With winter coming, the odds of slipping and falling rise tremendously—and with that so too do the odds of being injured. Injuries from slip and fall accidents vary widely, ranging from a sprained tailbone to severe head trauma. These can all merit compensation, but only if the case meets certain criteria. In particular, Illinois has some specific rules regarding accidents resulting from snow and ice.
Duty of Care
Before looking at those rules, let’s take a look at the duty of property owners. Normally, the owner owes a duty of care to invitees and licensees (i.e. people who are normally permitted on the property). This duty includes taking reasonable measures to remove hazards from the property or warn visitors of the presence of those hazards.
Under the Illinois Premises Liability Act, if the owner was (or should have been) aware of a dangerous situation on the property and failed to take reasonable measures to protect visitors from that hazard, he or she could be held liable for slip and fall accidents resulting from it. This could include spills in a grocery store or wet floors from recent mopping. However, it often doesn’t typically include snow and ice.
Rules on Snow and Ice
In most cases, property owners in Illinois are not held liable for slips and falls from natural accumulations of snow and ice on their property. They are not held responsible for clearing snow and ice from the sidewalks outside the property unless if the accumulation results from wanton or willful action. In addition, they are not liable for snow and water that’s tracked into a building as that does not represent an unnatural accumulation.
This means that if you slip on melted snow tracked into the grocery store, you likely won’t have a personal injury claim against the property owner.
The exception to this rule is unnatural accumulations of snow and ice. This can result from wanton action, such as if the owner of an apartment complex dumped water on the front steps in sub-freezing temperatures, or if a warped gutter regularly drips water onto the sidewalk outside a building. Since these situations result from willful or wanton conduct or from a defect on the property, the owner would be responsible for taking care of the issue. If the owner does not handle the problem, they could be liable for any slips or falls that result.
In addition, if a property owner is contractually obligated to remove snow, they could be held liable if they do not make reasonable attempts to remove accumulations of ice and snow from the property. However, this doesn’t necessarily extend to third party visitors to the property, and if the owner has made attempts to remove snow from the property, they generally cannot be held liable for slip and fall injuries.
Filing a Slip and Fall Claim
If you have fallen and been injured due to snow and ice, you may still have a claim if wanton or willful conduct was involved. Having an attorney evaluate your claim is always a good idea, even if the odds are against you. Hart David Carson, LLP, can evaluate your case with a free consultation, so don’t hesitate to contact us today about your injury.