Understanding Illinois Premises Liability Law

Illinois premises liability
Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham Blog March 25, 2024

Understanding Illinois Premises Liability Law

For property owners, maintaining your investment by keeping the premises safe is vital. Not only is it common sense, it’s also the law. Under Illinois premises liability law, property owners are legally responsible for keeping their property safe to protect visitors from injuries or even wrongful death. If you are injured on someone else’s property, you can seek compensation for damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. 

In this blog, the Illinois personal injury attorneys at Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham explain Illinois premises liability laws and what you must do to file a claim.

What Is Premises Liability? 

Premises liability is the legal responsibility of property owners to keep their premises safe from hazardous conditions. Under Illinois premises liability law, owners and occupiers (such as renters) owe a duty of reasonable care to those on their property. When a property owner or occupier fails to fulfill this duty, the owner can be held accountable for any injuries caused by negligence.

Some common types of premises liability cases can include: 

  • Slips, trips, and falls: These happen when something like a wet floor, uneven ground, or lousy lighting causes someone to slip and fall
  • Security lapses: If poor security allows a crime to happen and a visitor gets hurt, the owner might be liable.
  • Dog bites: Owning a dog comes with the responsibility of controlling it. They could be liable if a dog bite happens because the owner wasn’t careful. 
  • Dangerous conditions: This includes things like broken stairs, shaky railings, or structural problems in the building that cause someone to get hurt.

Illinois Premises Liability Laws

Each state has its own premises liability laws. Depending on location, there are specific legal classifications of visitors to which property owners owe a duty of care. Under the Illinois Premises Liability Act, all lawful visitors are owed a general duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. 

Lawful visitors include invitees and licensees. 

  • Invitees: These are individuals who enter the premises with the landowner’s permission for a purpose that benefits the landowner. Examples include customers in a store, diners at a restaurant, or guests at a hotel. 
  • Licensees: These are lawful visitors who enter the premises with the landowner’s permission for their own purpose, with no particular benefit to the landowner. Social guests, for example, would be considered licensees. 

Regarding the duty of care, landowners have a higher duty of care to invitees, as they can generally expect the presence of invitees and the purpose of their visit. Licensees are owed a lesser duty of care compared to invitees. However, property owners are still responsible for avoiding the creation of hidden dangers or willfully or wantonly causing harm to licensees. Additionally, suppose a landowner knows of a dangerous condition on the property and can foresee that a licensee is likely to encounter it. In that case, they may have a duty to warn the licensee of the danger. 

The general duty of reasonable care in Illinois premises liability law depends on the specific situation. Some factors courts consider include:

  • The nature of the visitor (e.g., child vs. adult)
  • The purpose of the visit
  • The foreseeability of the danger
  • The measures a reasonable landowner would take to mitigate risks

The Illinois Premises Liability Act also highlights situations where the property owner may not be liable:

  • Open and Obvious Dangers: If a danger is clear and easily noticeable, the owner may not be responsible if a visitor gets hurt.
  • Misuse of Property: If a visitor gets injured because of their misuse of the property, the owner is likely not liable.

Along with invitees and licensees, another type of visitor is sometimes protected under these laws: trespassers. Illinois premises liability law does not cover trespassers except in limited circumstances. Landowners generally owe no duty of care to trespassers beyond refraining from willful or wanton misconduct that could cause harm. However, there are specific rules regarding trespassing children.

Illinois Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

Illinois premises liability law and the attractive nuisance doctrine are closely intertwined. Traditionally, this doctrine held property owners liable for injuries sustained by trespassing children due to dangerous conditions on the property if those conditions were enticing to children. 

Some common examples of attractive nuisances in Illinois include:

  • Swimming pools
  • Trampolines
  • Playground sets
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Construction sites
  • Unfenced bodies of water

While Illinois doesn’t automatically hold property owners liable for trespassing children hurt by dangerous conditions (attractive nuisance), they can still be sued for negligence.  

Filing a Premises Liability Claim in Illinois 

If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, you might be wondering if you have a valid claim. To win a premises liability case in Illinois, you’ll need to establish four elements:

  • Duty of Care: The property owner owed you a duty of care based on your classification as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
  • Breach of Duty: The owner breached this duty of care by failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition or warn of known hazards.
  • Causation: The breach of duty was the proximate cause of your injury.
  • Damages: You suffered damages from the injury, such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

Building a strong case requires solid evidence and the right circumstances. Here’s what can strengthen your claim:

  • Photos: Take pictures of the hazardous condition that caused your injury and the surrounding area.
  • Medical Records: Get copies of all medical bills and records related to your injury.
  • Witness Statements: If anyone saw the accident, obtain written statements.
  • Accident Report: If a report was filed (e.g., by store security), get a copy for your records.

Contact an Illinois Personal Injury Lawyer

By understanding the basics of Illinois premises liability law, you can pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Just because property owners are legally obligated to maintain their premises to prevent injuries doesn’t mean they will. Accidents and injuries caused by the negligence or recklessness of another happen no matter what. When they do, a personal injury attorney from Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham is ready to fight for the compensation you deserve for your injuries. 

To get started on your claim, schedule your free case consultation. You can reach us 24/7 by phone at (309) 794-1515, via LiveChat, or by filling out our contact form

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.