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Premises Liability - Slip and Fall

Premises Liability or “slip and fall” accidents involve a person who suffers injury as the result of a dangerous condition of a property resulting from the negligent maintenance, operation or design of a property. This includes claims against a landowner or maintenance company.

Premises Liability claims occur in many ways.  These cases may involve a fall due to a wet or defective floor surface. A maintenance company may be responsible for a condition causing injury as may the landowner directly.  Claims against a landowner or maintenance company may include inadequate security, poor lighting, or the failure to maintain railings, porches or stairs.  Even if someone falls and is seriously hurt, it does not mean that the owner of the property is responsible for their damages.  It is important that the injured person discuss the circumstances of the fall with an experienced Chicago lawyer to determine whether he or she may be entitled to compensation. 

 

When is a landowner responsible for damages?

For the injured person to be successful in an action against a landowner, the injured person must prove the following:

1. There was a condition of the defendant’s property which presented an unreasonable risk of harm to persons on the premises;

2. The defendant knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that the condition of his property involved an unreasonable risk of harm to persons on the premises;

3. The defendant should have anticipated that persons on the premises would not discover or realize the danger, or would otherwise fail to protect themselves against it;

4. The defendant was negligent;

5. The plaintiff was injured;

6. The condition of the defendant’s property was a cause of the injury to the plaintiff.

It is not necessary to prove that the landowner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition if it can be established that the dangerous condition was created by the defendant, its agents or their activities.

 

Is a Landlord Responsible for Tenant Injuries?

A landlord may be responsible for the injuries suffered by a tenant.  The law in Illinois draws a distinction between injuries which occur in an area “reserved for common use” and those which occur in space leased to the tenant.  Areas “reserved for common use” include hallways, stairways or the parking lot.  The space leased to the tenant such as in the apartment are not “reserved for common use.”  The landlord must be careful to keep the premises reserved for common use reasonably safe.  The law requires that the landlord either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.

If the injury occurred in an area reserved for common use a landlord may still be liable for injuries suffered if he knew of the dangerous condition and the tenant could not discover the condition after a reasonable inspection.  The landlord must tell the tenant about known defects at the time the tenant moves in.  The liability of a landlord for injuries suffered by a tenant is something that should be discussed with the lawyer who will evaluate the claim.

 

Liability for Falls on Snow and Ice.

People often fall and suffer injury on snow or ice.  As a general rule, property owners do not have to remove natural accumulations of snow, ice or melted water from their premises.

 

A landlord may be legally responsible for injuries suffered as the result of an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow.  Whether an accumulation of snow is natural or unnatural is left to a jury.  For example, if a downspout is placed in a position that dumps water onto the stairs which then freezes and an individual falls, the landowner or maintenance company may be responsible for the damages.  Where the ice came from, how long it had been there and what action the landowner took or should have taken are all issues which should be discussed with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

A contract or lease agreement which requires snow removal can create an obligation to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice.  For example, if a maintenance company is retained to clear snow from a driveway and fails to do so, both the maintenance company and the landowner may be responsible if someone slips and falls on ice and is injured.  A lawyer should review the terms of the contract or lease agreement to determine what the parties responsibilities were. 

Unnatural accumulations of snow and ice can also be caused by inadequate grading of land away from a building, depressions or other areas which result from settling, inadequate storm drainage and blocked drains as well as inadequate gutter capability or drainage of a gutter into a pedestrian passage.  It is important that the question of where the ice and snow came from is answered. 

Falls which occur on snow, ice or water tracked into a premises can be difficult cases.  There are however times when the landowner is legally responsible for these injuries as well.  It is important that you review the facts of your fall with a Chicago attorney experienced in handling these types of cases. 

 

Building Codes

The Chicago Building Code, International Building Code and BOCA National Building Codes are all useful in evaluating whether a property was safely designed or maintained. It is important to evaluate the condition of the property where the fall occurred in light of what these codes provide.  Some codes have been adopted by municipalities and are binding.  Whether the
property complied with applicable code provisions must be assessed on a case by case basis and may involve expert testimony.

 

Conclusion

The law in Illinois regarding premises liability cases is complex.  If you have fallen and suffered injury as a result of a condition of someone else’s property, contact Dwyer & McDevitt, P.C. for a free case evaluation.  Only after a thorough assessment of the facts surrounding the fall and evaluation of the area where the fall occurred can a determination be made as to whether the landowner is responsible for the injuries suffered. 
 

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