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Slip and Fall: Snow and Ice (Natural Accumulation vs. Unnatural Accumulation)

Anyone who has ever suffered an injury after a slip and fall on snow or ice in Chicago and sought legal assistance knows that a personal injury claim against a property owner that had not cleared their walkway during a snowy Chicago winter is not as cut and dry and one might think. In fact, in most cases, “slip and falls” on snow or ice in Illinois will not result in damages for the injured party.

It can be incredibly difficult recovering damages from a property owner in these types of cases and that is because in Illinois, there is generally no legal liability on the part of a property owner where a party is caused to fall due to a "natural accumulation" of snow or ice on their property.  In other words, a property owner is not required to prevent the natural accumulation of snow and ice due to natural weather phenomena. Furthermore, the person or business is not required to shovel or salt their walkways or even to break up snow compacted by individuals who walk over it.  There is no requirement to clean up melting snow, ice, or even rain tracked in from customers or individuals from outside as these, too, are considered examples of natural accumulation by Illinois courts.

The "natural accumulation" rule puts the onus squarely on the pedestrian or other individuals on icy or snow-filled areas to tread carefully and guard against conditions when they walk over an accumulation of snow or ice naturally resulting from weather conditions.

Don’t be discouraged!  There are instances where a plaintiff can recover damages for falls due to snow or ice but it is when there is an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice involved. An unnatural accumulation of snow or ice can occur when the property or the property owner causes a build-up that would not have naturally occurred without the intervention of the owner or property's construct.

For instance, many homes have downspouts that lead water away from the home's foundation. If the downspout clearly directs water to a walkway and that water accumulates and creates a puddle that, in turn, freezes and causes a slip, fall and injury, the injured party may be due damages from the property owner.  Another example would include falls caused by snow piles plowed to an area of the property where there is high pedestrian traffic. So, you see, the accumulation must be the result of human intervention or poor design of the physical property that leads to the injury.

Because of the difficulty in proving unnatural accumulations and, therefore, liability in these cases, victims of injuries from slips and falls on snow and ice should consult with experienced personal injury attorneys. Lawyers at Panio Law Offices offer a wealth of experience in negotiating these cases with insurers and litigating damages in Illinois courts. We understand the unique burden of proof involved and are able to identify and enlist the assistance of experts that can help interpret conditions and demonstrate culpability.

Without the assistance of experienced premises liability personal injury attorneys, it can be a tremendous uphill battle.

If you have more questions about slips and falls and personal injury, please don't hesitate to call us: 888.799.7561. We can help.

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