Winter is here, and so is that ice that never seems to melt until sometime in April. Hopefully, you will make it through the season intact. Many, however, will slip and fall. Some will suffer serious injuries and decide to sue a neighbor, store owner, or management company for their damages (like medical bills, pain, and permanent harm).
A common complaint is that our society is plagued with frivolous lawsuits over everything from hot coffee to falling tree branches. These cases get played up in the media. The truth is that you can't sue just because you got hurt. Correction: You CAN sue, but you won't win. And you'll have trouble finding a lawyer to take your case. At the very least, you'll need a good case - one with favorable facts and a legal basis.
When it comes to falling on snow and ice, the key is whether it was an "unnatural accumulation." If the snow or ice was where it was because it fell out of the sky and landed there, then you probably don't have a good case against the property owner.
If, however, there's a defect with the building, like a broken downspout that created an ice rink, you may have a case. The same is true if someone shovels snow into a pile in front of a doorway. These are not natural accumulations. Liability also may exist if a contract or lease requires snow and ice removal.
The natural accumulation rule makes you wonder whether property owners are better off not shoveling at all than shoveling and doing a bad job. But then there's Chicago's snow removal ordinance (not often enforced), which requires people to shovel their sidewalks within three hours of snowfall. Confusing, right?
If you get hurt this winter by falling on snow or ice, run it past an attorney before deciding whether you have a case. The law in this area is very fact specific, meaning there isn't a clear rule to follow in every situation.
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