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Expert issues warning around clearing snow from pavements and paths

Expert issues warning around clearing snow from pavements and paths

A legal expert has shared an important warning about clearing snow - saying there's a right way to do it

A legal expert has issued a warning about clearing snow from pavements and paths, as the UK is hit with snow and plummeting temperatures.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for snow and ice in several parts of the country, advising that people might be facing travel delays, power cuts and a chance of injuries from slips and falls.

The UK is currently in the grip of a ‘cold plunge of Arctic air’ that has moved in from the north, the weather service explained, adding: “A number of National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued for potentially disruptive snow and ice over the coming days.”

Many people have already been taking measures to keep themselves safe, including clearing snow and ice from outside their homes to avoid any nasty tumbles.

But you may have heard speculation that doing this isn’t actually a very good idea, thanks to rumours that it could land you in legal trouble.

Is it a good idea to clear snow from your driveway?

Neil Sugarman, President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), has warned that it is possible to be sued, but only really if you’re not careful.

Speaking about the matter a few years back, he explained: "There is a myth that if you clear a path or driveway of snow and someone then falls and is injured, that you could be sued for compensation, when you were only trying to help.

"In reality, you would have to do something negligent and make a situation dangerous for the chance of you being sued to even become a possibility.”

Sugarman said you simply need ‘care and common sense’ when clearing a space from snow or ice, as there is a wrong way to do it.

"An example would be pouring warm water on a path to melt the snow which then refreezes to create a sheet of ice,” he said.

“If someone was injured, they would have to find the proof that you have been negligent. In any event, it’s certainly foolish and could cause unnecessary harm to someone.”

The expert added: "It is a real shame that community spirit or acts of kindness could be hampered by what seems to be a baseless rumour which has got out of hand."

Snow falls at Hunt Cross station, Liverpool.

Sugarman said the myth about clearing snow is ‘the tip of the iceberg’, going on to add: “There are many assumptions and misunderstandings about injury compensation which we’d like to dispel, such as that off-duty doctors shouldn’t give medical care in case anything goes wrong and they are sued.

“The truth is that most doctors are fully aware of the law and understand that only proven negligence can result in a successful personal injury claim.

"Grab a shovel and help each other this winter, but don’t forget your common sense."

The official government website also echoes this idea, saying you’re ‘unlikely’ to be sued or held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement you’ve cleared, but that you should do so ‘carefully’.

It advises that, when you clear snow or ice, you should:

  • Do it early in the day - it’s easier to move fresh, loose snow
  • Don’t use water - it might refreeze and turn to black ice
  • Use salt if possible - it will melt the ice or snow and stop it from refreezing overnight (but don’t use the salt from salting bins as this is used to keep roads clear)
  • You can use ash and sand if you don’t have enough salt - it will provide grip underfoot
  • Pay extra attention when clearing steps and steep pathways - using more salt may help

The Met Office also goes one step further, saying it could be worth checking in on others to see if they need a hand, too.

"If your neighbour will have difficulty getting in and out of their home, offer to clear snow and ice around their property as well," its website says.

"Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are alright in the cold weather.

"If you're worried about them, try contacting their relatives or friends, or if necessary the local council."

Featured Image Credit: Westend61/lucentius/Getty Images

Topics: Weather, UK News