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Falling ice from buildings can cause injuries and property damage

Most people know that winter in New York has a unique set of risk factors. Controlling a vehicle after snow fall or a melt and freeze cycle is more difficult. Sidewalks and parking lots, as well as foyers to buildings, become dangerous places where you could slip and fall. There's also the potential threat of falling ice from one of the massive buildings around town.

While many people understand that icy sidewalks are the responsibility of building owners, fewer realize that falling ice is also the responsibility of property owners or managers. After all, those on the streets and sidewalks have no ability to remove the ice from those buildings. When people get hurt by falling ice, there may be grounds for a premises liability claim and a personal injury lawsuit.

Falling ice can hurt people and damage property

Last winter, a 20-year-old man ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A chunk of ice from a nearby building fell, hitting him in the head and injuring him. The ice chunk fell from a ledge well above ground, which was also the source of a similar issue just three years prior. The man in the earlier accident required stitches. The owner of the property faced a lawsuit and was also cited for failure to maintain the property, which carries a $1,000 fine.

In the early days of January this year, a huge piece of ice came off a building in Manhattan, destroying the SUV parked underneath it. Thankfully, no one was in the vehicle at the time of that accident, so the only result was catastrophic property damages. In both of these situations, however, the building owner or manager failed to maintain safe premises, putting the public at risk.

Property owners can take steps to protect the public

Falling ice isn't an inevitability because of tall buildings. There are many ways to avoid the dangers they create for the people of New York. One of the simplest and most cost-effective solution is the use of scaffolding to protect the sidewalks below a building. Erecting scaffolding helps to ensure that any snow or ice falling from the building due to increased accumulation or melting will not directly strike a person or vehicle.

Of course, falling ice can still shatter on the scaffolding, sending shards or bigger pieces toward people nearby and even into traffic. That could cause injuries, damage vehicles or even result in a serious car crash. For some buildings with older designs that allow substantial accumulation, professional removal of snow and ice, changes to the upper facade of the building or other drastic steps may be necessary to remove the risk posed by falling ice and snow.

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