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Understanding Changes to New Jersey’s Ongoing-Storm Rule

It’s no secret New Jersey winters are tough. Freezing temperatures and serious snow and ice storms make travel, whether on foot or by car, unsafe. What’s worse, is many commercial property owners fail to salt their walks or plow their parking lots. This leaves visitors at risk of dangerous slips and falls. A recent case heard by the New Jersey Appellate Court may lead to changes to New Jersey's Ongoing-Storm rule making being out and about in winter safer for New Jersey citizens. I’ll tell you more about it below, as well as when you could benefit from working with a Passaic County slip and fall lawyer at Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli if you suffer a slip or fall this winter. 

What is New Jersey's Ongoing-Storm Rule?

In New Jersey, for better or for worse, we have long had what is referred to as the ongoing-storm rule. Under this rule, commercial landowners have no responsibility to keep the areas around their businesses free of snow or ice during a storm (aka, while precipitation is falling). 

As you can imagine, this often leads to incredibly dangerous conditions for people entering and exiting businesses. While commercial landowners are required to remove snow and ice after a storm has stopped, the issue here is that slips, falls, and major accidents can also happen during a storm. And until recently, if someone did slip or fall, under the ongoing-storm rule, the property owner wouldn't be held liable.

How Pareja v. Princeton International Properties Challenged the Rule

The recent case that called New Jersey's ongoing-storm rule into question was Pareja v. Princeton International Properties, et. al. In this case, the plaintiff slipped and fell on her employer’s concrete driveway during a snowstorm, and sustained injuries. 

When the case went to trial court, the plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed, with the judge supporting their decision with the ongoing-storm rule. However, the case was appealed and went to the Appellate Division. The court then ruled the ongoing-storm rule doesn't apply in New Jersey and is in fact not a valid law.  

Landowners Face Increased Responsibilities

With the new decision handed down from the Appellate Division, commercial landowners potentially face more responsibility than they did before. Rather than ignoring the conditions of their property during a storm, they must now take reasonable action to make sure the snowy and icy areas around their property are safe for people to walk on. Whereas before they were only required to take action after a storm had completely stopped, now they must take care of issues during snow or icefall if it seems reasonable. 

That said, just because you slip or fall outside a business, the property owner isn't necessarily responsible for your injuries. But if you can prove in court that they did not take reasonable steps to remove the snow or ice that caused your fall, you may have a case. In essence, the new ruling encourages commercial landowners to be more proactive about keeping their property safe during a storm. 

What if I Slip and Fall on Commercial Property This Winter? 

Whether you slip outside your apartment building or fall in an unplowed parking lot, the property owner may be responsible.

Your first step, if you are able to, is to take photos of the accident scene. Your photos should focus on the cause of your injuries.  You should also document the date and time so that weather conditions can be confirmed. After this, you’ll want to get medical care right away. Even if you think your injuries are minor, they may become more serious over time. This information will also be necessary moving forward if you hire a NJ slip and fall lawyer for your case. They will use this evidence to help you recover compensation for any medical bills, missed work days, or other expenses you incurred after your accident.

If your injuries are serious, a lawyer may be able to help. At Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli, our number one priority is to make sure our clients get the compensation they need to fully recover from their injuries. We'll always treat you like family and do everything within our power to ensure you're fully compensated for your recovery.

If you're suffering from injuries after a slip or fall, get in touch for a free consultation at (973) 785-9522.

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Robert J. Bavagnoli is a Passaic County attorney specializing in personal injury and real estate law. He founded Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli in 1995 where he practiced for many years alongside his brother, Ronald C. Bavagnoli (now deceased). For over 28 years, he has proudly served Northern New Jersey including Passaic County, Bergen County, and Essex County, among others, recovering millions in damages for his clients.

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Highest praise for the professionalism and ease of working with Robert Bavagnoli and his team! I used his services for the sale and closing of a home. He acted quickly, made the process easy and covered all the bases so I didn't have to be concerned about anything. This gentleman is a pleasure to do business with and who I want in an attorney!

- Lynda R.

Great firm for personal injury plaintiffs. The welfare of the client always comes first.

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Thorough, friendly, upbeat and very professional. They kept me informed of every decision they made.  They made me feel like I’m part of their family. I would highly recommend Robert Bavagnoli to anyone that needs the assistance.

- Earl C.

I was involved in an accident and didn't know what to do.  I decided to call Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli. They welcomed me to their firm. They were so polite and as I spoke with them and saw how friendly and polite they were it lifted me up and put my mind at ease. I wasn't scared anymore and it was an excellent experience from beginning to end.

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For me the experience with Bavagnoli and Bavagnoli was wonderful!  My lawyer handled my case and it went excellent, even better than I imagined.

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