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Falling ice during thaws could result in premises liability

The winter in New York brings with it all kinds of serious risks. The potential for motor vehicle crashes increase due to holiday drinking, as well as inclement weather that can leave roads slippery and dangerous. Sidewalks and parking lots can become risky places if ice and snow isn't cleared, resulting in slip-and-fall accidents that injure people.

One issue unique to areas with large buildings, including Staten Island and all of New York City, is the danger resulting from falling ice, especially on warmer days. Serious injuries, property damage or even death could result from falling ice or icicles.

Recent incident highlights the risk of accumulated ice

On Tuesday, January 9, a man parked his SUV on Charlton Street in SoHo. About an hour later, he returned to find the roof of his vehicle caved in under the weight of a massive piece of ice that has dislodged from the building and fallen on his SUV. Thankfully, in this situation, no one was in the vehicle, and no injuries resulted from the falling ice and the damage it caused.

The heavy piece of ice had broken off the building and fallen 20 stories from the roof, completely destroying the vehicle parked below. It's easy to see how horrific the situation could have been if someone had been in the vehicle or if the ice had fallen on a pedestrian.

Business owners need to maintain safe facilities in all weather

One of the unique dangers presented by skyscrapers and other tall buildings is the potential for dangerous falling objects. During the winter, when ice and snow build up relentlessly, that risk increases. Building owners should take steps to protect people using the sidewalks and streets near their buildings.

Careful design when constructing a building, including tapering near the top, can reduce the risk for ice or snow to fall directly from the building to the ground. Reducing design aspects that provide a surface for said accumulation is also a wise choice.

For those managing or owning existing buildings, however, different actions are needed. Investing in scaffolding over sidewalks on the property is one way to protect vehicles and pedestrians from falling ice and snow. Professional removal may also be an option.

Falling ice could result in premises liability

When a building owner or manager fails to maintain the property in a manner that is safe for the public, the result could be liability for any property damage or injuries that result. Falling ice can demolish a vehicle or cause head injuries, spinal damage or broken bones.

Premises liability insurance may cover the medical expenses, lost wages or property damage of losses associated with a falling ice incident. In some cases, however, a lawsuit may be necessary for victims to receive adequate compensation for their losses.

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Orin J. Cohen Law
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Staten Island, NY 10301-3623

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