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What is New Jersey’s storm in progress doctrine?

As a New Jersey resident, you are all too familiar with the havoc Mother Nature can wreak on streets, sidewalks, parking lots and outdoor stairs during the winter. Getting where you need to go when you need to be there often is challenging, if not downright hazardous. Your risk of falling on a slippery sidewalk or sliding on an icy road becomes greater with each snowflake or sleet pellet that hits the ground.

While property owners have the duty to take reasonable care to maintain their premises in a manner safe enough for employees, tenants, invitees and the general public to be there, FindLaw explains that their duty to keep their property free and clear of snow and ice is not absolute. Under New Jersey’s storm in progress doctrine, property owners can wait until the storm is over before starting to remove the accumulated snow and/or ice. Therefore, if you slip and fall or have an auto accident before the property owner is required to clean up his or her property, he or she may not be liable for any injuries or property damage you sustain.

Storm in progress

“Storm in progress” does not include only blizzards. It applies to any kind of inclement weather that persists over a substantial period of time. In addition, the storm does not have to maintain its ferocity the entire time. It can ebb and flow in intensity and can even stop for a while before beginning again. Likewise, it can be composed of different types of precipitation, switching from rain to sleet to wintry mix to snow, etc. What precisely qualifies as a storm in progress is a case-by-case situation, dependent on overall weather conditions and how long a state of inclemency exists.

Reasonable time to clean up

Just as “storm in progress” is never precisely defined, neither is the “reasonable time” property owners have to get the snow and ice off their property. They are perfectly within their rights to wait until the storm completely stops before attempting to start their clean-up.

Storms in progress are times when being an outstanding employee who always comes to work no matter what may not be in your best interests. Any accident you have during a storm in progress is your own responsibility. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.

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