roofing as quickly as possible.

Another interesting fact about sidewalks is that it’s not the city’s responsibility to clear them, despite sidewalks being public property. The home or business that abuts the sidewalk is the one to which that portion of sidewalk “belongs,” and therefore the owner or agent of that facility is responsible for clearing snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of the property.

Source: Massachusetts Legislature, “General Laws,” accessed Aug. 19, 2015

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