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January 29, 2012

Winter, the season for snowboarding, skiing, sledding and ice skating, can also be the season for accidents. From a legal perspective, the accidents that create liability occur when a responsibility to use care and caution has been omitted or overlooked. The simple acts of falling or slipping that result in an injury can lead to a claim for compensation.

How can a person protect themselves and others from slips and falls? First and foremost, everyone has a duty to be alert while also using caution when traversing sidewalks and parking lots or entering buildings. What happens if a person was being careful but fell and was injured on your property? Property owners have a duty to conduct themselves and maintain their property with such care so as not to create a hazard for others. The degree of care and circumspection increases with the nature of the property. For example, the owner of a convenience store must clear driveways and sidewalks of snow and ice to permit the public safe, hazard-free access. A residential homeowner only needs to exercise the same care to others as the homeowner would exercise for himself. A homeowner does not need to shovel his driveway or sidewalk in front of his property unless a Borough or Township ordinance exists. However, if a condition is created that is worse than the one eliminated from shoveling the sidewalk, the homeowner will be responsible for any injures that occur on the property.

Driving during the winter comes with its own set of risks and responsibilities. Every driver has the duty to operate their vehicles safely. Snow and/or ice may decrease visibility and certainly decreases traction. Along with reducing speed, drivers should create a greater stopping distance by allowing more space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Purchasing an insurance policy is a simple way to spread risk. For a payment of premiums, an insurance company will defend you if you are sued and indemnify you up to the limit of the policy if someone is deserving of compensation as a result of an injury. Homeowners insurance provides the protection for a private property owner, and commercial insurance acts in the same fashion for the owner and/or operator of a commercial establishment.

In New Jersey, ownership of an automobile requires the maintenance of insurance. Auto insurance protects you in the instance another driver or person sues because of an injury caused from careless driving. Under your policy you are protected when others have either failed to properly insure themselves or when your own injuries exceed the policy limits of others who are at fault. The dollar limits of your liability should commensurate with your income and the size of your asset portfolio. A good rule of thumb is to purchase as much liability insurance as you can comfortably afford. Don’t skimp here.

Whether you own private or commercial property make sure to take extra precautions during the winter season. It may not be enough to just shovel, put down salt to prevent the formation of ice and to create better traction for those who would traverse the area. So go out there and have fun, just make sure you exercise appropriate care and caution and carry the right insurance.

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