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Court clarifies liability for slip-and-fall accidents

No matter how delightful it may be within the warmly heated homes and businesses of Chicago, Illinois, the weather outside is about to get frightful, for winter is coming and bringing with it lots of snow. For property owners, that raises premises liability considerations, since employees, customers and passersby might slip and fall on ice and snow and then sue the owner of the property that it happened on for a fortune.

Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court clarified a state law from 1979 that protects property owners from some of the slip-and-fall lawsuits that they may face. The law, the Snow and Ice Removal Act, protects property owners when someone suffers injuries on their property and attributes those injuries to the property owner's insufficient efforts to shovel away snow. The law only applies when the ice and snow involved is there because of natural conditions.

However, the Illinois Supreme Court said property owners can still be held legally and financially liable for slip-and-fall accidents that occur on their property in cases when those accidents can be tracked back to the property owner's negligence in maintaining their property. For property owners that means that they should carefully maintain their property and do everything they can to make it as safe as possible. They should also keep records of what they do because at some point they may need those records as evidence that they did everything that they could.

For those who suffer injuries on a property, this means that blaming the accident on ice and snow, or even on the property owner's failure to remove that ice and snow, may not be enough to win the case. Instead, they may need to detail the property owner's negligence in maintaining the property and how that negligence directly led to an unsafe accumulation of ice and snow and thus to the accident. Accomplishing that will take careful consultation with an experienced attorney.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois Supreme Court clarifies snow-shoveling law's protections for property owners," accessed Dec. 07, 2017

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