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On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. Given that winter ends on March 20th, that seems like a pretty accurate prognostication, especially in light of our recent snowfall. If you don’t use a snow blower for snow removal, HKQ Law wants to offer you some tips for safe shoveling.

But before you get started, make sure you’re healthy enough to shovel snow. (If you’re not, ask for help, or hire someone.) A shovelful of wet snow can weigh as much as 25 pounds. So you could be moving hundreds of pounds of snow. A study found that between 1990 and 2006, 1,600 people died of heart attacks related to snow removal. The cold raises the risk of heart attack and other injuries because it constricts blood vessels. Know the signs of a heart attack.

  • If possible, stay ahead of the snow. Clear the snow when it accumulates a few inches. It makes for easier shoveling.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before shoveling.
  • Stretch before you start. That will help prevent injury and fatigue.
  • Dress in breathable layers. Stay warm, and beware of hypothermia.
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots that provide good grip.
  • Use an ergonomically-designed shovel. When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. That increases your leverage and reduce the strain on your body. A plastic shovel blade will generally be lighter than a metal one, putting less strain on your spine. A smaller blade is better than a larger blade, as it can help avoid the risk of trying to pick up too much snow.
  • Push, don’t lift. By pushing the snow to the side rather than trying to lift it, you place less stress on your body.
  • If you must lift the snow, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it.
  • When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to the traffic.
  • Take frequent breaks and staying hydrated by drinking water.
  • If you experience any pain while shoveling, STOP IMMEDIATELY. Keep your cell phone with you so you can make a call in event of an emergency.

Legal responsibility for slippery sidewalks

In Pennsylvania, an abutting property owner in primarily responsible for the removal of ice and snow on the sidewalk. (If you are a renter, check your lease to determine if it indicates that you are responsible for snow removal.)

It is not required that the sidewalk be free from snow and ice at all times. That “would require the impossible in view of the climatic conditions.” The property owner is given a reasonable amount to time to clear the sidewalk. (Check to see if your city or municipality has any ordinances covering specific snow removal requirements.)

Under Pennsylvania’s Hills and Ridges Doctrine, to recover compensation after a fall on snow or an ice-covered sidewalk, a plaintiff must show three things:

(1) the ice and snow accumulated in ridges or elevations that unreasonably obstructed travel and constituted a danger to pedestrians,

(2) the property owner knew through constructive or actual notice of the existence of the condition, and

(3) it was this dangerous accumulation of ice and snow that caused the plaintiff’s fall.

The Hills and Ridges Doctrine only applies to natural accumulations of snow and ice and there are certain exceptions to its application.

For instance, proof of hills and ridges is not required when a hazardous condition results from a localized patch of ice rather than generally slippery conditions prevailing in the community. Proof of hills and ridges is also not required where the icy condition results from a property owner's neglect, such as allowing water from a leaking gutter or pipe to freeze on a walkway.

Should you experience a fall, take photographs if possible to document the evidence. If you’ve suffered a serious injury as a result of a fall, call HKQ Law to discuss your case.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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