Elaine Bright – Pace Personal Injury Lawyer in Kenora: What happens when someone slips and falls? Whose fault is it? And what does the law require us to do to prevent such injuries?
Pedestrians, property owners and occupants, municipalities and other governments all have responsibilities, and they can be found liable for injuries caused by not meeting these obligations.
Pedestrians must wear boots or shoes that are appropriate for the conditions. If someone slips and falls while wearing smooth-soled, high heeled shoes on an icy street, the law may find they are at least partially liable for any injuries they suffer.
In Ontario, the Occupiers’ Liability Act sets out obligations for property owners and occupiers. It provides, in part, that anyone in physical possession of property, whether they own or rent it, must take all reasonable steps to make sure that people entering the property are safe while they are on the property. Sometimes a rental agreement specifies who is responsible for snow removal and winter maintenance. Generally, courts will uphold such agreements.
What is “reasonable” for someone who has responsibility for property maintenance? The law expects you to have a system or plan in place to deal with snow and ice, and to ensure that the plan is followed. If you are responsible for residential property, you should make sure that someone keeps your sidewalks and driveway safe when you are away. Even if you are away all winter, you might need to call a service person to your property, and so you need to make sure it is safe for them to enter the premises.
The Ontario Municipal Act sets out the responsibilities of municipalities for roads and sidewalks. The Act provides that municipalities must keep roads and bridges in a reasonable state of repair, and they are liable for damages caused by not meeting this obligation. When it comes to sidewalks, there is an important difference: municipalities are only responsible for “gross negligence”. Gross negligence would be something like completely ignoring a slippery, icy sidewalk in an area where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.
Anyone injured on a municipal road or sidewalk who wants to make a claim for damages must consult a lawyer right away – you only have 10 days after an injury to give notice to a municipality that you intend to hold them responsible. If you miss that deadline, in most cases you will not be able to collect any compensation.
Let’s all stay safe this winter. I have my big snow boots with deep treads, a shovel and a bucket of sand at hand – I hope you do too!
Elaine Bright is a lawyer with Pace Law Firm. She handles cases in Kenora and throughout Northwestern Ontario. Pace’s personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.