Shopping Hazard: Icy Parking Lots in Illinois

Web Admin - Thursday, January 16, 2014

By Ken Apicella

With winter back in full force in Chicago, shoppers should take care when walking to from their cars through the parking lots full of ice and snow. In fact, tens of thousands of people every year suffer serious injuries sustained from severe falls, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. The law surrounding such falls is somewhat complex, and who bears the responsibility of paying for the injuries depends on the precise circumstances of the case.

A lawsuit relating to slipping and falling in an icy parking lot would be brought under an area of law known as “premises liability.” Premises liability means that people who own land and allow people onto it have a duty to use reasonable care to ensure that people on their land do not come to harm. However, ice and snow pose something of a special case since Illinois has something known as the “natural accumulation” rule.

The natural accumulation rule states that property owners are not liable for those who slip and fall on the snow, provided they did not alter it in some way. For instance, suppose that it snows 11 inches and a person decides to go shopping. If the store chooses to do nothing about the snowfall and the patron slips, then the store would probably not owe them money, barring some sort of special circumstances. However, if the store plowed their parking lot, and the patron hurt themselves climbing over a mound of snow left by the snow plow, then the store would owe them for the injury. Incidentally, under Illinois law, laying down salt in an effort to prevent ice does not count as altering the snow enough to make a store liable for it.

Stores may also be liable for falls sustained in icy parking lots with “underlying defects.” An underlying defect is a problem with the premises that may exacerbate the issues of ice or snow. Improper lighting is a common type of underlying defect. If a store fails to light its parking lot well enough and a person suffers a fall in the treacherous, icy conditions because they could not see well, then they could have a case against the store.

Furthermore, parties who have agreed to remove snow may also potentially be liable for a shopper’s injuries in a fall. If the company that owns a mall promises the stores in the mall that it will clear the snow, and then fails to do so, the mall could be liable to a shopper who slips. This could even be true if the shopper falls in a natural accumulation of snow

Were you recently injured by slipping and falling in an icy parking lot? If so, contact a Rolling Meadows personal injury attorney today. We serve many areas in the northwest suburbs including Barrington, Buffalo Grove, and Schaumburg.

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