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IL injury lawyerIllinois winters can be intense. Snow and ice can make something as simple as going to the grocery store or visiting a neighbor a treacherous journey. Slipping and falling on ice can lead to severe injuries – especially if the fall victim is elderly or has health concerns. Traumatic brain injuries, back and spine injuries, broken bones, and other debilitating injuries can result from falling on ice or snow. If you or a loved one were injured in a slip and fall accident involving icy or snowy conditions, you may wonder if the property owner is liable for the accident. In Illinois, the answer to this question is more complicated than you may suspect.

When is a Homeowner or Business Legally Responsible for An Injury Caused by Ice?

Clearing walkways and sidewalks of snow and ice is an important part of being a homeowner or business owner. You may be surprised to learn, however, that snow and ice removal is not mandated by Illinois state law. Although some local jurisdictions may require homeowners to clear sidewalks, steps, and walkways of snow and ice, there are no laws requiring property owners to remove snow and ice. In fact, state law specifically protects property owners from liability for ice or snow-related injuries. According to the Snow and Ice Removal Act, a property owner or property occupier is not liable for personal injuries caused by icy properties. However, there are important exceptions to this law. If the owner or occupier acted in a way that was intentionally malicious or especially reckless, he or she may be liable for ice-related injuries. If the injury occurred on a rental property or at an apartment complex and the landlord has specified in the lease that he or she will be responsible for ice and snow removal, the landlord may be liable if injuries result from his or her failure to remove snow and ice.

Unnatural Accumulations of Snow and Ice

Illinois law makes a distinction between natural accumulations of ice and snow and unnatural accumulations. Property owners may avoid liability for injuries caused by snow or ice that accumulated as a result of the weather. However, property owners may be liable for snow and ice injuries if their actions caused the snowy or icy condition. For example, if a business shoveled a parking lot and left a pile of snow near the business’s entrance and the snowmelt froze into ice, the business may be liable if someone is injured by slipping on the ice.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_winter-shoveling-work-injury-snow-ice.jpgThere is no doubt about it: Illinois winters can be harsh. Snow and ice accumulation can make something as simple as going to the grocery store or walking through a parking lot a treacherous excursion. Icy walkways, sidewalks, and parking lots are especially dangerous because of the potential they have to cause slip and fall injuries. Slipping on ice and falling can cause broken bones, serious back injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries. If you or a loved one have slipped on ice and fallen on a commercial property, you may be wondering whether or not you can sue the property owner for damages. Illinois personal injury cases involving snow or ice-related injuries are especially tricky due to a special law regarding snow and ice accumulation.

Natural vs. Unnatural Accumulation of Snow and Ice

Unlike other types of property maintenance, most property owners are not obligated to remove “natural accumulations” of ice, snow, or melt water. One exception to this rule is if a lease or contract obligates a property owner to remove natural accumulations. This means that a property owner is typically not liable for injuries caused by the accumulation of snow or ice caused by the weather. However, if an individual slips and falls on an “unnatural accumulation” of ice or snow, the property owner may be liable.

Consider the following scenario: In order to clear his parking lot of snow, a business owner arranges for the snow to be plowed and piled in the corner of the parking lot. As the weather changes over the next few days, the snow from the pile melts and refreezes creating a very icy patch near the entrance to the business. A patron entering the business slips on the ice and suffers a major head injury. In this situation, the property owner may be liable for the patron’s injury because the icy patch on which the patron slipped was an unnatural accumulation of ice caused by the property owner’s actions. Differentiating between natural and unnatural ice accumulation can be extremely challenging and will require guidance from an experienced attorney.

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