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SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
Premium
join:2006-01-11
not Sweden
kudos:1

[Other ] Snow Removal Liability Question

In thinking ahead about the winter snow removal season, a coworker raised a very interesting concept about snow removal at lunch today... specifically the removal of snow from a neighbor's or relative's property (with or without compensation).

Last winter I helped out a few neighbors during some really tough winter storms with my snow thrower. Honestly, I just thought it was the right thing to do and cleared off their driveways early in the AM.

A coworker who also did gratis neighborhood snow removal said that he used to do that too, until he removed snow from a neighbor's driveway and a guest of that neighbor came by later that day. The guest slipped and fell, and was injured in the fall. The neighbor's guest ended up suing my coworker, claiming that he failed to properly remove the snow and ice from the driveway, causing the fall. After spending a lot of money on legal fees, he LOST the case and was found responsible, and because it wasn't on his property, his homeowner's policy would NOT pay the damages. He ended up losing a LOT of money trying to be a good, helpful neighbor.

After this story, he told me to take some advice, call my insurance company to confirm what he said was true, and to think twice before plowing or mowing anyone else's property, with or without compensation. As much as I want to help my neighbors out with my equipment, I was not truly aware of the liability risks until now. I'll make a call to my homeowner's ins company, but I'm pretty confident they will confirm what he said is correct.

Anyone else plow or mow other properties gratis? If so, how do you handle liability, or has it not even been a thought?


Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:2
said by SwedishRider:

The neighbor's guest ended up suing my coworker, claiming that he failed to properly remove the snow and ice from the driveway, causing the fall. After spending a lot of money on legal fees, he LOST the case

I have never heard anything so insane. Was this in CT?
--
Intel i7-2600k /ASRock P67 Extreme4 /4x 4Gb G.Skill /2x Intel 510 series 250Gb SSD /3x WD20EADS 2TB /2x PNY GTX 260 /Silverstone 850W /Custom water cooler /Antec Twelve-Hundred


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
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You know, I didn't ask what state it was in, but I assume it was CT. Can't say for sure though..


John97
Over The Hills And Far Away
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join:2000-11-14
Spring Hill, FL
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reply to SwedishRider
This is a great topic. Considering the world we live in today, what happened to your coworker doesn't surprise me at all. Until I moved down here last year, I did the same thing. I had a very substantial machine with a snowblower attachment and I always took care of my neighbors that I liked, especially when we got big storms. The thought about being liable for something like this never crossed my mind.
--
So put me on a highway, and show me a sign.
And take it to the limit one more time...


BKayrac
Premium
join:2001-09-29
Madison, WI
reply to SwedishRider
It sounds plausible.

I am taking classes for my CDL right now, and one thing that we were told, is to NEVER give other drivers instructions at an intersection(such as waving them through), as if something happens, you will be held at least partially liable as you took control of the intersection.

Same sounding situation with the plowing, even if it's your job, you take control of the situation by clearing the driveway, and since you took control, it's your responsibility that it's done properly, even if it's not your property.

That said again, not sure by any means, but it sounds like something that could possibly happen.

Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota

2 recommendations

reply to SwedishRider
Scenarios like this is why it's a good idea to purchase a General Liability Umbrella Rider/Policy. Like AmEX, I don't leave home without it.
--
Zach


John97
Over The Hills And Far Away
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Spring Hill, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Bright House
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reply to BKayrac
said by BKayrac:

I am taking classes for my CDL right now, and one thing that we were told, is to NEVER give other drivers instructions at an intersection(such as waving them through), as if something happens, you will be held at least partially liable as you took control of the intersection.

I don't have a CDL but this was something taught as part of my company-required training since I have a company car. You are right, it's the same type of situation.
--
So put me on a highway, and show me a sign.
And take it to the limit one more time...


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
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join:2006-01-11
not Sweden
kudos:1
reply to SwedishRider
Theoretically, given my coworker's scenario, I was removing snow from my neighbors' snowed-in driveways, while shifting the liability risk of a lawsuit dealing with driveway snow removal to me (and I wasn't even getting paid for it!).

And the scary part is... I didn't even realize that that's what I was doing... I just wanted to be a helpful neighbor.

nonymous
Premium
join:2003-09-08
Glendale, AZ
reply to SwedishRider
Did it end up going to trial? If so was it a jury or a judge. I have been on a jury where some people just felt someone got injured who cares why they need money. They are a victim and need paid doesnt matter if the defendant is responsible or not the poor victim needs money.


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
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I don't know how it went down in court. I was focused on the fact that in the end, he was found responsible even though he was not running a business and not getting paid to clear the driveway. I am not sure how it was tried.


mix

join:2002-03-19
Utica, MI
reply to SwedishRider
I'm not calling BS on this story, but it seems much more likely that the property owner is responsible in a slip and fall injury rather than the person who performed the snow plowing.

TheMG
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join:2007-09-04
Canada
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Reviews:
·NorthWest Tel
reply to SwedishRider
It really is quite sad that these days we have to think twice before helping out, due to fears of potentially being sued if something happens.

Especially for something such as a slippery driveway. In some parts of Canada, driveways and sidewalks can become slippery in a matter of a couple hours or less under some weather conditions. It's a fact of life in the winter. Impossible to keep sidewalks and driveways non-slippery 100% of the time. IMHO, up to a certain extent, it is up to the person walking to walk carefully on slippery surfaces.


JRW2
R.I.P. Mom, Brian, Ziggy, Max and Zen.
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La La Land
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reply to mix
said by mix:

I'm not calling BS on this story, but it seems much more likely that the property owner is responsible in a slip and fall injury rather than the person who performed the snow plowing.

I would say the same thing, expect...
We have crazy courts, lawyers who are adept at twisting the law, and we have people who will sue at the drop of the hat over split milk...

I'll still do all my neighbors driveways and walks, because I am a good person. If you sit around wondering who is going to sue you at every turn, you might as well not leave the house...
--
Politics is a disease, we need a cure!
In constant search for intelligent life on Earth!
What part of "Illegal" is so hard to understand...


SwedishRider
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reply to mix
At first I thought it was bogus too, but I searched a bit and saw in numerous forums that snow clearing outfits can and are sued for slip and falls as well as car accidents for failure to properly clean, salt and sand parking lots and sidewalks. The business or homeowner shifts liability to the snow removal operator by contracting the work to them. If the snow is determined to be removed properly, damages cannot be collected. But if not, say it wasn't totally salted, then it wasn't done properly, then the snow remover may be liable, not the property or business owner.

That is how I understood it from my research, but I am not a lawyer.


Warzau
Premium
join:2000-10-26
Naperville, IL
kudos:1
reply to SwedishRider
In my state State law protects property owners from any added liability if they shovel their sidewalks., you are protected if you do remove the snow from the side walk in front of your house and some numb nut falls. BUT where and who decides you properly removed the snow? I shovel but sometimes when temps reach melting point during the day and freeze at night there are patches of ice forming. What if I don't get home in time to deal with it.


Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:2
reply to SwedishRider
said by SwedishRider:

but I searched a bit and saw in numerous forums that snow clearing outfits can and are sued for slip and falls as well as car accidents for failure to properly clean, salt and sand parking lots and sidewalks.

I can see that. If you hire a "professional" to do the work, the responsibility for the work usually falls on them. I just can't see how a neighbor doing someone a favor falls into the same category. Unless maybe the guy accepted a few bucks for the trouble, which I could see an ambulance chaser turning into a "professional" arrangement that made him responsible.
--
Intel i7-2600k /ASRock P67 Extreme4 /4x 4Gb G.Skill /2x Intel 510 series 250Gb SSD /3x WD20EADS 2TB /2x PNY GTX 260 /Silverstone 850W /Custom water cooler /Antec Twelve-Hundred


BKayrac
Premium
join:2001-09-29
Madison, WI
Doesn't matter if you are being paid, you take control of the situation by doing it, therefor it is your responsibility to do it properly.

It sucks, but it's the world people have created for themselves.

guppy_fish
Premium
join:2003-12-09
Lakeland, FL
kudos:3
reply to SwedishRider
No good deed goes unpunished.

The story is certainly true, when someone get injured, someone will always be on the hook to pick up the tab.


Booost

@optonline.net
reply to SwedishRider
1. You should have an umbrella policy, so you're protected if a lawsuit is not covered by your homeowners or automobile insurance policy. Problem solved.

2. Tell the neighbor in question that he has douchey friends.


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
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join:2006-01-11
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said by Anon80:

1. You should have an umbrella policy, so you're protected if a lawsuit is not covered by your homeowners or automobile insurance policy. Problem solved.

Even if an umbrella policy would cover the damages, I'm sure you'd either get dropped or premiums would go much higher after a claim is paid. And that assumes that your umbrella would willingly pay... Insurance companies tend to not like to pay for anything they don't have to.

It's sad to say... but the safest bet may well be to simply not lend any assistance that would shift liability risk to yourself.

Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota
said by SwedishRider:

It's sad to say... but the safest bet may well be to simply not lend any assistance that would shift liability risk to yourself.

Even hiding in your basement and refusing to help anyone won't necessarily shield you from unexpected and potentially costly liability. If you unknowingly hire someone without insurance to preform work at your home and it's determined their work or the execution thereof damaged a third-party, guess who's on the hook? In this case you may have coverage through your homeowner's policy but it depends on how it's written. Liability is a lot like a steaming pile of crap, it runs downhill and soils everything it touches.
--
Zach

tcope
Premium
join:2003-05-07
Sandy, UT
kudos:2

1 recommendation

reply to SwedishRider
In some states the law is if you leave the snow there you are not liable for falls on your property. Very odd but true. In most states you can be liable if you don't remove the snow.

OP, I see no reason why your friends home owners policy would not provide him coverage. I think something in your post is not correct. It should not matter that the liability occurred away from his home. Again, something is not right there.

Can their be liability in this type of situation? Yes. Can someone sue for it? Yup... they do all of the time. I could write pages on this but I'll mention one thing that might help put some perspective on this.... insurance money _fuels_ the entire court system. If a person does not have insurance they are much less likely to be sued. Courts are also set up to favor the plaintiff (as a person who becomes a defendant usually has insurance. See above). I'll give one quick example (and this varies from state to state). I handled a property damage case where I offered the person $4900 2 1/2 years ago. About a 8 months ago she had an attorney file suit. After 8 months she finally obtained her own bid that totaled about $50 less then I offered. If this went to a judge she would have won her $4850, court costs (about $400) and an attorney fee of $300. So I was spot on with my offer but because she filed suit I now have to pay that plus $700.

In many slip and fall case as the OP mentioned it usually better for the insurance company to settle. We'd all like to think a person who slips on ice in the middle of winter should have their own responsibility as they should know ice exists in winter but injury attorneys take cases for 33% of their client's award plus expenses. The might spend 20-30 hours of their time on a case in court. If the insurance company defends a case in court it usually costs $20,000 - $60,000.. and this is on the low end. Doctors also want to be paid for treating the injured person so they write up their notes that everything done was related to the accident (if the injured person does not win, the doctor does not get paid).

The only point I'm trying to make is that this is why it's so easy to sue for just about anything. I also want to mention that insurance companies almost always make money at the end of the year. But also means that they collected more then they paid out. Most of that comes in the form of premiums.

I too remove snow from my neighbors sidewalk. I do so knowing that I may be held liable for the action. I will continue to do so as it's the right thing to do (I I did not do it, it would not get done). Living my life worrying about every little thing would be a terrible way to walk through life. I hope I never get to the point where I don't do the right thing for the fear of someone holding that against me.

tcope
Premium
join:2003-05-07
Sandy, UT
kudos:2
reply to SwedishRider
said by SwedishRider:

But if not, say it wasn't totally salted, then it wasn't done properly, then the snow remover may be liable, not the property or business owner.

Not to get too technical but in most states the property owner has a non-deligable duty to provide a safe environment. This is clouded in the OP's version of events as it sounds like the property owner did not ask the person to remove the snow and I'm betting the complaint was that the person who removed the snow _created_ the hazard.


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
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join:2006-01-11
not Sweden
kudos:1
reply to tcope
said by tcope:

OP, I see no reason why your friends home owners policy would not provide him coverage. I think something in your post is not correct. It should not matter that the liability occurred away from his home. Again, something is not right there.

I'm not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I'm only going by what he said and the basic 'net research that I did. I plan to look into this further with my insurance company, but my point is that I never gave liability risk a second thought until now. Even if my homeowner's would pay in the event of damages deemed to be my fault... my premiums would probably go up or I'd get dropped at the end of the policy term.

I'm really starting to think it's just not worth the risk just to try to be helpful...

scooper

join:2000-07-11
Youngsville, NC
kudos:2
reply to SwedishRider
I guess the next time someone asks if I will help jumpstart their car I'll whip out a "I am not liable for any damages or injuries sustained as a result of this action" and have the recipient of help sign it before we start. Is THIS the kind of world we want to live in ? I sure don't but this sure sounds like something that some idiot would do....


JRW2
R.I.P. Mom, Brian, Ziggy, Max and Zen.
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join:2004-12-20
La La Land
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Reviews:
·Optimum Online
said by scooper:

I guess the next time someone asks if I will help jumpstart their car I'll whip out a "I am not liable for any damages or injuries sustained as a result of this action" and have the recipient of help sign it before we start. Is THIS the kind of world we want to live in ? I sure don't but this sure sounds like something that some idiot would do....

It would seem that this is indeed the world we live in. I would have hoped that the courts would have been able to "filter" out all these lawsuits before they got beyond the filing point, but that is not the case.
I can list several lawsuits I see as frivolous and should have been stopped in their tracks LONG before anyone saw the inside of a courtroom, common sense should have prevailed in these cases, but obviously that hasn't been the case.

That's why a cup of HOT coffee has a warning label that says "Contents may be hot" on it.
That's why a bag of peanuts has a warning label on it that it "May contain Nuts/Peanuts" on it.

I can understand when someone sues for real negligence, but suing someone because a cleared/plowed sidewalk/driveway is iced on a winter day is just absurd, and should have been kicked out of court.
--
Politics is a disease, we need a cure!
In constant search for intelligent life on Earth!
What part of "Illegal" is so hard to understand...

peterboro
Avatars are for posers
Premium
join:2006-11-03
Peterborough, ON
reply to SwedishRider
said by SwedishRider:

I'm not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I'm not a lawyer and I am too ugly to be seen on TV but I did study law a couple years to be able to imitate one.

As a business owner I have basically no assets to speak of that can be realized through a civil judgement and bankruptcy is a quick $900.00 call away.

tcope
Premium
join:2003-05-07
Sandy, UT
kudos:2
reply to JRW2
said by JRW2:

I can understand when someone sues for real negligence, but suing someone because a cleared/plowed sidewalk/driveway is iced on a winter day is just absurd, and should have been kicked out of court.

Go to just about any forum and post a message that you fell in a parking lot and ask what you should do next. What do you think 9 out of 10 replies will be?

People see attorney commercials all of the time. They think 1) they are automatically entitled to money because they were hurt and 2) that they need an attorney or they cannot collect anything. This is what those commercials state. What they also don't tell these people is that at the end of the day, there is a very good chance they won't take away much money.


cybersaga

join:2011-12-19
Welland, ON


JRW2
R.I.P. Mom, Brian, Ziggy, Max and Zen.
Premium
join:2004-12-20
La La Land
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Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to tcope
said by tcope:

People see attorney commercials all of the time. They think 1) they are automatically entitled to money because they were hurt and 2) that they need an attorney or they cannot collect anything.

Correct, and legitimate cases will never see the light of day in court too.

VERY short story, my wife was nearly killed in an ER, because no one bothered to check drug interactions to medications she takes.

Called several malpractice attorneys, they all said I had a GREAT case.....

But they would not take it, not enough profit in it for them.
Had she died, or been permanently injured, they wound have taken the case.
--
Politics is a disease, we need a cure!
In constant search for intelligent life on Earth!
What part of "Illegal" is so hard to understand...