The importance of keeping Chicago sidewalks free of snow and ice

With winter in full swing and the Windy City pushing wind chills into the negative double digits, it is an important time to review the responsibilities that all Chicagoans share when it comes to the removal of snow and ice from the city's sidewalks. Every year, countless victims suffer personal injuries on slippery Chicago walkways that are not timely or properly cleared of ice and snow.

Any discussion of sidewalk snow removal in Chicago must first begin with addressing the city's Municipal Code, which dictates that all owners, lessees, or other persons in charge of any property that abuts a public way must remove all snow and ice from the sidewalk in front on that property.

Specifically, this law states that snow must be shoveled from sidewalks within three hours if it accumulates before 4:00 p.m., except on Sundays. Conversely, snow that accumulates after 4:00 p.m., or on a Sunday, must be removed before 10:00 a.m. the following morning. If the snow and ice is so frozen that it cannot be removed without damaging the pavement, the sidewalk must be treated with rock salt, sand, or some other similar substance.

Unfortunately, even with this city ordinance in place, many in Chicago fail to do an adequate job clearing their sidewalks of snow and ice - risking fines and slip and fall accidents in the process. Chicago victims of slip and fall accidents may be able to hold responsible parties liable for their injuries in civil court.

Liability for slip and fall accidents on icy Chicago sidewalks

When it comes to slip and fall accidents due to snowy or icy sidewalks, Illinois courts adhere to the "natural accumulation rule." Essentially, this rule states that property owners typically have no duty to remove the natural accumulation of snow and ice. This generally means property owners cannot be liable for slip and fall accidents if they simply leave the snow and ice on the sidewalk (although owners can incur fines and other penalties from the city for failing to follow the snow removal city ordinance). Under the natural accumulation rule, owners can only be liable if they create an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice by negligently removing or disturbing the snow.

Given that this particular rule of law encourages property owners to do nothing and simply not clear sidewalks of snow and ice, Illinois lawmakers drafted additional laws that state that owners can be held liable for civil damages if the improper snow removal was "willful or wanton." In plain English, an individual acts in a willful or waton manner if the person intentionally or recklessly disregards the safety of others. Interestingly, the Chicago Municipal Code contains a similar "willful or wanton" damages exception for both business and property owners.

Additionally, liability may also exist under Illinois law if a person is contractually obligated to clear snow and ice from sidewalk. For instance, if a commercial property tenant is required under the lease to shovel snow and ice, the failure to comply with the duty may establish liability for any resulting slip and fall accident.

Consequently, those who suffer injuries due to icy Chicago sidewalks can seek damages in various circumstances, including when there is a contractual duty to clear the sidewalks or when the owner engages in deliberate wrongdoing while shoveling - otherwise categorized as "willful or wanton." Since the laws in Chicago can often be confusing for victims, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been injured in a slip and fall accident. A skilled attorney can help explain the complex state and local laws as well as assist in ensuring your rights are protected. Leopold & Associates has extensive experience in dealing with injuries caused during wintery conditions and provides a free consultation to anyone who may be the victim of such an injury.