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Shovels keep Bergen County property owners out of court

Many Bergen County residents are weary of shoveling snow. According to the National Weather Service and New Jersey State Climatologist, Bergen County had over a foot of snow just during the Valentine's Day storm. That represents a lot of physical labor, just to clear a sidewalk path or free a car from a parking spot.

How can anyone keep up with winter's wrath this season? Shoveling sidewalks isn't just about being considerate. State premises liability and municipal laws require homeowners and business owners to clear away snow and ice on exterior walkways to prevent slip-and-fall accidents. The laws set time limits for compliance.

Some people shovel snow even as flakes are falling to get a head start, while others wait until a snowstorm passes before tackling the job. Laws contain guidelines for cleanup, like a 10-hour window to clean sidewalks after a storm in Woodbury. The penalties for failing to shovel away snow or salt and sand icy spots can be fines or, worse, a liability claim brought by a person injured on your property.

As tiresome a job as snow removal, it's wise to do a thorough job. You can buckle down and clear a foot of snow from a front path, but ice patches left behind are dangerous. The walkway isn't safe until the snow and ice are gone or treated so slip and fall accidents, including serious head and back injuries, don't happen.

Snow shoveling is tedious and backbreaking and, after so many punishing months of winter, still necessary to prevent someone from getting hurt. Ice treatment may have to occur several times since snow frequently melts and freezes again, creating new problems. Ignoring details, like leaving behind slushy puddles and negligently piled snow, can cause preventable hazards.

Premises liability laws don't disappear when the snow does. New Jersey property owners and managers are liable year-round for accidents caused by poor maintenance.

Source: South Jersey Times, "Woodbury to residents, businesses: Shovel your sidewalks after snowstorms" Jason Laday, Feb. 12, 2014

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