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Fall on ice in parking lot. Know your rights.

This year’s winter weather predictions for the Midwest are gloomy. According to media weather reports, the Great Lakes Region should expect a especially cold winter combined with above average snowfall. That should make even the seasoned Midwesterner want pack up and move to a sunnier place. For the City of Chicago, this means snow shovel sales are sure to go through the roof.

Despite these predictions, some Chicago residents believe they are better off not shoveling their sidewalks because doing so will open them up to the possibility of getting sued if someone slips on the ice in front of their house. This begs the question; “Am I better protected from liability if I don’t shovel my show?” A review of Illinois law should convince even the most stubborn Chicagoan that this is not the case.

To begin with, property owners in Illinois are generally not liable if someone is injured by falling on a natural accumulation of snow and ice on the sidewalk. But, they can be held liable if someone is injured due to an unnatural accumulation.

What does this mean for the homeowner? You may be surprised to find that Illinois courts have ruled that icy ridges and ruts caused by ordinary vehicle traffic in a business parking lot constitute a natural accumulation of snow and ice. This might not be the case for ice ruts caused by foot traffic. Therefore, you may want to consult with an experienced Chicago injury lawyer when dealing with a specific occurrence.

As for the Chicagoan who doesn’t want to shovel the walk, the Illinois legislature has tried to answer that question. The Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states, “that it is undesirable for any person to be held liable for damages due to his or her efforts in the removal of snow or ice” from sidewalks. However, there are also Illinois court cases which state that this Act doesn’t apply to driveways. Here is yet another reason to consider consulting with an injury lawyer.

In addition to the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act, the City of Chicago has an ordinance that requires residents to shovel the snow in front of their homes or they could get a ticket. In 2010, then Mayor Daley announced the city wouldn’t enforce the ordinance, but he still encouraged property owners to clear their sidewalks.

© Joseph G. Klest, 2011.