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Slip-and-fall accidents: liability issues

Slip-and-falls are a common cause of personal injury accidents in Canada. If you are injured in a slip and fall, you may want to consider bringing an action to compensate you for your suffering.

An injured person would start a personal injury lawsuit against the owner or tenant (occupiers) of the premises where they were injured. Occupiers are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their property. They must remove or repair hazards on their property. These include:

  • Ice and snow
  • Wet surfaces
  • Uneven surfaces, such as bumps, cracks, potholes or gaps
  • Uneven, narrow or otherwise unsafe stairs
  • Unsteady or missing handrails
  • Poor lighting
  • Debris or other obstacles

The occupiers’ standard of care

Occupiers must meet a reasonable standard of care to protect those who enter their property. This is defined as anyone in control of the property, including the property owner, a tenant, or even a house sitter.

Occupiers can meet the required standard of care by:

  • Blocking access to possible hazards
  • Performing necessary maintenance
  • Performing regular inspections of their property and keeping records of the results
  • Posting signs to warn anyone entering the property of potential dangers
  • Removing dangers by cleaning up spills, snow or salting icy walkways

If an owner does not live on the property, they can still be found liable if the tenant or occupier fails to meet their duty of care.

The damages an injured person may sue for

An occupier could be found liable if a person slips or falls on their property and the occupier had not lived up to their duty of care to keep the property reasonably safe and obstacle-free. The injured person may sue for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Other expenses incurred as a result of the slip-and-fall

If a person slips and falls because the occupier did not remove ice from a walkway on their property, they may sue for any or all of the above damages, depending on their particular circumstances.

Establishing liability in slip-and-fall lawsuits

The court would consider several factors when determining whether an occupier is liable for the injuries suffered by the injured person. These factors include:

  • Was the accident reasonably foreseeable?
  • Did the occupier act according to acceptable standards of practice? An occupier would be expected to clear snow and ice within 12 hours after a snowfall ends
  • Did the occupier conduct regular inspections of their property?
  • How difficult would it have been to prevent the hazard from occurring?
  • Was a hazard allowed to exist for an unreasonable length of time?

A court will also consider whether the injured party’s own conduct contributed to the slip-and-fall injury. For example, if you ran on an icy walkway on the occupier’s property, you did not take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect yourself from being injured. This is known as contributory negligence.

If you were partially responsible for slipping and falling, you may still be entitled to damages, but they may be reduced.

Actions to take in the event of a slip-and-fall accident

If you slip and fall and think that the occupier of the place where you fell could be liable, you should try to document the conditions that led to the accident as soon as possible, including taking photographs or videos of the area. An occupier can clear ice or remove hazards very quickly after an accident has occurred.

You should also consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. They know how to investigate the accident and determine if the occupier could be found liable for your injury and build a case and to advocate strongly on your behalf in litigation.

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