Liability for Slip and Fall on Snow and Ice Accidents in Illinois
The law in Illinois presents special challenges for the victims of fall accidents on snow or ice. Here we set out what the law is and what fact patterns lend themselves to success in cases involving slips and falls on snow and ice in Illinois.
During the winter months, we receive frequent calls and inquiries from people who have slipped and fallen on snow or ice and have suffered serious injuries, some of which have required surgery. Sadly, we are unable to help many of these fall victims because the law in Illinois regarding slipping and falling on snow or ice does not favor the accident victim.
Illinois follows the unnatural accumulation of snow and ice rule to determine liability. For there to be liability for a fall on ice or snow, the ice or snow that caused the fall must be an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow. There is no liability for falls caused by natural accumulations of snow or ice. It is often difficult to tell the difference between a natural and unnatural accumulation of snow or ice, even for attorneys who have handled many cases involving slips and falls on snow and ice in Illinois.
The case law tends to divide natural vs. unnatural accumulation of snow and ice as follows: It is considered a natural accumulation if the snow or ice is the result of natural weather conditions. The law in Illinois actually imposes no liability on property owners at all for not shoveling or salting their walk. In fact snow and ice is still considered a natural accumulation when it was formed by snow being tamped down by people walking or driving on it. Puddles of water inside of buildings caused by pedestrians tracking in snow that later melted is also considered to be a natural accumulation.
There are some exceptions to the natural accumulation of snow and ice rule. One important exception is if there is a provision in a lease for property where the management company or landlord agrees to remove snow and ice.
Our law firm looks for a couple of fact patterns as presenting a strong case for being considered an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow which would result in liability for falling on snow or ice. These include:
• When the property owner causes snow or ice to accumulate in a particular location such as when the property owner piles snow in one location; or
• A characteristic of the property which causes snow or ice to accumulate in a particular location such as a downspout which creates puddles on a sidewalk where it freezes and becomes ice.
A thorough analysis of the facts is required before it can be determined whether there is liability for the fall on snow or ice. Because liability for case such as this is always difficult to establish, we will represent someone in a case involving a fall on snow or ice who has not suffered serious injuries such as herniated discs, fractures, or other injuries which require surgery. Insurance carriers almost always take the position that there is no liability for a fall on snow or ice, which means that a lawsuit will almost always have to be filed. For this reason we always strongly recommend that victims of falls on snow an ice contact an experienced personal injury attorney for assistance and guidance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barry G. Doyle, Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, PC, Chicago, Illinois
Barry Doyle is the founder of the Chicago personal injury law firm of the Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, PC, where he focuses his practice on the prosecution of significant personal injury and wrongful death suits. He is a 1994 cum laude graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and is a past co-chair of the Tort (Personal Injury) Litigation Committee of the Young Lawyers Section the Chicago Bar Association.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.