Nature or Negligence? Recovering Damages for Winter Injuries

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 09, 2019
Des Plaines personal injury lawyer snow iceThere are many ways you can be injured during the winter months in Illinois: skiing, ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, being hit by ice falling off a roof, being in a car accident during a snowstorm, or simply slipping and falling on an icy walkway. In many cases, these are simply accidents. If you choose to participate in an activity like ice skating or skiing, you accept the risk that you could fall and get hurt. However, if your injury can be attributed to another party’s negligence, you could be entitled to compensation and should consult a personal injury attorney for advice.

Illinois Law on Hazardous Recreational Activities 

Under Illinois law, if you are injured while participating in or watching a “hazardous recreational activity” on public property, you cannot sue a “local public entity nor a public employee” for compensation (745 ILCS 10/3-109). For example, Cook County and DuPage County have numerous parks and forest preserves with hills and trails where you might go sledding, skiing, or even rock climbing in the wintertime. If you are injured while taking part in those types of activities, the park and park employees generally cannot be held liable. 

However, the law does make two exceptions, in which case you may be able to file a claim for damages. The first exception applies if your injury was caused by “an act of willful and wanton conduct” by a public entity or employee. For example, if you were cross-country skiing on a marked trail and were hit by a park employee driving a vehicle along that trail, you could have grounds for a lawsuit.  

The second exception applies if your injury was caused by the failure of a public entity or employee to provide warning about a known dangerous condition that a reasonable person would not anticipate. For example, suppose park employees dumped a pile of rocks on a sledding hill. The park knew that the snow-covered rocks were a hazard that created a substantial risk of injury and that a visitor could easily assume it was just a snow drift. If a sledder was injured by colliding with that rock pile, a court might rule that the park was negligent and should have posted signs or put up fences to warn people that the hill was not safe for sledding. However, if a sledder runs into the trees that line the edge of a sledding hill, the park would likely not be held liable for any resulting injuries, because the trees were readily visible to everyone as a hazard.

When You Can Claim Compensation for Snow/Ice Injuries

In addition to the law described above, there are several other Illinois laws that limit liability for injuries related to snow and ice removal, general maintenance of streets and sidewalks, and participation in hazardous recreational activities. Also, many recreational facilities require customers to sign liability waivers.

However, any injury that can be attributed to someone’s “willful and wanton conduct” can still be grounds for a lawsuit. Willful and wanton conduct is defined as “a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.” 

For example, numerous people have been injured or killed in Chicago by large chunks of ice falling off buildings. Many of these people have received compensation for their injuries from the building owners, who were deemed negligent for failing to warn pedestrians of a known danger. 

Similarly, if you are injured by faulty rental equipment or poorly maintained facilities while ice skating or skiing, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. 

Consult a Schaumburg Personal Injury Attorney 

If you have been injured in a winter accident that can be attributed to someone else’s negligence, see a doctor and then consult a knowledgeable Palatine personal injury lawyer. At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, you will receive the personal attention of a small firm with the comprehensive legal skill and sophistication of a large firm. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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