Accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in Illinois, with poisoning (e.g., drug overdoses) and motor vehicle accidents being the most common types of accidents. However, other accidents can lead to serious injuries and even death— and they can all happen in public places.
Falls are a very common cause of injury and death in Illinois, as well as all over the U.S., with the elderly being at the highest risk of the most serious falls. While the elderly are more likely to experience falls in their homes, they’re also likely to experience falls in public places— and the same goes for people of all ages. Several things can cause falls (such as loss and bone and muscle mass in the elderly and the natural clumsiness of toddlers), but environmental factors are usually what hold property owners responsible.
Old carpet that starts to fray at the ends can be a tripping hazard for persons entering a public building. Other types of flooring, such as wood and tile can also pose a threat if it’s damaged.
Wet floors are known to cause slip and fall accidents— and property owners are held liable if their property doesn’t contain signs that designate wet floors— but icy entryways can also pose a threat. Chicago is known to have icy and cold winters, so property owners must take the proper steps to ensure no one slips and falls on an icy surface.
Bad lighting can also cause a person to trip and fall, and this is especially dangerous in stairwells. Property owners of multi-story buildings must ensure their stairwells are properly lit— and that their stairs aren’t damaged.
Property owners are also responsible for the outside of their property. They can also be held liable for unmarked roadway and sidewalk defects that cause injury to their visitors.
While less common than slips and falls, inadequate building security can also lead to injuries in a public place. Broken security cameras, failure to properly maintain locks, and poorly trained or lack of security guards can result in visitors being harmed by another. Other safety violations, such as excessive fire hazards can also result in injuries and property owners can be held liable. Common fire hazards and safety violations include blocked exit doors, lack of fire extinguishers, malfunctioning sprinkler systems, and no posted escape routes.
Animal attacks are also less common causes of injury in public places, but they do happen, with dogs being the most common animals that bite and/or attack other people. There is no statewide leash law in Illinois, however, individual cities may have their own rules. Pet owners will be held liable if their pets attacked another unprovoked.
Keep in mind that this only applies to public places. If someone enters a pet owner’s property illegally and their pet attacks, they will not be held liable. However, they may be held liable for an injury (e.g., swimming pool drownings, slip and fall accidents) that is sustained by an individual who is legally allowed on their property.
Asbestos is well-known for being a cancer-causing agent (predominantly lung cancer) that was once used in insulation and other parts of housing. By the 1980s, the United States banned the use of asbestos in new construction, so some buildings today still contain asbestos. These buildings are still safe to inhabit unless the asbestos becomes disturbed. This is when visitors in a building will be put at risk of asbestos exposure, and property owners must act accordingly.
Other environmental hazards can harm visitors to a public area, such as carbon monoxide or radon. Environmental exposures, animal attacks, inadequate security, and fall hazards all fall under premises liability. This means that victims are entitled to financial compensation at the expense of the property owner. Premises liability lawyers in Chicago and other cities in Illinois can provide more information.
Of all these situations, slips and falls are more likely to occur than any of the others, but the others aren’t exactly rare. In any of these situations or any other situation where you’re injured on public property due to the negligence of the property owner, you have the right to contact a personal injury attorney such as a premises liability lawyer to help you better understand premises liability.