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Understanding Illinois premises liability during the winter months

The winter is upon us and that means that there’s plenty of snow and ice located on many types of surfaces including roadways, driveways and sidewalks. Unfortunately, slip-and-fall injuries go in tandem with these types of conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 1 million people every year in the U.S. sustain some type of fall. Many of these falls occur on premises and, unfortunately, are often times avoidable.

Duty of property owners in Illinois

In certain cases, property owners, or those in control of a property, who fail to correct dangerous conditions that harm people can be liable for injuries. This is known as the theory of premises liability. Common types of premises liability injuries in Illinois include those sustained from hazardous materials, tripping over uneven surfaces, and slip and falls.

When it comes to public sidewalks, or walkways open to the public, premises owners also have a duty to maintain those areas that are under their control to make sure they are not dangerous or have the potential to cause injury. In the winter months, these walkways are often covered with snow or ice. And many falls occur as a result of a failure to remove ice or snow on these walkways that aren’t maintained. However, it’s important to understand the duty of a property owner in cases involving individuals injured as a result of slipping on ice or snow in Illinois.

Premises liability for snow and ice walkways in Illinois

Typically, under Illinois law, if a person falls on ice or snow that is the result of a “natural accumulation” the property owner is generally not liable for the injury. Recently fallen snow that wasn’t shoveled or ice that recently formed on a sidewalk that wasn’t salted are a couple of examples of “natural accumulations.”

However, the court’s interpretation of a “natural accumulation” isn’t cut and dry and the law surrounding this issue is complex. Each circumstance is different, and a case-by-case evaluation is needed.

Even if there was a recent snowfall or ice formation, many factors should be evaluated that could hinge on liability. An improperly placed or maintained water drainage spout that causes water to accumulate and become hazardous, for instance, is one such example where liability could potentially be determined.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury from fall on snow or ice, consulting with an experienced attorney who understands the law in intricate detail is advised. A premises liability lawyer can offer advice and a course of action as it pertains to your specific circumstances.