Every winter, dangerous weather conditions pose a real threat to innocent people in Illinois. One of the most dangerous areas is a parking lot, as ice can easily cover these areas and pose serious fall hazards. Often, this ice is completely invisible to the average person – either due to their vision impairment or the formation of “black ice.” Even a slight stumble can be catastrophic in this scenario – sending you tumbling to the ground. It’s no secret that parking lots are made from asphalt and cement – and this is not exactly a forgiving surface. Hitting the ground in a parking lot can leave you with a fractured hip, a severe head injury, sprained ankles, broken wrists, and many other serious injuries.
Fall injuries can be especially damaging for the elderly population, and falls are some of the leading causes of death among seniors. Regardless of your age, you are probably dealing with the same basic issues after a slip and fall in an icy parking lot: Firstly, you almost certainly have serious medical bills. In addition, your injuries may be preventing you from earning an income – making these bills even more problematic. Finally, your accident and the resulting injuries may have sparked a range of psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and loss of enjoyment of life – especially if your fall has resulted in a permanent disability or a loss of mobility.
But if you slip and fall on ice in a parking lot, who is responsible for your injury? Who can you sue? Is it even worth filing a personal injury lawsuit for a fall accident, and how do you get compensation for your medical bills, missed wages, emotional distress, and other damages? Let’s find out:
Premises Liability in Illinois
When you sue someone in a slip-and-fall case for an injury sustained in an icy parking lot, it is considered a “premise liability” lawsuit. This means that you are suing the person who owns the property for not providing a safe environment. As long as you were not trespassing, property owners are legally required to deal with hazards in a timely manner – and this may include clearing away ice and snow from sidewalks, pathways, driveways, and parking lots.
If the property owners fail to address these hazards, they have a duty of care to members of the public. As soon as they become aware of the dangerous conditions, they must either take steps to eliminate the danger or inform the public of its existence. The most obvious method is to post some kind of sign that warns members of the public about the danger. These signs must be clearly legible and posted in places that the public will actually see. This is why you often see “wet floor” signs in grocery stores after someone mops the floor. Because staff must leave the moisture to dry, the only remaining option is to place a sign in the dangerous area.
Although a property owner can post signs warning of icy parking lots, the most appropriate course of action is simply to clear away the snow as quickly as possible. Alternatively, property owners can prevent snow from ever forming in the first place by salting their parking lots. Either way, they are responsible for dealing with this hazard – and failure to do so can lead to personal injury lawsuits.
Chicago’s Snow Removal Laws
Each municipality in Illinois may have slightly different regulations when it comes to snow removal. Chicago’s laws clearly state that property owners and occupants are responsible for keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice. Chicago also allows residents to report property owners and occupants who violate these laws and fail to clear away ice and snow. The city also states that property owners must remove snow “as soon as possible” after it falls.
If snow falls between the hours of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM, it must be removed by 10:00 PM that night. If snow falls during the night (between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM), it must be removed by 10:00 AM that morning. These laws are enforced seven days per week, and property owners are still responsible for clearing away snow on weekends. While these laws specifically pertain to sidewalks, they may also include parking lots.
Challenges Associated With Icy Parking Lot Lawsuits in Illinois
In Illinois, property owners enjoy some degree of legal protection against personal injury lawsuits caused by ice or snow accumulation. The law specifically states that property owners cannot be sued for injuries caused by a “natural accumulation” of ice. This means that while they may face legal penalties for not shoveling snow quickly enough, injured plaintiffs may not have an opportunity to sue them.
That being said, there are some situations in which ice accumulation on a sidewalk is not natural. For example, a property owner might create giant piles of snow in awkward places within the sidewalk. The drainage system of a property may create an excessive amount of ice in a particularly dangerous location – such as by an entrance. In these situations, the plaintiff could potentially sue and receive compensation because the snow or ice did not accumulate naturally. To determine your chances of receiving compensation, you will need to contact a qualified attorney and explain your unique situation.
What Should Victims Do – And How Do They Get Compensation?
Victims who slip and fall due to icy parking lots in Illinois should immediately get medical assistance. Prioritizing your health is always the right call. If you find yourself immobilized or severely injured by a slip and fall in an icy parking lot, you should dial 9-1-1 immediately. Accept medical treatment – even if you believe your injuries are minor. The only way to accurately assess your injuries is to see a medical professional. Your injuries may get worse with time, and the adrenaline or shock of the initial injury may be numbing your pain response.
It is important to get medical treatment because you cannot prove the legitimacy of your injuries otherwise. Medical records are very useful when you pursue compensation, and they can help you get the funding you need to cover your damages. Without these medical records, insurance companies and defendants may claim that you were never really injured or that your injuries were caused by another accident. Do not worry too much about paying for your expenses, as a personal injury lawsuit should provide you with the necessary compensation to cover any outstanding medical bills.
After you have received medical treatment, you should get in touch with a qualified, experienced attorney to learn more about personal injury claims. Personal injury lawyers can assess your situation and determine whether you can sue. One of the first things your attorney will do is determine whether your injury was caused by a natural accumulation of ice. Once they’ve confirmed that you can sue for your injuries, it is time to determine who you can sue. There may be many options, including:
- Property Owners
- Business Owners
- Government Agencies
You will need a slightly different strategy when suing each of these entities. For example, a government agency is certainly capable of paying out a settlement for an icy parking lot slip and fall. For example, you might have slipped in the parking lot of a DMV location in Chicago. If this is the case, you may face different time limits compared to suing a business owner. Another consideration is whether or not the property owner actually has the funds to pay out a settlement. For example, you might have slipped in front of someone’s home – but they may be uninsured and delinquent on their mortgage. Their property might also be underwater. If this is the case, it might not be worth it to sue.
Most injury claims are settled out of court. This means that you will receive a settlement that covers your damages rather than having to go through a trial. In exchange, you will agree to drop all further legal action against the plaintiff. Assuming that you receive a fair settlement, this is usually the best option. Trials are stressful, time-consuming, and somewhat unpredictable.
Where Can I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney in Chicago?
If you have been searching for an Illinois personal injury attorney for legal advice, get in touch with the law firm of Palermo Law Group. Over the years, we have helped many injured victims in the Illinois area – and we know full well how dangerous icy parking lots can be. With our help, you can hold negligent parties accountable and recover compensation for your injuries. A personal injury lawsuit can provide you with compensation for your medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and any other damages you might have suffered.
Time is of the essence, so book your consultation at your earliest convenience. While internet research is a positive first step, it cannot provide you with the same level of targeted advice as a real lawyer. During your first consultation, we will assess your unique situation and determine the best course of action. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation at our law office.