Black ice is one of the most dangerous conditions that you will face in a Chicago winter. This is ice that you cannot see, and it is often the topic of a slip and fall lawsuit.
However, the legal rules for a slip and fall accident can make a black ice injury claim complex.
For liability claims, you would need an experienced attorney who knows how to effectively present your case for financial compensation effectively.
Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to schedule your free consultation to hold property owners accountable for your slip and fall accident.
What Is Black Ice?
Contrary to its name, black ice is actually clear and transparent. The reason why it is called black ice is that you cannot see it on the pavement or asphalt, since it is a thin layer.
All you see is the asphalt itself, causing you to think that it is safe. It is far easier to spot thicker ice and try to go around it.
However, people often do not realize that they have walked over black ice until after the accident occurred.
In parking lots and sidewalks, seeing the surface itself will present a deceptive picture and can be an illusion.
Clear ice is the same exact thing as regular and can cause the same exact slip and fall accident.
Black ice does not necessarily have to be black. It takes the color of whatever pavement is underneath it.
When Clear Ice Happens
After a winter storm, the temperature will drop sharply overnight. If snow has melted or become slushy during the day, it can freeze overnight.
However, it may not become a solid sheet of ice. Instead, it could become a scattered icy patch based on what was wet the night before.
Clear ice does not have to be from snow. It can form from any kind of wetness, including rain and fog.
Where You Will Find Clear Ice
Clear ice forms on any type of pavement. It will be found in the areas that will freeze over first. For example, black ice can be found most often on bridges and in the shade.
However, you can have clear and undetectable ice on any kind of pavement, including sidewalks and parking lots.
Most injuries will happen on public sidewalks or in front of stores. Black ice could also be found in outdoor common areas in apartment buildings.
How Chicago Weather Conditions Contribute to the Problem
In Chicago IL, there are nearly 40 inches of snow that fall each year. With climate change, the average annual amount of snow has actually been increasing because the area is subject to more extreme weather swings.
There are numerous snow events in the city each year. Even if there are no large storms, all it takes is a dusting of snow for it to freeze overnight.
In the winter, it is not uncommon for the temperature to drop into the single digits overnight. If any snow has fallen, there is a high chance that it will refreeze overnight.
Snow and Ice Fall Statistics
Every year, approximately one million people are injured in a fall on the snow and ice. These slip and fall accidents are fatal for roughly 17,000 people.
Senior citizens are even more at risk of a fall injury. They are more likely to lose their balance and suffer a significant injury in a fall.
Many may never be the same again if they survive a fall, especially if they suffer a broken hip.
Chicago Laws About Ice and Snow Removal
The Chicago IL laws about snow and ice removal are very strict. Snow that falls between 7 AM and 7 PM must be removed by 10 PM on that same day.
This means that property owners have a duty during an ongoing storm to shovel the snow, even when it has not yet stopped snowing.
Property owners must clear a five-foot-wide path on the sidewalk if that is possible.
There are some protections that could keep a property owner from being held liable for falls on the ice if they make a good faith effort at snow removal.
Applicable Illinois Law
The Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/1 provides for legal immunity for property owners for poor shoveling.
However, many slip and fall accidents on the ice happen when the owner has made no effort at all to clear the snow and ice from sidewalks or parking lots.
Injuries from an Ice-Related Slip
Accident victims can suffer a variety of injuries from a fall on black ice. They can range from more minor injuries to severe injuries that could be permanent.
Here are some injures that people can suffer in slip and fall accidents on clear ice:
- The most common injury in a slip and fall accident is a fracture. People may try to break their fall and can suffer broken wrists. Any bone in the body that hits the hard concrete may break.
- Depending on how people fall, they may sprain or tear a ligament. These injuries can be as severe as a break.
- Torn ligaments will need surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
- Slip and fall accidents commonly cause neck and back injuries because the accident victim will fall backwards or on their head
- Hitting one’s head in a fall could cause traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and permanent brain damage.
How to Prove the Property Owner Was Negligent
You must also prove that the clear ice was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries.
Again, if the owner has made an effort to clear the snow and ice and has tried to follow the snow removal law, they may be protected from liability. However, that applies to negligent shoveling only.
A 2017 Illinois Supreme Court decision limited the immunity only to the owner’s shoveling efforts. In Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., the owner had removed the snow from the property. 11 days after the storm, the plaintiff had slipped on black ice and was injured.
The black ice was caused by water from a leaking downspout. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the owner was not immune, even though they tried to clear the snow, because the condition was caused by other conditions on the property.
The Elements of a Premises Liability Case
In any premises liability case, you would need to prove that the owner was negligent. There is a four-part test in any slip and fall accident.
The key elements are:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
- They failed to uphold the duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances
- You suffered an injury
- You would not have been injured had it not been for the actions of the defendant
In a slip and fall case, there are additional factors that apply in determining whether the proper owner acted unreasonably.
When the owner themselves did not create the dangerous condition, they can be liable when they knew or should have known about it and did nothing to remedy it.
Clear Ice Cases Are Not Always Straightforward
These can make clear ice cases somewhat tricky. The owner would obviously claim that they did not know that there was black ice on their property.
However, when there are wet conditions and freezing temperatures overnight, they should anticipate that there will be black ice on the property the next day.
If they did not take reasonable care in removing the snow and ice by the previous evening, they may be held liable to pay an injured party.
Evidence to Prove the Dangerous Condition
You only have the evidence to prove the dangerous conditions for as long as the surface is icy.
If possible, try to take as many pictures as possible of the condition of the site. This may be easier said than done if you have suffered severe injuries.
If you cannot take pictures yourself, ask someone else to come to the scene as soon as possible to get the evidence that you need.
You may also get witnesses who can testify about the icy conditions that caused your fall.
Insurance adjusters will be very difficult to deal with when you are filing your claim. Their marching orders are to try to turn away as many claimants as possible and save the insurance company money.
Possible Defendants in a Clear Ice Lawsuit
Premises liability claims, by definition, happen on someone else’s property.
Here are some of the people that may be held liable for your injuries:
- A property owner who does not take steps to clear the sidewalk in front of their home. Property owners have a legal obligation to perform snow removal within a reasonable time after it stops falling. They must also clear their walkway of ice, which could include salting the walk in front of their home.
- A business owner has an obligation to clear their parking lots and walk in front of their store or business. They must also remove snow and salt from the premises. When they open their business to the public, they assume a duty of care to anyone who would visit their business, and they must exercise reasonable care.
- A landlord or other property owner who rents out property. They are responsible for ice and snow removal in the common areas unless the lease specifically transfers that responsibility to the lessor.
- The person who controls the property assumes the responsibility of the owner to deal with accumulated ice. For example, if the store owner rents the space from the property owner, the store owner would be the one legally responsible for ice conditions. Similarly, if one rented a house from the owner, the tenant would be the at-fault party if they do not take reasonable steps to clear an icy sidewalk.
How an Insurance Company Views Your Slip and Fall Accident
In general, an insurance company is very skeptical about the average slip and fall accident.
Their view is that these are very common accidents, and they take the attitude that the average claimant is not telling the truth unless they can prove otherwise.
They may take a very hard line about your case unless you come with the evidence necessary to prove it.
When it comes to compensation, you can expect that the insurance company will also try to minimize what you have gone through. They will try to trivialize your fall accident and make it seem as if nothing serious really happened.
You can fight that when you have the medical documentation necessary to prove the extent of your injuries.
Suing for Falls on Government Property
Local governments are not immune from all lawsuits, especially when their negligence is the cause of an ice-related slip.
There are different rules when you want to sue local governments like the City of Chicago for your serious injuries. First, you would need to notify the city of your claim in a timely manner.
You will need to give the court a reason why the city should not be immune from the lawsuit. There are also damage caps when suing the City of Chicago or any other local government in Illinois for a slip and fall accident.
Damages for a Fall Injury
If you win your slip and fall case or receive a settlement, you may be entitled to the following damages as an injured party:
- Medical bills – the defendant must pay for all costs relating to your medical treatment, including surgery, hospital costs, doctor’s visits, prescriptions, rehabilitation, and medical equipment. You can be paid for both the medical bills that you incurred in the past and those you will have in the future. Even minor injuries can result in medical costs that reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.
- Lost wages – if you missed time from work or made less money on your job than you otherwise could have because of your injuries, you can recover compensation for the entire amount of your loss
- Pain and suffering – fall accidents can be very painful, both physically and mentally. If you have suffered serious injuries in a slip and fall accident, you may be in pain for a long time, and your physical rehabilitation may be grueling. In an injury claim, you can be paid for what you have endured after your accident and what you may continue to go through until you are fully recovered.
Call Us for a Free Case Review
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers help injured clients seek compensation for slip and fall accidents.
We will work diligently to recover compensation on your behalf from the responsible property owner or the person who was in control of the property.
Our lawyers will help you take strong legal action to recover financially for the property owner’s negligence.
Our lawyers will negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement for you or your family members, or well will file an injury lawsuit on your behalf.
Call a personal injury attorney with our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. Once we form an attorney-client relationship, we will get to work to prove the property owner’s negligence.