The average high temperature in Edwardsville in January is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The average low is 24 degrees Fahrenheit. (Weatherspark). In other words, it’s cold, and it snows. Slippery snow and ice are a constant problem.
What happens if you slip on the ice in Illinois? Can you sue?
These days, that’s a complex question. Our personal injury lawyers explain.
Can You Sue for an Injury After Slipping on Ice?
Often, the answer is yes.
In Illinois, being able to sue for an injury after slipping on the ice depends on why the ice was there in the first place. Property owners can be liable when an icy condition causes an injury on their property. However, there is some immunity for ice and snow removal efforts unless clear wrongdoing or willful or wanton misconduct occurs on the part of the property owner.
The Law in Illinois Regarding Lawsuits for Slipping on the Ice
Perhaps the best way to understand the current state of Illinois law for ice slip and fall claims is to trace its history. The Illinois natural accumulation rule was the standard for a long time. It said that landowners were not responsible for natural accumulations of snow and ice. (Ziencina v. County of Cook, 188 Ill.2d 1, 10-11 (1995).
For there to be legal liability, the defendant must have aggravated the natural condition or allowed the ice to accumulate in a way that was unnatural. (Branson v. R&L Investment, Inc., 196 Ill. App. 3d 1088, 1091 (1990).
In other words, the property owner could just leave snow and ice to accumulate on their property without liability. If they undertook ice remove efforts, they could be liable if those efforts were negligent. Snow piles were considered unnatural. (Erasmus v. Chicago Housing Authority, 86 Ill. App. 3d 142, 145 (1980)).
The problem with this legal standard was that property owners had less exposure to legal liability by leaving ice as it naturally occurred on the property as opposed to cleaning it up.
Lawmakers changed the legal standards with the Snow and Ice Removal Act (745 ILCS 75/1). Under the law, the property owner may attempt to remove snow and ice without injury liability. There is only legal liability for willful or wanton actions or clear wrongdoing.
There were various court opinions interpreting the new law in somewhat diverging ways, before the Supreme Court of Illinois decided Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., 120394 (Ill. 2016). The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff victim, saying that her complaint did not allege negligence relating to snow or ice removal.
The court clarified that ice could accumulate in an unnatural way through a defendant’s use of the property, and there is liability where the property owner has constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.
The Snow and Ice Removal Act is not blanket immunity to all property owner legal liability for ice-related slip and fall injuries. Dangerous conditions that are unrelated to negligent snow and ice removal efforts may still be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit.
Suing for Slipping on Ice
In Illinois, you may be able to sue if you slip on the ice – it depends on why the dangerous condition was there and the actions of the property owner leading up to the injury.