Snow and Ice

Snow: Pretty in a snowglobe.  Not so pretty when you’re trying to drive somewhere.


Because of Alaska’s unique climate, and all the snow, quite a bit of law has evolved since Statehood regarding who is responsible for clearing the snow, who is responsible for making the streets, sidewalks and parking lots safe to drive and walk on and when that person is liable if someone is injured because of snow or ice.


Snow and ice issues are found in landlord-tenant law, negligence claims against landowners, claims against drivers, claims against the State of Alaska for negligent highway maintenance as well as common in Workers Compensation claims.


A residential landlord is responsible for clearing snow and ice and for making the premises safe for his tenants.  Simply leaving a bucket of ice melt near the sidewalk is not good enough.  If someone slips and falls on his property, a tenant or a tenant’s guest, he will be liable for that person’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


Drivers must be more careful in snowy and icy conditions.  Even if they are driving the speed limit, the speed limit may be too high for the conditions.  Drivers need to slow down and be particularly careful in intersections.  If a driver causes an accident because he is driving too fast for the conditions and loses control of his car, slides into another lane, rear ends someone, he will be liable.


Business owners are responsible for maintaining their parking lots and sidewalks so that it is safe for their patrons to drive and walk on.  The first case in Alaska establishing this rule was a lawsuit against Carr’s.


The City is responsible for snow removal in Anchorage and would be liable if conditions were so bad that no one could drive safely or if the City left a berm which blocked line of sight at an intersection and the City’s actions were unreasonable.


So too is the State responsible for snow and ice removal on the highways.  Juries have held the State accountable when an accident was caused by the conditions regardless of how careful the drivers were.


In Workers Compensation, if you are injured for any reason at work, the Employer’s insurance company is liable for you benefits.  Generally the “coming and going” rule says that if you are hurt on your way to work or on the way home, then you are not entitled to Workers Compensation benefits but if you are required to park in the Employer’s parking lot and must walk in a designated area owned by the Employer to reach your work place and you slip and fall on an accumulation of ice and snow, then you will be entitled to Workers Compensation benefits.


The bottom line is:  if you are hurt because of the conditions, you will need to prove it.  Take pictures as soon as possible. Then contact an attorney.


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To contact Keenan Powell, e-mail: