This time of year sidewalks, walkways, roadways, driveways, and pretty much every inch of ground we walk on is covered in snow or ice at different times. While we all do our best to walk carefully, where the proper footwear, and be mindful of our surroundings, we cannot always see black ice, or sometimes, there is simply no safe place to walk. So, what can you do if you slip and fall on ice or snow this winter and are injured as a result, and do you have a legal course of action for compensation as a result of those injuries? There are several factors that play a role in determining whether you “have a case” for a slip and fall on ice or snow. One of the main issues and first questions that must be asked is “where did you fall?” Perhaps more specifically, “who owned the property where you fell?” If you fell on property owned by a city, state, or other municipality, you may be faced with an uphill battle regarding a compensable claim. Under the Illinois Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, the government typically has immunity from lawsuits for injuries that arise out of a condition caused by the weather; including, ice and snow.
If you slipped and fell on a property owned by a business, the law in Illinois is normally governed by the “natural accumulation” rules. Generally, a business does not face responsibility from injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident if the slip and fall was due to the natural accumulation of ice and snow. However, if that business undertakes efforts to remove ice and snow on the property, they must do so without acting with negligence. This essentially means if they opt to remove ice and/or snow from their property, they must not create a dangerous condition by engaging in that removal activity.
Some common instances where a business has created a negligent or dangerous condition by removing ice and snow include improperly located downspouts/drainage systems and removing ice and snow to a dangerous location. In the instance of the downspout, if a business runs their gutter system directly into a parking lot without another drainage system in the parking lot, and after water builds up in the parking lot it re-freezes into large ice sheets, this may be considered an unnatural accumulation. Likewise, if a business plows or shovels snow to one corner of the parking lot, but that corner is located on a steep grade or the highest point of the property causing it to melt and run down into the rest of the parking lot, if that ice refreezes, there again could be an unnatural accumulation.
The bottom line in many of these cases is that they are extremely fact specific matters and frequently require experts who can testify about whether the actions of a business created an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow. For those reasons, it is best to seek an attorney as soon as possible to evaluate whether you have a potentially compensable slip and fall claim. If you believe you may have a claim, please contact the injury attorneys at Urban & Burt, Ltd. for a free consultation.