The arrival of winter can bring a lot of fun weather-related activities: ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding. Unfortunately the winter weather can bring a lot of hassles as well. One of the most common hassles is having to go about your regular day in the snow and ice. The arrival of the winter weather can increase the potential for accidents, slips, and falls while walking or driving. This can mean greater liability for homeowners and other property owners.

What Can Create Liability for a Property Owner?

States may have different laws and regulations for maintaining property in a particular municipality. Generally, accidents or injuries resulting from a slip, fall, or accident will fall under a state’s negligence law, more specifically premises liability. Generally, in Illinois there is no duty for property owners to remove natural accumulation of snow and ice from their property. Illinois negligence law allows for recovery in instances where the property owners create an unnatural accumulation or aggravate an existing “natural accumulation”. For an injured party, this means that slipping on a sidewalk in front of a neighbor’s property that has had a natural accumulation of snow is not enough to have a claim. The injured party must prove that the landowner was negligent, for instance, in allowing a drain to create an ice puddle onto the sidewalk where an injured party fell. It is important in these instances that the owner must have caused the unnatural accumulation and must have been aware (or had constructive notice) of the circumstances. In one case, snow and ice that fell and struck a customer from the roof in a commercial building was enough to create a liability for the property owner. These cases are taken on a case-by-case basis, as the facts surrounding the circumstance will be crucial to determine whether the accumulation was natural.

When moisture from ice and snow is tracked into buildings there is generally no duty for the owner or occupier to remove the accumulation. But commercial property owners have a duty to provide for safe egress and ingress on the premises that is not overcome by the natural accumulation of snow and ice. In one case, a business was held liable when a person was injured walking from the garage to the building under icy conditions.

Landowners may be liable for natural accumulations of snow and ice if there is an underlying dangerous condition on the premises. In one case, the court found that the property owner was liable for a fall on the stairs due to the poor lighting even though the there was a natural accumulation left from the snow.

Owners should take care that even when they voluntarily decide to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice to do so in a manner that is not negligent, or they risk creating a liability.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured on property with snow and ice, please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.