Winter weather slip and falls: Slip and fall accidents frequently occur on ice in Ontario Canada. The Eastern region (Oshawa, Whitby, Bowmanville, Ajax) are often hit harder by winter weather than Toronto proper. The recent ice storms and winter weather have increased the number of injuries. There is case-law and legislation that helps to determine whether someone is entitled to compensation for a slip and fall injury
This is a brief description of the questions that are important to ask when considering a lawsuit or claim after being injured while slipping and falling on ice in Ontario:
1. Did you provide notice of the slip and fall to the potential defendant? In some circumstances, defendants have to be put on notice of a potential claim in as little as 10 days. Some defendants don’t require any notice and simply must be sued within two years.
2. What proof do you have of the icy/snowy condition? Your evidence of what you saw and felt is the first piece of evidence. Do you also have photos? Do you have witnesses and contact information for those witnesses?
3. What caused the icy/snowy condition? Was it a failure to monitor a property and a failure to do ice and snow maintenance such as salting and sanding? Was it an unsafe condition like a sloped parking lot that pooled water in one spot or an overhang that was dripping into one place continually? We can usually assist in figuring it out.
4. Is there proof of where you fell? Did you let the property owner know about the fall? Did they see it? Are there video cameras in that area?
5. What are your injuries? What has been diagnosed and what are the risks for the future, the potential care needs for the future and the potential impact on employment? Are there fractures that can be shown on imaging, or tears or damage that can be seen on imaging?
All of the above things are issues that we would need to look into when considering the viability of an action. Most land-owners and property maintenance companies have insurance available to respond to theses losses. Some claims can be settled directly with insurance companies, while others require a lawsuit and litigation to get to the point where compensation is paid.
Slip and falls on roadways: Many municipalities in Ontario have by-laws that require residential home-owners and residents to clear the sidewalks in front of their houses. Newmarket, in York Region, has a by-law that requires snow and ice removal within 24 hours of the weather event (http://www.newmarket.ca/en/townhall/resourcelibrary/1996-38RemovalofSnowIcefromSidewalks.pdf). Municipalities in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Toronto and Bowmanville etc. have similar by-laws.
Some people (and lawyers who do not practice enough personal injury law) assume that means that they are supposed to sue the home-owner or resident and not the municipality. They are usually wrong. There is specific case-law that talks about the Municipality’s responsibility and the fact that they cannot just pass the buck to the home-owner.
What that means is that you need to be aware of the potential for a claim against the City and the fact that very short notice periods (ie: 10 days in some cases) could apply. You need to seek immediate legal consultation after an accident, or right away – you should not delay this at all after a slip and fall injury.
There is of course also the potential for liability on the home owner in certain cases. In one case that I handled, a business had been power washing their docking bay during cold weather and water spread to the sidewalk and froze. My client slipped and fell on the ice sustaining injury. It was important that we sued both the City and the private business in that case.
What becomes extremely important in these cases is an analysis of the weather records and maintenance/inspection records that are available. The weather records help us to understand when the bad weather happened, how long it happened for and what the weather was like leading up to the accident. This helps us to understand what the defendants knew or ought to have known about the weather and the likely effect on the area (ie: an argument that if there was a lot of snow or rain, followed by freeze and thaw conditions, they should have known that ice was going to form). Remember, that these cases are not just about proving a fall and injury, they are about proving that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the danger.