As snow and ice continues to accumulate on the ground, there’s a heightened risk for slip and fall injuries. These accidents can not only be painful, but also quite costly should you find yourself besieged with medical bills.
While it’s important to take every possible precaution to keep your footing, if you do suffer from a slip and fall, the owner of the property where it took place may be liable. The laws on this matter can be complex, but if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, there are certain things to consider with regards to potential liability.
Generally, a property owner is not required by law to remove snow or ice that accumulates due to natural weather events. However, if the property’s conditions cause what Illinois considers "unnatural accumulation," and they fail to provide adequate precautions or fix the issue, they may be liable for slip and fall accidents that occur on their grounds.
Some types of unnatural accumulation include:
- Dripping icicles from a clogged rooftop drain that cause ice patches on the ground.
- Snow plowing that makes an area dangerous to navigate.
- Sloped concrete that can pool water into slick ice patches.
The Snow and Ice Removal Act
In 1979, Illinois passed the Snow and Ice Removal Act, which states:
“Any owner, lessor, occupant or other person in charge of any residential property, or any agent of or other person engaged by any such party, 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.”
This provision essentially protects property owners as long as they attempt snow and ice removal in good faith. However, they can be found liable if negligence occurred—e.g., the attempted removal resulted in unnatural accumulation.
While there are certain guidelines for slip and fall liability, like most personal injury cases, it’s rarely cut-and-dried. With many months of winter ahead, walkways can be slick, and a simple misstep could cause significant personal injury. If you’ve suffered a slip and fall, consulting with an expert legal professional could be in your best interests.