It's a fact of nature in this part of the country: with winter comes snow and ice. And more often than not, wintry weather makes for slippery, treacherous conditions on sidewalks and other paved surfaces. Obviously, a co-op or condo board or HOA’s primary interest in safeguarding against slips and falls is concern for the safety and well-being of their residents—but along with winter weather, lawsuits are also a fact of life, and if a snowy walkway or icy steps cause a serious injury, it can cost a lot of money in litigation and legal fees.
Step on a Crack...
Ted Wilson of Advanced Pavement Technologies in Fairfield has seen a lot of co-op and condo buildings deal with sidewalk issues. A sidewalk that's cracked or chipped can ultimately be a danger—and lots of cracks and chips worsen in the winter.
"I see it all the time," Wilson says. "Water builds up between the concrete and the Belgian block. When it gets cold, that water turns to ice, causing the pavement to expand and heave, and it becomes a liability."
And a history of slip-and-fall claims can cost a building or association beyond just legal costs. According to industry pros, communities with a history of slip-and-fall claims often pay more in premiums than those with better safety records. The reason for this is that repeated mishaps can suggest a lack of attention to or responsibility for the property on the part of association administrators. That can lead insurance carriers to consider raising the premium—or even dropping the community's coverage altogether, warns Alan Geisenheimer, CIC, president of the Geisenheimer Agency in Fair Lawn. "And lack of attention to snow and ice removal is probably king in this area," he says.
According to Wilson, there are many ways to prevent slip-and-fall accidents during the winter months. While continuous shoveling during snow and ice storms is probably the first thing that comes to peoples’ minds, de-icing products and hardware have come a long way in recent years. In fact, heavy snow shovels and hours of backbreaking work are fast becoming obsolete.