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Snow removal and Illinois landowners

While the weather may have been slightly warmer of late, Chicago-area landowners must bear in mind that they have ongoing obligations to promptly clear their driveways, parking lots and sidewalks of snow and ice. Failing to do so creates a hazardous condition, as members of the public can easily slip and hurt themselves on icy pavements.

When a person slips and falls because an owner or occupier of land failed to promptly remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or other paved area, the injured party may have a lawsuit against that property owner. Owners and others living in private homes and apartments, however, have some protection under Illinois law from getting sued for failure to remove ice and snow from around their home or apartment.

Because the State of Illinois wants people who own homes or other dwellings at least to try to clear their sidewalks, the law provides that a person will not be held accountable if he or she makes an honest effort at removing snow and ice but just misses a spot or two which someone happens to slip on. In order to get this protection, the landowner has to remove, or try to remove, the snow and ice from the sidewalk.

There are some important limits to this legal protection, however. For one, the law does nothing to protect an owner from what the law calls "willful or wanton" misconduct, meaning basically the owner has to act in good faith when clearing the sidewalks. More importantly, the protection of this law applies only to "sidewalks" alongside "residential property."

Businesses still have to clear their sidewalks well enough so people do not slip, and all property owners still have to keep their guests from slipping on patios, driveways and other areas where people may reasonably be expected to walk. Failing in this obligation could mean an injured guest has the right to seek compensation from the negligent landowner.

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