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To Shovel, or Not to Shovel

To shovel, or not to shovel, that is the liability question. How quickly do you have to shovel the snow from your sidewalk after a snowfall. What are the consequences if you do not?

In the state of Missouri, the answer is a bit cloudy. Depending on where you live, municipal regulations may set a time period between the end of a snowfall and the time you must have your sidewalk cleared. Absent a law, your shoveling chores are going to be dependent on a “reasonable person” standard – is it reasonable to expect you to have your sidewalk cleared in X number of hours?

From a safety perspective, we recommend that you shovel your walk as soon as you can, and make sure to salt or add some sort of traction aid to any accumulated ice. Even in jurisdictions where you have no duty to clear “natural accumulation” as soon as pedestrians start packing it down with their foot traffic, you may be exposed to a city citation at a minimum, and a slip and fall lawsuit at the worst.

How about hiring someone to shovel for you? Those unable to safely shovel their walkway can usually contact a landscape company to do the work for a reasonable fee. A reputable company will provide adequate insurance for that worker should they be injured on the job. If a neighbor does the job for you and is injured on your property, you may have some liability.

For a modest premium, most insurance carriers who insure homes offer what is known as an “umbrella policy.” An umbrella policy covers those odd possibilities – such as someone getting injured on your property – so that your financial exposure is minimized. With a good umbrella policy in place, you can know that should someone slip and fall before you get that patch of ice cleared up, you are covered.