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Am I Liable if Someone Slips on My Icy Sidewalk? 

By: Laura E. Schrick and Holly A. Rogers

You wake up one morning to see that a snowstorm has blown through overnight. You peer out the window to admire the snowfall, only to soon realize that you will need to bundle up to shovel your driveway and sidewalk from the ice and snow.

What if someone slips and falls on your property? Are you liable for their injuries?

Illinois courts apply the “natural accumulation rule,” which means that you, as a property owner, are not required to remove the natural accumulations of snow, water, or ice from your property. In addition, property and business owners are not liable for injuries from the natural accumulations of ice, snow or water that is tracked inside the premises from the outside.

However, you can be liable if you voluntarily remove or shovel the snow and ice and the result is an “unnatural accumulation” that causes injury to a person. This includes blocking drainage systems, shoveling into large mounds of snow or blocking signage. It does not, however, mean that you will be liable for spreading salt, causing ice to melt and to later re-freeze. In addition, merely removing a top layer of snow to expose an icy layer underneath does not constitute negligence.

The law in Missouri generally is similar to Illinois and follows the “natural accumulation” rule. Property owners have no duty to remove snow or ice that accumulates naturally, and the law protects property owners who reasonably attempt to clear the accumulation.

Synopsis: You are not required to shovel your sidewalks and driveway, but if you choose to, you must do so in a safe manner.

City Ordinances

However, additional laws may apply depending upon the municipality in which you own a property or business. In the City of St. Louis, for example, owners of property must remove snow and ice immediately from the adjacent sidewalks and those sidewalks shall be kept clear of ice at all times.

In Edwardsville, Illinois, any person in charge of an apartment complex must clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to the property, and businesses and those in charge of private parking lots must also clear the accumulation. Any person who fails to do so is liable for a fine and the cost of the city’s removal of the snow or ice.

Professional Services Disclaimer: Please note that the information presented here is as an educational service, and while it contains information about legal issues, it is not legal advice. No warranty is made regarding the applicability of the information presented to a particular client situation, and the information set forth is not a substitute for original legal research, analysis and drafting for a particular client situation.