Each winter, our law firm receives dozens of calls and inquiries from people who have slipped and fallen on ice and snow. Many of these people have been seriously injured, some even needing surgery. Unfortunately, we have had to turn away many of these potential clients because the law in Illinois regarding slips and falls on snow and ice is not what you think it would be.
Determining liability after your slip and fall on ice in Illinois
To determine liability for slips and falls on snow and ice, Illinois follows what is known as the unnatural accumulation of snow and ice rule. In order for there to be liability for a fall on ice or snow, the ice or snow that made you fall must be an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow. If it is a natural accumulation of ice or snow, there is no liability. The dividing line between what is considered a natural accumulation of snow and ice and what is considered an unnatural accumulation of snow ice is many times a blurry one, even for experienced Illinois personal injury lawyers who have handled many cases involving slips and falls on snow and ice.
Basically, what it comes down to is this: the snow and ice is considered a natural accumulation if it is the result of natural weather conditions. This means that if the basis of your case is that the snow and/or ice was not shoveled or salted, there is no liability for the property owner. Going a step further, the law still considers ice which has been formed by snow being tamped down by pedestrian or vehicular traffic to be a natural accumulation of snow and ice. It also considers puddles of water inside of buildings resulting from pedestrians tracking in snow that melted to be a natural accumulation of snow.
There are, as you might expect, some quirks and 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.
- There are a couple of fact patterns we look for as being good candidates for being considered an unnatural accumulation of snow and ice which would result in there being liability for falling on ice or snow. These include:A feature or defect in the property which causes ice or snow to accumulate in a particular location. A common example of this would be a downspout which dumps water onto a sidewalk where it freezes and becomes ice.
- Actions on the part of the property owner which cause ice or snow to accumulate in a particular location. An example of this might be where the property owner piles snow in front of a door.
Case involving falls on ice or snow require a thorough analysis of the facts before it can be determined whether there is liability for the fall on ice or snow. We are always happy to discuss any set of facts involving your fall, but we will not take on a case involving a fall on ice or snow without there being significant injuries such as herniated discs or fractures or other injuries which require surgery. We know as experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys that insurance adjusters will almost always take the position that there is no liability for a fall on ice or snow and that suit will almost always have to be filed.