In Wisconsin, there are four seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction. Or at least it sure seems like it!
With the chance of snow common beginning in October and lasting through April, Wisconsin residents are no strangers to that fluffy white stuff that falls from the sky. And while snow covers the ground with a beautiful sparkling white blanket, it also means a lot of work for property owners.
While the “Midwest Nice” that so many Wisconsinites live out daily means many private property and commercial locations are promptly cleared of snow and ice, sometimes the snowstorm or other situations leave behind icy pavements.
Whether you are walking through the parking lot at the grocery store or taking a stroll on the sidewalks near your home, personal injuries from icy sidewalk slips and falls can be, well, painful!
Keep reading to learn about Wisconsin sidewalk laws and what to do if you’ve been involved in an icy sidewalk slip or fall.
What are the Wisconsin sidewalk laws for clearing snow?
There is no statewide statute for how quickly snow needs to be cleared. Wisconsin sidewalk laws for clearing snow are determined by towns, cities and counties.
24 hours is a common rule of thumb (though it varies by municipality). How quickly walkways and parking lots need to be cleared is determined by the city or town. In most cases, property owners have 24 hours from when the snow stops to clear the snow from sidewalks around their property. For example, in the city of Neenah, property owners/occupants have 24 hours from the end of a snowstorm to clear the snow from sidewalks abutting their property. Failure to do so could mean a fine from the city (and it could mean a lawsuit if someone slips and falls in front of their property).
Wisconsin also has a Safe Place Statute. This is a broad law that applies to commercial properties and employers regarding keeping their employees safe. Property owners of spaces that large numbers of the public enter (such as grocery stores, arenas, etc.) must keep their property safe for those who enter it. A safe place is defined as being absent of structural defects and unsafe conditions.
Can I sue the city or a private property owner for a slip or fall on their sidewalk?
Yes, you can sue a city, township or private property owner for personal injuries you received by slipping or falling on a sidewalk they are responsible for maintaining.
Common personal injuries from slips and falls on icy sidewalks include muscle sprains, fractures, broken bones (especially hips and wrists), shine and knee injuries, herniated discs and concussions.
In Wisconsin, premises liability laws allow people to be compensated for injuries that occurred on someone else’s property, but fault must be shown and a lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the incident (and injury) occurring.
Premises liability cases are complicated and suing when you fall on someone else’s property—like a public or private icy sidewalk—is harder than suing for a car accident or many other kinds of personal injury cases, as the responsibility of proving fault lands on the injured person, and the negligence of the injured person is also considered in the case.
Can I sue a business if I fall on the ice in their parking lot?
Yes, you can sue a business for personal injuries you received by slipping or falling in a parking lot or walkway they are responsible for maintaining.
Just like a fall on someone’s personal property, premises liability laws state that the injured party can file a lawsuit within 3 years of the incident to be compensated for injuries. The biggest difference between a slip and fall on a business’s sidewalk and an individual’s sidewalk is the business will likely request you fill out an incident report. For example, if you fall in the parking lot at a grocery store, be sure to let their customer service desk know about the incident so they can send employees out to add more salt or clear the walkways, as well as call for medical attention (if you need it) and fill a report that they will send to their corporate headquarters.
Icy sidewalk safety tips
The cold and the snow and ice that so often comes with it is a given in winter in Wisconsin. While you can stay inside more often, most of us need to venture out at some point for work, groceries, a doctor appointment, etc. Here are a few tips to stay safe while walking on snow and ice:
Shuffle. Walk flat footed and take short steps that mimic a penguin.
Be ready to brace yourself. While it may be tempting to put your hands in your pockets to keep warm, it’s not a good idea when there’s snow and ice on the ground. Keep your hands out of pockets so you can help yourself balance, as well as brace yourself for a fall.
Try not to carry too much. Maybe it’s a long walk and you don’t want to take more than one trip, but when it comes to walking on icy sidewalks, aim to keep your arms free. This will allow you to brace yourself if you do slip, and by not carrying too much, you won’t have extra weight pulling you down harder.
Railings are there for a reason—use them! Hold on to railings when walking or vehicles when entering them to help yourself get stability when walking or entering/exiting a vehicle.
When should I talk to a personal injury lawyer for slip and fall?
If you’ve been injured from a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible (after you have received medical attention, of course). Here are some tips for what to do first:
Don’t try to come to an agreement with the property owner on your own.
Be polite when talking with them but stick to trying to collect their personal/contact info.
Don’t forget to take photos and videos of the sidewalks or parking lot pavement, as well as your injuries.
If the place you’ve fallen is a business, report the fall to the business owner immediately as they may need to file an incident report and this will help verify the facts if your case ends up in court.
As a reminder, we don’t get paid unless you do, so if you are worried about the cost of working with a personal injury lawyer about your slip and fall on an icy sidewalk in Wisconsin, don’t be! We offer a free consultation for your icy sidewalk slip and fall claim.
Being injured on an icy sidewalk in Wisconsin can be painful. Let us take some of the worry and unknowns off your plate—work with our experienced personal injury lawyers for a slip and fall.
If you or a loved one have been injured on an icy sidewalk in Wisconsin, Di Renzo & Bomier offers a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. Call (800) 725-8464 or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment.
We help people injured by icy sidewalk slips and falls in Neenah, Appleton, Green Bay and across Northeast Wisconsin.
The content of this blog was prepared by Law Offices of Di Renzo & Bomier, LLC for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Offices of Di Renzo & Bomier, LLC.