With winter fast approaching in Yakima, pedestrians soon face a daunting task—traversing one of the city’s icy sidewalks after a snowstorm. Unsurprisingly, hundreds of people each year slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, some of whom sustain serious injuries.
Determining legal liability in these cases is usually straightforward, but you should meet with a Yakima slip and fall attorney to understand how the law will apply to your case.
Sidewalks are the Responsibility of Property Owners
Some people assume that the city of Yakima is responsible for sidewalks since everyone walks on them. Just as the government is responsible for keeping roads in a safe condition, people surmise that the government has the same duty with respect to sidewalks.
However, the law changed around 2014. Now, sidewalks are an extension of the property owner’s property. If your property abuts a sidewalk, then you are responsible for the sidewalk as if it were actually part of your land. As a result, property owners must keep sidewalks safe, just as they do their driveways.
According to the city’s municipal code, Chapter 8.88, property owners must “make all reasonable efforts to clear the sidewalks” of snow and ice and to do so in a “prudent” fashion. The Code goes further and sets some detailed requirements:
● Snow should be removed by 9:00 am the day after snowfall.
● If it is not realistic to remove the snow, e.g., because it is still falling, then the owner should disperse sand or salt to make the sidewalk reasonably safe. Yakima recommends that you use Calcium Chloride.
● Owners cannot put the snow they remove in alleys or other right of ways, such as the street.
● If you live on a corner, also clean the ramp so that people can easily access the sidewalk.
If you are a property owner and do not know what to do, contact a lawyer for assistance.
Collect Evidence after a Fall
If a property owner or occupier does not clean their sidewalk, then you might be able to hold them liable for any fall because of snow or ice. A property owner should certainly follow the law as laid out in the Yakima municipal code. If they don’t, you should carefully document the conditions after your slip.
For example, you can collect the following:
● Take pictures of the icy sidewalk. Use your smartphone or ask a bystander to take pictures for you. Make sure that the photo includes a timestamp, because it is very helpful if you fell after 9:00 am and the sidewalk had not been cleaned.
● Obtain the name of any witnesses to the fall. Get their contact information.
● Notify the owner of the property adjacent to the sidewalk where you slipped. They are probably the party responsible for keeping it clean. You should also get the name of their homeowner’s insurer.
● If you slip in front of an apartment building, you should find out the name of the landlord and/or the property management company.
Finally, make sure to get immediate medical treatment. Prompt treatment not only improves your chances of making a speedy recovery, but you can also helpfully document the severity of your injuries, which might prove critical later on.
Legal Liability Depends on the Owner’s Carefulness
Let’s assume that a property owner comes out after a storm and does a mediocre job cleaning the sidewalk. Snow and ice still remain, though the owner has thrown a handful of salt or sand around before going back inside.
Although this property owner has made an attempt to follow the municipal code, they were not sufficiently careful. Remember, the law requires that owners make “reasonable” efforts and remove the snow in a “prudent” manner. In many cases, the dispute revolves around whether the landowner used sufficient care when cleaning the sidewalk. It is not enough for them to scrape off a little snow and call it a day.
Determining whether an owner has been sufficiently careful turns on the specific facts of your case. Meet with a Yakima slip and fall attorney for help analyzing your case.
Contact Kapuza Lighty Today
If you slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, you could be facing staggering medical bills and forced time off from work. Fortunately, help is available. At our law firm, we have extensive experience in premises liability law, including injuries on sidewalks. To speak with one of our Yakima slip and fall lawyers, please contact us to schedule your free consultation by calling 509-866-4166.
Avoid delay. Washington law gives injured pedestrians a short window of time to protect their legal rights.