Monday, December 05, 2011
Get Out Your Shovel! Property Owners and the Legal Duty to Remove Snow and Ice!
Winter is quickly approaching, and Massachusetts property owners may have a legal duty to clear more snow and ice this year than in the past. The Supreme Judicial Court recently abolished the distinction made between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice as it relates to the liability of Massachusetts property owners. In light of the Court’s ruling, it is important that every property owner review his or her snow and ice removal procedures in order to avoid liability and to minimize the risk of harm to others.
For nearly a century prior to the 2010 case of Papadapoulos v. Target Corporation, a property owner was only legally responsible for injuries caused by unnatural, or man-made, accumulations of snow and ice on his or her property. The long-held reasoning for such a distinction was that a property owner was only responsible for injuries caused by defects existing on her property, and that natural snow and ice did not constitute a per se defective condition. Under this framework, a property owner was not liable for injuries caused by naturally-occurring accumulations of snow and ice.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadapoulos altered the traditional “natural v. unnatural” paradigm by holding that an owner has a duty to keep her property reasonably safe for all lawful visitors, regardless of the source of the danger. Following Papadapoulos, a property owner’s duty with respect to snow and ice is the same as any other potentially dangerous conditions, i.e., to “act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.” In other words, what constitutes reasonable snow and ice removal may vary depending on the type of property, amount of foot traffic, the magnitude of the risk, and burden of removal.
In reaching its decision, the Court quoted a similar opinion from the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which stated that,
We believe that today a landlord, armed with an ample supply of salt, sand, scrapers, shovels, and perhaps a snow blower, can acquit himself quite admirably as he takes to the common passageways to do battle with the fallen snow, the sun-melted snow now turned to ice, or the frozen rain.
The Court also pointed out that the obligations imposed by its decision were in some respects less demanding than some regulatory requirements and city ordinances. As one example, Boston property owners have only a three hour window after a snowfall ends within which to remove the snow from their property.
It is important this snow season to seek legal representation in the event a visitor or tenant suffers a slip-and-fall on your property, or if you are injured as the result of a property owner’s unreasonable failure to remove snow and ice from her property. Property owners may want to review agreements with snow removal companies for effective indemnity and hold-harmless provisions, as well as review insurance coverage, in light of the change in law. To learn more about how the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadapoulos may affect you, speak with a personal injury attorney at Vaughn-Martel Law and speak with us today!
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Automobile Accident Victims: DOs and DO NOTs
Automobile accidents occur every hour of every day in the Greater Boston area. In a matter of seconds, a car accident victim’s life can be dramatically changed as the result of another person’s negligence or failure to pay attention. In addition to focusing on physical and emotional recovery, a victim must contend with a wrecked vehicle, lost wages, and mounting medical bills.
Dealing with insurance companies after a car accident can be daunting and confusing. It is often next to impossible to get the other driver's liability insurance company to deal with you fairly. The other driver’s insurance company’s only goal is to pay you as little as possible as soon after the accident as possible. The following DOs and DO NOTs are meant as a general guide to victims of accidents, but nothing will take the place of an experienced and aggressive legal team.
DO: Seek Appropriate Medical Treatment
Getting medical care and attending to your recovery should be your first priority. All too often clients will be barred recovery or compensation for very real and painful physical or emotional injuries because they decided to 'tough it out' and refuse medical treatment. The insurance company should be held at bay until the victim has reached a final medical end-result. If you did not see a doctor or specialist regarding a certain injury or pain, the insurance company will assume you have not been harmed.
DO NOT: Forget That You Have a Contract with Your Insurer
This means your insurer has a legal responsibility to provide the coverage promised in your policy. If you are injured in a collision with a stolen vehicle, a hit-and-run accident, or by an underinsured motorist, your own insurer may be required to compensate you for your injuries. You should speak with an attorney, as there are strict "notice" requirements and timing issues which could bar your recovery.
DO: Notify Your Insurance Agent As Soon As You Are Able
You must notify your insurance agent immediately of any incident, and you should exercise your right to deny permission for your conversations to be recorded. However, you should NOT give any recorded or written statements to another party's insurer until you have spoken with an attorney. Once you have retained counsel, you should instruct all parties to communicate directly with counsel.
DO: Take and Keep Detailed Notes
You should take and keep detailed notes of all conversations with insurance company representatives and get the names, phone numbers, and job titles of people with whom you speak. It is also a good idea to keep detailed personal written notes about your injuries, treatment, medications, any pain or discomfort you experience, missed wages, and any changes in your daily routine as a result of the accident. By the time your claim is ready for settlement or is filed in court as a lawsuit, it is difficult to remember or recall the specific pain, trauma, or discomfort experienced months or years earlier.
DO NOT: Sign Waivers or Releases of Any Kind Until You Have Spoken with an Attorney
Do not accept any checks that say "final payment" unless you are truly ready to do so. Often times, missed work and difficult financial circumstances following an accident can make a low and premature settlement offer more attractive to a client. Oftentimes, the paperwork accompanying a settlement check will release the negligent driver from any and all liability or responsibility for your injuries. Consult an attorney before accepting or signing any offers or releases.
DO: Take Pictures
Take pictures of the scene of the accident or wreckage, and even your own injuries if possible.
If you have been in an accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, contact one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Vaughn-Martel Law.
Vaughn-Martel Law assists clients with Divorce Law, Real Estate Law, Personal Injury, Automobile Accidents, Dog Bite Law, Landlord Law, Tenant Law, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Medicaid Planning and Medicaid Applications, Credit Card Disputes, Custody Disputes, Child Support Law, Visitation and Custody Issues. The attorneys at Vaughn-Martel Law represents clients in Prenuptial Agreements, Marital Law, Alimony Law, Uncontested Divorce, Separation, Adoption, Same-Sex Adoption, Reproductive Law, Sperm Donor Agreements, Egg Donor Agreements, Surrogacy Agreements, Estate Administration, Probate Law, Gay and Lesbian Law, Domestic Partnership Agreements. Our lawyers represent clients in Suffolk County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Norfolk County, Plymouth County, Bristol County, Worcester County, Hampden County, and Franklin County. In Suffolk County MA, our Boston divorce attorneys and other attorneys can represent you if you reside in Allston MA 02134, Boston MA, East Boston MA 02128, Back Bay MA 02116, Beacon Hill MA 02114, Brighton MA 02135, Revere MA 02151, Cambridge MA 02139, Cambridge MA 02140, Charlestown MA 02129, Jamaica Plain MA 02130, Winthrop MA 02152, Roxbury MA 02118, Roxbury Mission Hill MA 02120, and Chelsea MA 02150.