Slip and Falls
Unfortunately, slip and falls are quite common in Canada, especially in the wintertime. The Occupiers’ Liability Act in Ontario protects individuals from slip-and-falls while on commercial property, residential property, and on municipal lands. This includes malls, grocery stores, parking lots, residential driveways and backyards, public parks, roads, and sidewalks. If you are injured while on one of these premises, the question will be whether or not the property was safe for individuals. The occupier or owner is not expected to remove every possible threat of danger, but is expected to take “reasonable” steps to ensure that the property is “reasonably” safe.
What is reasonable?
Determining reasonability will depend on the circumstances of each incident. For example, it is reasonable that a piece of food might fall to the floor of a grocery store at some point during the day, but it is unreasonable for the piece of food to remain on the floor all day. Suppose a customer drops a cherry on the ground and 30 seconds later another customer slips and falls on the cherry. It will be difficult to prove liability because there was nothing that the grocery store could have “reasonably” done in that amount of time to prevent the fall. However, if the cherry remained on the floor for two hours before causing an injury, it will be easier to prove liability because there was a “reasonable” amount of time for the store to remove the cherry.
The standard is the same for residential and municipal properties. Though what is reasonable in a grocery store may not be the same for a residential driveway or municipal sidewalk. But whether the injury occurred on commercial, residential, or municipal property, a personal injury lawyer’s task will be to determine reasonability through investigation and research.
What if the victim was responsible for the fall?
The victim of the fall may be partly responsible for the incident, and the occupier may attempt to prove that the victim helped cause their own injuries. For example, if the victim was behaving carelessly at the time of the incident, this could result in the occupier only being responsible for a portion of the damages. Listed below are some common examples where the victim may be partly responsible for their injuries in slip and fall cases:
Voluntary assumption of risk: if the victim sees water on the floor and decides to walk on the water instead of going around.
Footwear: if the victim was wearing high-heels (rather than winter boots) while crossing an icy parking lot.
Behaviour of the victim: if the victim was running, texting or distracted in any way. State of the victim: if the victim was drinking alcohol or was impaired in any way. These factors will be important to remember and disclose when a victim is seeking legal advice. What does the occupier owe a victim if they are found liable?
If found liable, the occupier will be required to reimburse the victim for any damages or injuries that occurred as a result of the accident. It is important that the victim collect any medical evidence of the injury, proof of property damage, or proof of how the injury interfered with their life. These will be considered when assessing the cost of damages. Depending on the circumstances, the victim could receive compensation for the following:
Loss of past and future income
Pain and suffering
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of competitive advantage in the workplace