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Fact vs. fiction: Liability and icy sidewalks

Posted: 3:45 PM, Feb 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-22 20:10:36-05
Fact vs. fiction: Liability and icy sidewalks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A slew of ice and sleet left some metro sidewalks a little slippery this week.

"That's one of the worst things that I run across, is not being able to see and then having people that are not clearing the sidewalks or not putting any salt down," John Sobaski, who is blind and relies on sidewalks to get around, said. 

When it comes to salting sidewalks and who's liable for a fall, the laws can be as slippery as the ice itself.

41 Action News wanted to know more about your rights and responsibilities as a property owner and as a pedestrian using sidewalks.

We asked James Roswold, an attorney with Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys.

Myth: Salting increases your liability for falls.

Roswold said you should always treat sidewalks and surfaces on your property. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for injuries.

"There's an element of negligence that comes into play if you didn't do a good job," he explained.

Most cities have an ordinance requiring property owners to clear all sidewalks adjacent to or in front of their property.

Myth: You are always liable if someone falls on ice or snow on your property.

"When snow is coming down, when the rain is coming down, you're not obligated to get out there in the middle of it and take care of it, because that's not really possible," Roswold said.

But there's an exception to that rule. If it's still snowing, but you're having people over or you own a business that's open, Roswold said you need to make an effort to clear walkways. If it's not possible, you should put up a sign warning people. That could limit your liability.

What to do in the event of a fall

If you take a spill, Roswold recommended taking a picture of where you fell. You should also go see a doctor if you are injured. 

If someone falls on your property, you should get the injured person's contact information, then call your insurance company.

Roswold also recommended contacting an attorney for a free consultation.