Property Owners' General Duty to Provide for your Safety

Property owners and business operators have a general duty to provide a reasonably safe means for entering and exiting their business. Slip and fall accidents can occur in snowy or wet conditions and it's important to understand the liability issues you and your legal rights.

In scenario one, it’s a snowy day and customers are tracking snow through the entrance onto the floors of the mall. The mall makes no effort to clean up the snowy water. In the second scenario, it’s a nice pleasant sunny day. In which slip and fall case is the property owner more likely to be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries? The answer may surprise you.

What Illinois Law Says About Snow and Ice

Under Illinois Law, a property owner or business operator is not liable for injuries resulting from a natural accumulation of ice, snow or water that is tracked inside a building from outside. Under the “natural accumulation rule”, property owners and business operators do not have a duty to remove snow, slush or water, which enters a building by customers who have walked through natural accumulations outside the building. Moreover, it is irrelevant how long the natural accumulation remains on the building floor.

Without a duty to remove natural accumulations of water or snow, property owners and business operators also have no duty to warn of such conditions. Think about this the next time you enter a Chicago store or other building in Illinois on a typically inclement day in January and see slushy, discolored looking water on the floor of the entrance.

What Illinois Law Says About Wet Floors and Good Weather

What about scenario two – slipping and falling on water on a nice, pleasant, sunny afternoon? The weather conditions make this a more viable slip and fall case since no argument can be made by the landowner that a natural accumulation of water has been tracked into a building. It is always the duty of the injured party to explain how the water got on the floor and how long it had been there. The general duty of a property or business owner is to exercise ordinary care to see that his property is reasonably safe for the use of those lawfully on the property. Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 120.02.

Injured Party Must Prove Unreasonable Risk

Thereafter, an injured party must prove that there was some condition on the property which presented an unreasonable risk of harm to those on the property and that the property owner either knew or should have known of both the condition and the risk. Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 120.08.

If you slip and fall on water on business property but have no idea how the water may have gotten on the floor or how long it had been on the floor, it is unlikely that you can win your case. This is where there’s no substitute for a thorough investigation including pictures of the property, obtaining incident reports, speaking with witnesses, and/or going to the business property.

Slip and Fall Cases Can Be Difficult to Prove

Slip and fall cases, generally thought to be “easy” cases because of the misconception that an accident occurring on business property automatically entitles the injured party to compensation, can in fact be quite difficult to prove. Early and thorough investigation often proves to be the key, distinguishing a successful from an unsuccessful slip and fall case.

For more information on your legal rights after a slip and fall at a business, or to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys about your particular case, please contact Lipkin & Apter. From our Chicago law firm, we accept a limited number of personal injury cases each year to ensure that our clients receive the highest level of personal service, and the best results. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, today.