When Pedestrians Cross the Road (and Slips, Trips or Falls)
The Illinois local or state government owes a duty of care to keep the roadway safe for pedestrians who are crossing the street within marked crosswalks or at unmarked crossings that are located at intersections. The area within the marked crosswalks must be kept in good condition, and the entire area of the roadway at unmarked intersections should also be kept free from defects.
The Duty of Care Owed to Pedestrians
Property owners, including the government, generally owe a duty of care to keep their premises relatively free of dangerous conditions and to correct dangers that they know or should have known about that exist on their property. However, property owners owe very limited duties to trespassers who are on their property. For people who are not permitted to be on the property, property owners only owe a duty to refrain from willful or wanton conduct. For example, property owners may not intentionally set traps to injure trespassers.
Pedestrians are supposed to cross the street at marked or unmarked crosswalks. Since they are not permitted to cross the street midblock or outside of the marked crosswalk lines, the government does not owe a duty of care to keep the area of the street that lies outside of the marked crosswalks free of hazards. One man in Illinois was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk when he stepped outside of the line with one foot. The man suffered a broken foot when he stepped into a hole in the pavement with the foot that was outside of the line. He sued the city of Chicago. The court granted the city’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the man’s case because it found that the city did not owe a duty to keep the road safe for pedestrians even six inches outside of the crosswalk.
Potential exceptions exist, however. While the law states that pedestrians should cross the street at marked or unmarked crosswalks, people with disabilities are allowed to cross wherever they can if the crosswalks or intersections are inaccessible to them. The government should thus owe a duty to keep all areas of the roadway free of defects for pedestrians who have disabilities.