When the weather turns cold and sidewalks become icy and slippery, slips and falls are an everyday risk. So what does the law say about liability for slips and falls? What are your options when you’ve been injured in a slip, trip, or fall?
Property Owners Owe a Duty of Care
Icy steps, dangerous sidewalks, and wet floors are all common property hazards. Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act in Ontario, all property owners, including private and commercial landowners, have a responsibility to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition and to use reasonable care to ensure their property is safe for visitors who enter their land or buildings.
Duty of Care
In negligence law, duty of care is an obligation to take reasonable steps to promote safety and prevent injuries. This includes clearing common areas of ice and snow and sprinkling salt over slick pavement and walkways.
If the landowner owed a duty of care to people on his property, the next task is to decide whether the property conditions caused the injury. Known as “causation”, this is a critical element in proving any slip and fall negligence case.
The injured party must be able to prove that his or her injuries were caused by the fall. Because many people fail to document their injuries or seek medical attention after a slip, trip, or fall, they can’t prove this vital link between the accident and the injury.
Defences to Slip and Fall Cases
Property owners have several defences to these types of claims. In general, property owners can rebut a slip and fall case in two ways:
- The property owner can claim that he or she wasn’t negligent in the first place;
- In some cases, the injured person’s own negligence caused him to fall. Individuals have an obligation to look after their own safety. Property owners can claim that a visitor acted carelessly or ignored warnings. This is known as “contributory negligence”.
Steps to Take after a Slip and Fall Accident
Immediately after a fall, most people scramble to get right back up. Embarrassment causes many individuals to brush the incident under the rug and hurry about their business without stopping to consider whether they have sustained injuries. This natural human reaction can come back to haunt you if you later discover that you were harmed in the fall.
After a fall, there are several steps you should take to protect any negligence claims:
- Take Photographs of the Accident Site. With smart phones and advanced technology, it’s possible to thoroughly document an incident immediately after it happens. Take pictures of icy pavement or pools of standing water. If your phone has a video app, record the area as well as your injuries.
- Get Medical Treatment. Some injuries don’t appear until hours or even days after an accident. Although you might feel okay at the time, it’s important to see a doctor to determine whether you have suffered harm as the result of your fall.
- Make an Accident Report. Take advantage of any opportunity to document the incident. If you’re in a supermarket or commercial building, the facility might already have a procedure for writing a report. If the property owner doesn’t have a policy for logging an incident report, make your own notes as soon as possible.
- Consult with an Experienced Injury Lawyer. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, it’s important to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. These types of cases have strict deadlines when it comes to filing a lawsuit. Protect your rights by calling a slip and fall lawyer today.
This website has been prepared by Lomax Law Firm for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.