Slip And Fall On Ice? Here’s What You Can Do
Winters in Chicagoland can be brutal, as anyone who has stood on a train platform in subzero windchills can tell you. Of course, cold temperatures and howling winds aren’t the only elements that can make life difficult – and downright dangerous – in wintertime.
Snow and ice are part of the deal as well. And walking in and on snowy or frozen sidewalks, stairs, parking lots, at work, or elsewhere is often treacherous. When someone slips and falls on accumulations of ice and snow, it can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death.
Many wintertime slip and fall accidents happen because negligent property owners or others allow hazardous and unnatural snow or ice accumulations to persist on their land. In such circumstances, a person injured by such conditions may be able to seek compensation from the property owner for their losses.
However, not every slip and fall on unshoveled snow or unmelted ice means that a property owner can be held liable for any injuries that occur. Illinois makes a distinction between “natural” accumulations of ice and snow and “unnatural” ones. Injuries suffered due to the latter can be the basis of a personal injury claim. Those that happen because of the former usually cannot.
Property Owners Have No Duty To Shovel Snow Or Remove Ice
While failing to shovel snow or clear ice on your property and sidewalk may make you a bad neighbor, it does not violate Illinois law or open the homeowner up to liability for injuries.
Illinois residential landowners do not have a duty to remove “natural accumulations” of snow and ice from their land. Natural accumulations include unshoveled snow and unsalted ice, as well as ice that forms after the snow is tamped down because of pedestrians or vehicle traffic.
“Unnatural Accumulations” Can Be The Basis For A Slip and Fall Lawsuit
While a property owner won’t be held liable for what nature deposits on their property, accumulations that result from their actions or because of certain conditions on their land can be the basis for a slip and fall lawsuit.
Illinois property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to prevent or remediate “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice on their property and abutting areas, including sidewalks.
The Illinois Supreme Court has held that liability may arise where snow or ice “accumulated by artificial causes or in an unnatural way” or if the property owner’s own use of the area created a condition that “has been there long enough to charge the responsible party with notice and knowledge of the dangerous condition.”
A typical example of unnatural accumulation is poorly designed gutters and downspouts that dump water onto sidewalks, stairs, or other areas where pedestrians can reasonably be expected.
But a landowner can also be liable for slip and fall injuries when “they voluntarily undertake the task of removing a natural accumulation of snow and ice and do so negligently, creating an unnatural accumulation on his property.”
An example of such negligence would be an owner who negligently piled snow in an area where alternate thawing and freezing caused it to drain onto a sidewalk or parking lot and freeze.
Exception For Residential Sidewalks
In the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act, the state legislature declared that homeowners should be “encouraged to clean the sidewalks abutting their residences of snow and ice.”
But if a homeowner thought that their negligent shoveling and de-icing could lead to an unnatural accumulation that could expose them to thousands of dollars in liability if someone slips, they may be inclined to just let things be.
As such, the law provides that any residential property owner or their agent “who removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.”
Injured in a Winter Slip and Fall? Lake County Injury Attorney Kirk Moyer Can Help. Call Him Today For Your Free Consultation
Slips and falls on ice and snow are no laughing matter. Neither are the injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages that follow such an accident. But holding a property owner responsible for a wintertime slip and fall accident can be a challenge.
That is why it is critical that you meet with an experienced slip and fall attorney who understands the nuanced personal injury laws that govern these cases and knows how to get you the maximum compensation available for your injuries.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, please give Lake County slip and fall lawyer, Kirk Moyer, a call at 1-847-244-3444 to arrange for your FREE initial consultation.