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Every winter here in Northern Illinois brings with it the risk of slipping and falling due to snow and ice. At MacCloskeyKesler & Associates, we always get questions this time of year whether someone’s fall is compensable under Illinois law.  The easy answer is “it depends”.
Many law firms won’t even talk to people who have fallen on snow or ice.  The reason for this is because Illinois juries can apportion the fault between the property owner and the one who fell.  This is called “comparative negligence.”  If the negligence of the person who fell exceeds 50% they are legally entitled to nothing in compensation.  Even under the best of circumstances, juries tend to apportion some fault to the one who fell.  So some law firms won’t take fall down cases at all because of the risk of not being able to obtain a recovery.
So how can someone qualify for a recovery?  Illinois draws a distinction between natural accumulations of snow or ice and unnatural accumulations.  If the Court deems the accumulation to be natural, there is no duty for the property owner to remove it, warn you about it, or really do anything about it.  So without more, there is no requirement to even put salt out to remedy ice accumulations.  In a general sense, then, without a duty on behalf of the property owner there is very little chance of recovery.
If, however, the accumulation is unnatural, then the property owner must do something to warn you about it or take steps to ameliorate the condition.  If they don’t, chances are pretty good you’ll be able to get compensation for your injuries (but see the discussion above about apportionment of fault).
How do we know if an accumulation is unnatural?  Well, generally speaking, unnatural accumulations are those that have been caused by the property owner, or made more dangerous by them.  If an owner has a parking lot, and plows his snow and piles it on top of a hill, the runoff that turns to ice at the bottom of the hill is an unnatural accumulation.  If the owner has gutters and downspouts from their roof and places the downspout on a sidewalk, the ice caused when that runoff freezes on the sidewalk is also unnatural.  These are instances when the ice was caused to be formed by the owner.  Those are the clearest form of unnatural accumulations.  There can be others, of course, but it will depend on the particular facts of the incident.
Winter is a time when we in Northern Illinois must be very careful getting around as snow and ice can be very dangerous and falls can cause serious injuries.  If you have been injured in a fall on ice, give us a call to find out what your rights are.  We have had good success with cases involving falls due to snow and ice.  Call us for a free consultation at 815-965-2000.  MacCloskeyKesler and Associates.  Put our personal experience to work for you.