SHOULD I REMOVE SNOW FROM MY SIDEWALK – Or HOW LAW CAN SOMETIMES PROVIDE EXCUSES TO DO THE WRONG THING.

We’ve probably all heard that if you shovel your sidewalk after a snow, that you can be found liable if someone slips, so it is better to just leave the snow and ice as it is.

Let’s deal with residential property in this article, as opposed to commercial property. Believe it or not, there is a 1986 law called, “The Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act.” The law states that it should be public policy that any property owners or residents removing snow or ice from sidewalks abutting their residences should not be found liable for damages because of that removal. This law covers you, your landlord, your roommate, and the kid you hire to shovel the snow.

There a few minor exceptions to this rule. If you commit “misconduct” due to “acts or omissions” and that misconduct was “willful or wanton” you can be found liable if someone falls on the sidewalk. And pay particular attention to the word “sidewalk” in the name of the act. At least one court has interpreted the act not applicable to driveways – but it does apply to your porch. In other words, you do not have the protection of the snow removal act in your driveway, but you are protected on your sidewalks and porch.

If someone is injured on your property, they will probably try to collect from your homeowner’s insurance company, whether you shoveled the snow or not. Just be sure you don’t make things worse by shoveling. If you leave piles of snow above the sidewalk, that snow will melt during the day, and water will collect on the sidewalk. In the morning there will be ice – ice that is there only because of your shoveling. So think of the consequences of clearing sidewalks. Be sure melting snow leaves no ice where a person can slip.

And if you live in town, check with the city hall to see if your community has a snow removal ordinance. Ask for a copy of it, or have someone explain to you.

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