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Are Property Owners Liable for Fall Injuries Caused by Leaves?Many people love autumn in part because of the changing colors of the falling leaves. Leaves are usually not an obstacle for walkers but can sometimes be responsible for slip, trip, and fall injuries. Wet leaves can be slick, and a layer of dry leaves may hide obstacles or wet surfaces. When it comes to personal injury compensation, fall injuries are usually a premises liability issue. Whether you receive compensation from a property owner or their insurer depends on whether the property owner had a duty to protect you in the situation leading to your injury.

Clearing Leaves

There is an Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act that covers premises liability when someone is injured due to winter accumulations on a property. There is not an equivalent act for leaves. If the same principles apply to leaves as snow, then property owners are not required to clear leaves from walkways on their property. If they do clear the leaves, they are responsible for doing so in a way that does not create a hazard for pedestrians.

If a court applies the Illinois Premises Liability Act, property owners may have a greater obligation to clear leaves from their property. The act states that property owners must make a reasonable effort to protect people from or warn people about hazards on their property. If the property owner had a reasonable amount of time to clear the leaves from public walkways near their property, they may be liable if those leaves became wet and created a slipping hazard due to their negligence. Liability would be more certain if a property owner left an object, such as a rake, hidden under a pile of leaves on the sidewalk.

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When Are Schools Liable for Children’s Injuries?Parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be safe, but accidents occur that may result in a child being injured. When the injury requires extensive medical treatment, you should investigate whether you have a strong case for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the school. School districts in Illinois are required to carry insurance in case they are found liable for a student’s injury. In many situations, Illinois law protects school districts against parents filing personal injury lawsuits unless they can prove willful or wanton conduct by the district or its employees.

Plaintiff’s Burden

Illinois’ Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act creates a high burden of proof when plaintiffs file personal injury lawsuits against public entities, such as public school districts. Student injuries are most likely to occur during recess periods, physical education classes and extracurricular athletics. The law states that a school district is not liable for injuries that occur on properties that are meant for recreational activities unless the injury was caused by willful or wanton conduct, which is:

  • Intent to cause harm; or
  • Conscious disregard for safety.

Willful or wanton conduct is a stricter burden of proof than negligence because it requires proving the defendant’s intent. It is unlikely that a school or its employees would intend to injure a student. Showing that the school was ambivalent towards its students’ safety is more likely but still difficult.

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Posted on in Personal Injury

How to Avoid Dog Bite InjuriesApproximately 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. In 2018, insurers paid $675 million in homeowner liability claims for dog bites. Illinois had the fourth-most dog bite claims of any state in 2018. There were 822 claims that received a total of $29.2 million, which is an average of $35,553 per claim. All of these statistics show that dog bite injuries are common and often result in the owner being liable for medical expenses. Illinois law states that dog owners are liable for any injuries that their dog causes, as long as the victim was not trespassing and did not provoke the dog. You want to avoid a dog bite if possible for the sake of yourself and the owner. There are several practices that reduce the chances of a dog attack:

  1. Talk to the Owner First: Before you approach an unfamiliar dog, you should ask the owner for permission. You do not know how aggressive the dog is and how it reacts to strangers. It is best to leave some dogs alone for your own safety.
  2. Proceed Slowly: After receiving permission to approach the dog, do not immediately start with petting or playing. Calmly walk up to it and offer your hand for it to sniff. If the dog accepts the gesture and seems happy or calm, you can proceed by gently petting it. Do not force the dog to greet you if it seems disinterested or scared.
  3. No Surprises: Do not interrupt a dog when it is eating, sleeping or otherwise occupied. Do not approach the dog from behind to pet it. Startling a dog could cause it to react defensively, such as biting.
  4. Play Nice: You may be used to playing aggressively with your dog. Do not assume that someone else’s dog is familiar with that kind of play. What seems playful to you may be aggravating to the dog.
  5. Watch Your Children: You need to remind your children of all of these rules before they meet an unfamiliar dog. They may not realize that someone else’s dog can behave differently than their own dog. Children are more likely than adults to be seriously injured by a dog because they are less capable of defending themselves.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

A dog bite can cause a serious wound and possibly carry a disease. It is common to experience trauma from the incident. Though you may not blame the owner, you may need compensation if your injury requires expensive medical treatment. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you determine how much compensation you need for your dog bite injury. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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How Businesses Can Be Liable for Personal InjuriesFiling a personal injury lawsuit against a large business can be more challenging than when an individual is a defendant. Corporations are often familiar with being the subject of lawsuits and have attorneys who are prepared to respond to litigation. The corporation has the resources to afford a protracted legal battle if it believes it is in the right or that its reputation is at risk. On the other hand, a corporation may be more willing than an individual to offer you a settlement if it believes a court battle is not worth the expense. A personal injury attorney can review your case to determine the benefits and risks of filing a lawsuit against a corporation.

Premises Liability

Businesses can be liable for the safety of guests on their properties. Stores are the most common example of these properties, though the public could also visit an office location. To prove a premises liability case, you must show that:

  • A condition on the business premises caused your injury;
  • The business failed to identify the dangerous condition in a timely manner or did not properly warn you of the danger; and
  • You could not have reasonably foreseen or avoided the injury.

It is more difficult to prove that a business is liable for a dangerous condition that suddenly developed than a condition that is the result of a lack of maintenance. For instance, you could slip and fall after someone spilled a drink on a tile floor. Depending on how recently the spill occurred, employees may not have had a chance to clean it up and put out a “wet floor” sign. If an automatic door malfunctions and crushes your arm, the business would be liable if it was aware of the danger and had done nothing to fix it or warn you.

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Using Proximate Cause, Circumstantial Evidence in a Personal Injury CaseThe strongest argument that you can make in a personal injury case comes from having direct evidence of the actual cause of an injury. Your first-hand account or the testimony of a witness can directly connect the negligence of another party with the incident that led to your injury. Unfortunately, some cases lack direct evidence of what caused an accident, such as a wrongful death incident that no one witnessed. You can use proximate cause and circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s liability, but the court will need to be convinced that it is the most plausible explanation.

Proximate Cause

As opposed to the actual cause, proximate cause is a factor that led to an injury or death, even if it was not the direct cause. The proximate cause may be an act of negligence or recklessness that set in motion the events that resulted in an injury. Courts determine that a factor is the proximate cause of an injury if the injury could have been avoided if not for that factor. For instance:

  • When you are in a car accident, the other vehicle may have been the actual cause of your injuries; but
  • If a faulty car part caused the other driver to lose control of the vehicle, the equipment malfunction would be the proximate cause of the accident and the party that made or installed the equipment is liable.

Circumstantial Evidence

When you do not have direct evidence of what caused an accident, you can present circumstantial evidence that you believe infers the cause of the accident. Circumstantial evidence may be observations or witness testimony that reasonably points towards the cause of an injury. A court will accept circumstantial evidence as establishing a fact if that fact is the only probable conclusion that it can draw from that evidence.

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