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Are the consequences of a winter injury spoiling your summer fun?

Winter conditions in Ontario can cause many hazards for pedestrians on public and private property. Are you suffering the consequences of a fall on an icy and slippery area when you went shopping? Do you know that you could hold the property owner or occupier liable for your damages? Although it is your obligation to walk with reasonable care, the owners or tenants must ensure you do not encounter unanticipated hazards.

Did you slip and fall in accumulated ice or snow, or did an unattended wet spill in a store cause you to fall? Inadequate lighting or missing handrails at steps and staircases can also be hazardous, as could cracks, gaps or holes in the floor. Encountering unanticipated potholes, bumps or changes in elevation can cause tripping hazards that may lead to falls.

Criteria under the Occupier's Liability Act

The law requires the person or entity who owns or controls a property to take reasonable care of that property to ensure reasonable safety to visitors traversing the premises. The following examples explain some of the criteria that determine reasonable care:

  • Foreseeable danger – An example of this would be the danger of a dimly lit, narrow staircase, which is an obvious hazard that property owners should remedy.
  • Reasonable expectations -- Although a property owner is not expected to clear away accumulated snow every 30 minutes, a reasonable expectation would be for him or her not to leave it for a week.
  • Inspection and maintenance system -- Is there an established system whereby allocated staff are in charge of logging inspections and maintenance?
  • Identification and elimination -- Are employees equipped with adequate training to identify hazards, and do they have the authority to eliminate identified dangers?
  • Failure to take action -- If there is a procedure to follow with reporting dangerous conditions, does the responsible person take immediate action or leave it unaddressed?
  • Emergency protocols -- Is there an established safety manual with emergency procedures, and is there a trained staff to carry out emergency procedures?

What is the scope of the occupier's liability?

If you slipped or tripped and fell on property that was not reasonably safe, you might now have a leg in a cast or even a serious back injury that prevents you from returning to your place of work. You may file a premises liability lawsuit against the occupier or property owner -- or both -- to recover damages and losses brought about by the incident. However, this is a complicated field of the law, and it might not be a battle to fight without legal counsel.

Proving negligence may be challenging, but proper legal guidance can often alleviate this. Along with a thorough investigation of the incident, expert opinions and medical reports can be gathered to substantiate your claim when you file a lawsuit in an Ontario civil court. Your documented claim can include damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and more.


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