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What is the 'storm in progress' rule?

The "storm in progress" rule can be very important if you slip and fall on the ice and snow in front of a home or business. It's critical to know what this rule is and how it will impact your case.

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Generally speaking, it means that the owner is not liable for your injuries if the storm is actively happening. Yes, snow and ice must be removed from many areas, and it does need to be done promptly. However, the owner can only do so much, and he or she isn't expected to keep all areas clear at all times.

Even after the storm lets up, property owners need to be given a reasonable amount of time to get rid of the snow that has accumulated. If you wait for the final flakes to fall and then rush outside while the owner is actively shoveling the sidewalk, for instance, he or she won't be liable if you then fall on the portion of the sidewalk that simply hasn't been cleared yet.

When property owners are liable is when they're negligent. If they never shovel the stairs or salt the ice on the sidewalk, you may have a case. They knew the storm created dangerous conditions and didn't do anything about it. Property owners do need to keep people safe and they can't ignore snowfall during the winter.

As you can imagine, this rule can cause disagreements because it's a bit of a gray area. When did the storm really end? Was the accumulated snow and ice from a previous storm? Was the owner actually trying to clear it fast enough? These are all important questions to ask if you've been injured and you're looking into your legal options.

Source: Huffington Post, "Business Liability for Snow and Ice Removal," Brad Reid, accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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