As everyone in Chicago knows, wintertime can be bitterly cold. As the temperature plummets, more often than not, the weather forecast includes snow and ice… and more snow. Around this time of year, we get a lot of questions about who is responsible for a slip and fall on ice and snow.
You might be surprised to find out when exactly your fall on an icy sidewalk or in snowy parking lots may or may not make a successful lawsuit. Read more to get answers to your questions about a slip and fall accident on snow and ice.
- Can I sue if I fall on ice or snow in Chicago?
- Can you sue because someone didn’t shovel their sidewalk?
- Can you sue because you slipped on snow and rain tracked into a store?
- When can I sue if I have slipped on snow and ice?
- What are the exceptions to the natural accumulation rule in Chicago?
- Do I have a case if I fell because of the negligence of a snow removal company?
- How do I find out if I have a case from falling on snow or ice in Chicago?
- What is my snow and ice slip and fall case worth?
Can I sue if I fall on ice or snow in Chicago?
Many people are often confused about what makes a snow and ice fall compensable. To the surprise of many, merely falling on snow and ice in front of a store or house is not enough to warrant an injury claim.
In order to have a case, the snow or ice that caused someone to slip and fall must be an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice. Put another way, falling on snow or ice that formed without the aid or intervention of man is insufficient to establish a claim under Illinois law. See Graham v. City of Chicago, 346 Ill. 638, 641 (1931).
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Can you sue because someone didn’t shovel their sidewalk?
To answer this question, we must first look at the natural accumulation rule. So what is a natural accumulation?
A natural accumulation is snow, rain, or ice that formed naturally because of the weather. For example, snow that accumulates on a sidewalk that has not been shoveled is a natural accumulation. Many potential clients emphasize that the property owner of the house or store failed to shovel. Unfortunately, failing to shovel is not enough to show liability if someone then has a slip and falls on the snow.
Simply put: there is not an established duty in Illinois to shovel the public sidewalk or walkway in front of one’s home or business. This is the case even if there is a municipal or city code requiring property owners to shovel snow on their land. See Thompson v. Tormike, Inc., 127 Ill.App.3d 674, 469 N.E.2d 453 (1st Dist. 1984). There is no duty of a property owner to remove natural accumulations of snow, ice or water. Id.
Can you sue because you slipped on snow and rain tracked into a store?
An important extension of the natural accumulation rule must also be noted: water or snow that is tracked into a store on customers’ shoes is considered a natural accumulation and is not compensable. See Swartz v. Sears Roebuck Co.¸264 Ill. App. 3d 254, 265 (1st Dist. 1993).
The most common example of this is when the entrance and exits of stores become saturated with water and snow from heavy foot traffic. Therefore, this means that a person who slips and falls in a grocery store entrance due to tracked-in rain likely does not have a compensable claim. Id.
When can I sue if I have slipped on snow and ice?
To determine if you have a case, you’ll need to understand if you slipped and fell because of unnatural accumulation of snow or ice. So what exactly is an unnatural accumulation?
An unnatural accumulation is one that is created in some part by the property owner’s negligence. For example, if a drainpipe runs from a property owner’s roof and drains near a sidewalk, path, or other walkway, and that runoff freezes into an ice sheet – then it is unnatural accumulation.
As this example illustrates, the owner of the property or someone working for them needs to take some action that helps create the dangerous snow or ice condition that causes your injury. There must be some interference or direction from the property owner which created the condition which caused you to fall.
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What are the exceptions to the natural accumulation rule in Chicago?
While a clearly unnatural accumulation is the gold standard for snow and ice fall cases, there are several exceptions to the rule. First, if a property owner takes steps to mitigate the dangers of a natural accumulation, but does so negligently, he or she may be held liable.
Example of Property Owners Negligence
For example, if a property owner shovels snow into large piles in such a way that when the snow melts, the water pools and freezes on clearly delineated walkways, there is an argument that the owner negligently created a dangerous condition for those lawfully on the property.
Example of Negligence by a Business
Similarly, many businesses place large mats or rugs on the floors of entrances during storms to absorb some of the tracked in water. If these mats become slippery unto themselves, there is an argument that the store created a dangerous condition in attempting to address the natural accumulation and may be found negligent.
Do I have a case if I fell because of the negligence of a snow removal company?
A recent clarification in Illinois jurisprudence has opened-up snow and ice removal companies to liability regarding natural accumulations that they fail to remove. See Schoondyke v. Heil, Heil, Smart & Golee, Inc., 89 Ill.App.3d 640 (1st.Dist. 1980).
Example of Negligence by a Company’s Failure to Remove Snow
Let us say that it snows three inches in Chicago and a pedestrian visiting a condominium falls on this naturally accumulated snow in the parking lot. While that pedestrian would not have a claim against the condominium due to the natural accumulation rule, they may have a claim against the snow removal company if the contract was violated.
Many snow and ice removal contracts state that the company will only remove the snow or ice if it is more than one inch. Now, in our example, if there were three inches of accumulation, but the snow and ice company failed to come out and remove the three inch accumulation, they may have violated the duty established in the contract and may be subject to a lawsuit from the injured party.
How do I find out if I have a case from falling on snow or ice in Chicago?
If you or your loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident on snow and ice, make sure to call experienced slip and fall injury attorneys, The Kryder Law Group, LLC., for your free consultation. We’re ready to discuss your case to determine if unnatural accumulation or an exception to the natural accumulation rule applies.
What is my snow and ice slip and fall case worth?
We can help value your case and discuss with you the factors that will determine the amount you can seek for your slip and fall injuries including:
- The severity of your injuries from the fall on snow or ice
- The cost of your medical care or future medical bills
- How much your injuries have impacted your work and your life
- Who is liable for your injuries
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