In 2016, more than 3 million older Americans were injured due to a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and falls alone led to more than $50 billion in medical costs in 2015. With common causes of falls being snow and ice, more associations should evaluate their snow removal policy to prevent a costly liability lawsuit this winter.
Edward Hoffman Jr., partner and co-founder of Barrow|Hoffman in Pennsylvania and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) who practices insurance defense litigation for community association liability claims, responded to a few questions on snow removal policies.
Q: Why should an association have a snow removal policy?
A: Every association with such a need should adopt a snow removal policy. Outdated snow removal policies can create just as large of a liability issue for the association as not having one. It’s important for the board to implement the policy and apply it uniformly and consistently.
Q: What are the top factors associations must consider when creating a snow removal policy?
A: First, associations should determine who is responsible for the snow removal, such as a service provider that will be performing contracted work. Boards and managers should check their insurance certificates and be certain that the association is named as an additional insured under each policy. The service provider’s proposal/specification sheet is not an actual contract.
Next, the threshold for snow removal must be determined. The industry standard in the Northeastern U.S. is generally 2 inches of accumulation. Special care should be attributed to ice and sleet events, meaning the association must address other hazardous conditions in the community.
Finally, consider what level of control the association is exerting over the service provider. The more control the board asserts while they work, the more potential liability should an incident occur. The association should contract for snow removal work according to the parameters set forth in a properly drafted and approved service contract.
Q: Should associations in areas that do not routinely get measurable snow have a policy?
A: Every association should have a policy for handling a snow event. There may not be a need for a snow removal contract in areas without measurable snowfall, but all associations should have a snow event action plan in place.
Boards and managers in an association without a snow removal policy should consider their options. While some areas without regular snowfall may not require one, having a snow event policy can prevent liability concerns later. Associations should review their snow removal policies periodically to determine their relevancy. One policy can be the difference between a winter wonderland and a slew of lawsuits.
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