PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
There is snow everywhere, so what are your responsibilities?
Strictly, as regards anything which happens outside your property (e.g. on the pavement), you have no responsibility – unless you take action to clear the surface, in which case, you could become liable if your action makes the surface unsafe.
For example, if a person falls on a pavement and is injured because it has not been cleared by the Council, they may have a right of action against the Council. However, if you sweep the pavement, with the result that the moisture thaws and then refreezes, making the surface treacherous, you could be considered to be liable if a similar accident happened.
As far as your own property goes, the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 would apply. In general terms, this requires you to ‘take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there’.
However, Section 5 exempts the property owner from ‘any obligation to a visitor in respect of risks willingly accepted as his by the visitor’, which would include the risk of slipping on a surface where there is good reason to think it m ight be slippery (i.e. because it is covered with snow).