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Premises liability considerations for the winter

When someone enters your property, they have a reasonable expectation that it is being maintained as a relatively safe environment, and it is your duty as a property owner to ensure that it is. This theory is called premises liability. Premises liability holds property owners liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. Of course, there are always exceptions. For example, if the mail man slips and falls on a patch of ice on your sidewalk, you may be responsible to pay for his injuries. However, this only applies if it can be proven that he did not act in any unsafe or negligent manner that could have contributed to or caused the incident.

If you have homeowner's insurance, your policy will cover the costs if you or someone else is injured on your property up to the maximum amount of coverage. However, if the medical bills exceed the coverage, it is likely that you will be held personally responsible to pay the rest. Premises liability law in West Virginia is similar to that in many other states, although there are some differences. West Virginia businesses and private citizens have a legal duty to ensure the safety of visitors to their property to a reasonable degree. While no one can foresee every possibility, it is important for property owners to assess potential risks and address these problems before an accident occurs.

During the winter months especially, snow and ice buildup can dramatically increase the amount of slip and fall accidents and injuries. Here are some tips to help keep your home safe this winter:

· If you live in an area that you know receives a lot of foot traffic, be sure to clear your sidewalks as soon and as often as possible.

· Always have winter weather salt on hand and treat the sidewalks, walkways and driveways before too much snow accumulates.

· When a big storm hits, shovel and treat your driveway and sidewalks periodically. Don't wait until the storm passes-it will be easier to remove the snow and ice a little at a time.

· Always keep an eye out for potential tripping hazards, and make sure the areas around sidewalks, driveways and walkways are well lit. Motion-activated lights are a good way to save electricity and ensure that anyone passing by will be able to see what's ahead of them.

· If you're planning to go out of town, designate a friend or neighbor to clear your walkways while you are gone. Just because you aren't home does not mean you are not responsible for keeping your property safe.

· Don't forget to use caution while shoveling the snow. US hospitals treat about 11, 500 injuries related to shoveling snow every year. Shoveling snow puts stress on the cardiovascular system, which can be dangerous for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. If you worry that you are not physically capable of shoveling the snow yourself, consider hiring someone else to do it.

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Manchin Injury Law Group 1543 Fairmont Avenue Suite 203 Fairmont, WV 26554 Toll Free: 866-903-9632 Phone: 304-816-4097 Fax: 304-367-1867 Fairmont Law Office Map