Are property owners responsible for ice and snow removal?

In Illinois, the “natural accumulation doctrine” holds that a property owner is not responsible for injuries caused by the natural accumulation of snow and/or ice. 

Courts have further held that shoveling and/or salting (i.e. the voluntary undertaking to remove snow and/or ice) does not automatically make the property owner liable.  In fact, Illinois courts have also found that a property owner is liable for salting a sidewalk even if the ice then refreezes.

Instead, property owners will only be liable for injuries caused by snow and/or ice if the injured party can show that the property owner was “negligent” and that their negligence resulted in the unnatural accumulation of snow and/or ice. 

Notably, Illinois courts have ruled in favor of property owners who removed snow but left behind the layer of naturally accumulated ice underneath the snow.  So unless you are actively making your sidewalk worse, you should not be liable for injuries caused by snow and/or ice merely because you attempted to shovel and/or salt your sidewalk and driveway.

HOWEVER, property owners can be liable for snow and/or ice related injuries when there is a condition on their property causing the unnatural accumulation of snow and/or ice. 

For example, you could be liable if you have a gutter that you know leaks onto the sidewalk and that leak freezes.  In such a circumstance, the sidewalk would have an unnatural accumulation of ice.

So, you are encouraged to continue to shovel and/or salt your sidewalk and driveway, without fear.  But you are also encouraged to maintain your house to avoid any unnatural water drainage issues that could result in an ice slick… both for your safety and to avoid any potential liability.