Snow and ice removal personal injury cases are just plain difficult. Essentially, you cannot recover for injuries caused by natural accumulations of snow and ice. However, you can usually recover damages caused by unnatural accumulations of snow or ice.
I thought so!
To try to explain this area of the law and the facts that play into it is challenging. The general gist of Illinois court decisions in premises liability cases involving injuries caused by ice or snow has been that if you slip on snow that's just fallen, for example, it's nobody's fault and you cannot recover. On the other hand, if you slip on ice that accumulated due to someone removing snow from a parking lot by pushing it into a big pile next to the entrance and exit of a building that also happened to be on a slant, you might just get to recover. In other words, if some entity puts the snow or ice there or creates a condition that creates a condition that nature didn't create, you can recover.
Clear on that?
If you are, I know you're lying. This just doesn't make much sense unless you examine the facts of each case.
One actual example that I touched on years ago when the case was decided by the Illinois Appellate Court, is Hornacek v. 5th Avenue Property Management et.al., 2011 IL App (1st) 103502 (September 30, 2011) Cook Co., 2d Div. (HARRIS). That case involved a landlord and management company that hired an outside company to remove snow from a parking lot. The snow remover put the snow in a big pile next to the building. This pile then melted and flowed into another area and formed into patches of ice, on which the plaintiff slipped and sustained injuries.
The snow remover created the dangerous condition in this case.
Well, what does this mean for you?
Hornacek illustrates the proposition that if someone removes snow and ice, they must do so in a reasonable manner. Piling up snow next to a building where it can melt and form into ice at a place where people will have to walk is not reasonable under these facts.
However, premises liability and snow and ice cases remain difficult, since the plaintiff must demonstrate the likely source of the defect and prove that he or she was not aware of it. If you walk into a 10-foot concrete pole in the parking lot that is marked with reflective tape and well-lit, it would be tough to say you couldn't see it and weren't aware of it. Likewise, if the ice formed and the snow remover or building manager put up giant barricades and signs warning of the icy conditions, it would be a much different scenario.
The principle that “what is done must be done reasonably” still resonates, as does the maxim that the injured party has to present some evidence about the cause of the defect and refute the assumption that this defect was "open and obvious."
Premises liability cases are difficult to explain, harder to navigate, and definitely not the types of cases people should try to handle on their own.
If you are injured by a premises defect, such as a slip on ice, a step into a hole in a parking lot, or a trip on an uneven walkway, you should always consult an experienced premises liability lawyer immediately, as well as get any medical attention necessary immediately.
And remember to NEVER speak to anyone about this until you have spoken with a lawyer.
Do you have any snow and ice stories you'd like to talk about? Have you ever been hurt in one of the ways mentioned? Contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen would be glad to discuss the relative pros and cons of your potential case or just use it to further explain the law as it applies.
Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.