As the city faces another punishing winter in the middle of an Omicron surge, Chicago black ice injuries may be threatening to overwhelm area hospitals.
Slip-and-Falls Up 18 Percent
Winter in Chicago frequently brings with it a heavy accumulation of snow, ice, and other precipitation. This year is no exception, especially on the sidewalks and alleys where pedestrians can easily find themselves slipping and falling on “black ice.” Black ice is a term used to describe the thin coating of glaze ice on roads and other surfaces. It is often visually transparent to passersby, leaving them vulnerable to injuries from a sudden loss of traction.
As of January 11, 2022, the City of Chicago had received 1,794 calls about uncleared sidewalks, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Meanwhile, some residents have expressed concern that Chicago black ice injuries may put additional pressure on local hospitals, which have faced an increase in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron surge.
One Chicagoan, Emily Mikhail, recently shared her experiences during a visit to an emergency room. When she attempted to check in at approximately 2:00 p.m., nurses informed her that she should expect to wait as long as 14 hours.
“The nurses were telling us that between the COVID surge and the black ice, there were just no beds,” said Mikhail.
Meanwhile, Northwestern Immediate Care Centers reported an 18-percent increase in slip-and-fall accidents over the course of the first week of the year compared to a similar week in November 2021. It is unknown whether any personal injury attorneys have filed suit over one of these incidents this season.
Limited City Responsibility for Chicago Black Ice Injuries
In response to the heightened risk of Chicago black ice injuries, the Department of Streets and Sanitation has deployed a fleet of salt spreaders. However, the agency is only responsible for clearing the streets.
Sidewalks and pedestrian walkways are the responsibility of landlords, homeowners, and businesses, who are required to clear a five-foot-wide path following a significant snowfall or accumulation of ice. Neglecting to do so in a timely manner can result in citations and fines up to $500.00 for individuals and $1,000.00 for businesses.
The previous winter, the Chicago Department of Transportation issued 667 snow citations. But despite the threat of costly tickets, dangerous accumulations continue to go unremedied, placing people in danger of Chicago black ice injuries.
“On sidewalks that had been shoveled, it was just a thin glaze of ice,” Alex Nelson, a campaign manager with Better Streets Chicago, said following a storm in January. “But for sidewalks that hadn’t been cleared from the snowfall that happened a few days earlier, you get these patches of incredibly treacherous and dangerous ice-snow combo.”
This season’s accumulations have forced a number of pedestrians to wear traction cleats, cling to fences, or avoid the sidewalks altogether and travel on the streets in order to prevent Chicago black ice injuries.
With this in mind, the Department of Transportation has urged Chicagoans to clear snow from the sidewalks and treat icy surfaces with salt. Those removing snow should be mindful not to push it into crosswalks, bus stops, or marked bike lanes.
Additionally, residents are encouraged to report uncleared sidewalks through the city’s 311 system, either by filling out an online form or by dialing “311.”
Helping Victims of Black Ice Accidents
While Illinois property owners have certain liability protections for accidents stemming from natural accumulations of snow and ice, they also have a duty to maintain their premises in a condition that is safe for authorized visitors. If they breach this duty, people who sustain injuries on their properties may be able to take action against them in order to obtain financial compensation. To learn more about your legal rights if you are the victim of a black ice accident, reach out to the premises liability attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. Our dedicated personal injury attorneys have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation you need to help get you and your family the justice you deserve.