June 11, 2014
By Brian Babcock
What is a “slip and fall” injury?
Slip and fall is the term lawyers, judges and others involved in tort claims use to describe injuries which occur when someone slips, trips or falls. The injury might result from falls caused by:
- ice or snow
- wet floors
- abrupt changes in flooring
- poor lighting
- uneven sidewalks
- lack of railings
- poorly designed or built stairs or decks
- hidden hazards, such as a gap or hard to see hole in the ground.
In order to sue, the injury must be as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property.
Ontario has a law called the Occupiers’ Liability Act. Under this law, in most cases, the injured person does not need to prove that the property was dangerous or that it was the owner’s fault. It is up to the occupier to show that it took all reasonable steps to keep people coming on to the property safe. Since this law came into force about 30 years ago, it has become easier for injured people to collect damages, although there are still cases where the occupier does prove that they met their obligations – for example, supermarkets with good systems of inspection and well maintained “sweep logs”.
The rules may vary depending on the location and identity of the owner – for example private property is not the same as a public sidewalk; roads and bridges have special rules; recreational property is treated differently; government property might have special rules.
If you are on someone else’s property and injure yourself the property, the first priority is medical treatment, but you should contact a lawyer to get advice about your rights. It is often helpful to get photographs quickly before dangerous conditions are repaired.
If you are a property owner or tenant:
- fix any hazards
- review your maintenance and inspection policies – are they current and complete?
- document your policies
- train your staff in the policies
- maintain good records of your efforts
- review your insurance coverage
If an accident happens at your property:
- take pictures:
- preserve any video evidence;
- take details from the injured person and any employees or witnesses
- never admit liability
- remedy any immediate hazard after taking pictures
- notify your insurer
Most homeowners and commercial liability policies cover slip and fall accidents, but you need to be careful to comply with all policy terms, in particular those regarding timely notice of the claim.