Slip and Fall Accidents in Illinois
People often presume that is they slip and fall on someone else's property due to the failure of the owner to remove ice and/or snow that the owner of the property is liable for damages. In Illinois, this is simply not true. There are a number of considerations that go into the evaluation.
Natural Versus Unnatural Accumulations Of Ice Or SnowIn the Midwest we get lots of snow and ice in the winter. In Illinois, the legislature and courts have determined that property owners cannot be held liable for slip and fall accidents that occur on their property no matter what the circumstances. Therefore, a distinction has been established depending on whether the slip which causes the fall was due to a natural accumulation of ice or snow, or an unnatural one. If it was due to a natural accumulation then the property owner will likely not be liable for damages. If the snow and ice accumulated in an annautrual fashion, however, then the property owner may be held liable. An example of an unnatural accumulation could be if a downspout were turned to force water into the path of travel on a sidewalk, and that water froze. That water (now ice) would not have accumulated naturally. So, if someone slipped and fell it would be considered an unnatural accumulation for which there might be a recovery. Another example might be if a snow plow removed snow from a parking lot and heaped it into a mound which thawed during the day, then refroze and formed ice patches. Those ice patches would be considered an unnatural accumulation.
Notice And OpportunityPresuming an injured person could prove that they slipped on an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow there are still hurdles to overcome in order to recover damages. There would need to be proof that the owner or their agent knew or should have known of the hazard and had ample opportunity to remedy it or warn people. For instance, did they have a chance to remove ice before it caused an accident?
Comparative NegligenceThere is also an affirmative defense available in slip and fall scenarios which is referred to comparative negligence. Everyone has a duty to look out for their own safety. If a person slips and falls on someone else's property an evaluation must be done as to whether the injured party contributed to the accident by his or her own negligence. Were they watching where they were going? Were they running? Were their hands full? What kind of shoes were they wearing? If the injured party did something to contribute to the accident a jury award could be reduced in proportion to their level of negligence. If they were found to be more than 50% at fault they would be entitled to no award at all.
DamagesAfter overcoming all of the above hurdles the injured party also has the burden of proving that all of the alleged damages were actually caused by the injuries from the accident. This is typically done through medical providers.