Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents

May 4, 2021

Everyday activities like walking down the aisle of a grocery store, returning to your car in a parking lot, or descending a flight of stairs may sound harmless. But slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere, during even the most routine activities. While people injured in a slip and fall may feel as though their own carelessness or clumsiness was the primary cause of their accident, they may not realize that their injury was, in fact, ultimately caused by someone else’s negligence. 

According to the province of Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, the term “occupier” refers to someone who is in physical possession of the premises or is responsible for the property’s condition and its activities. This definition may include a building’s landlord, property manager, tenant, or other individual who oversees the premises.

By law, occupiers owe a reasonable duty of care to anyone who visits their premises. This may include guests, residents, employees, customers, and people walking by their property’s exterior. To fulfill this legal duty of reasonable care, occupiers are required to remove, repair, or properly alert people about possible hazards on their property. If the occupiers responsible for their guests’ safety know about a maintenance flaw on their premises– or should know about it– and fail to address the issue, they could be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of their negligence. 

Some common examples of occupier negligence that could cause slip and fall accidents include:

  • Improperly cleared ice or snow
  • Cracked sidewalks 
  • Potholes in parking lots
  • Wet, recently mopped floors
  • Standing water on slick floors
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Cluttered hallways
  • Poor lighting
  • Broken or missing railings on staircases
  • Loose tiles
  • And more

When occupiers fail to adequately fix these maintenance issues or warn their visitors about them, serious injuries can occur as the result of slip and fall accidents. Some common injuries often sustained in slip and fall accidents include:

  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • And more

New Ontario Restrictions on Slip and Fall Accidents Caused by Ice or Snow

While it’s difficult to determine what the most frequent cause of slip and fall accidents is, anyone who has experienced winter in Ontario can probably appreciate how snow and ice can be especially hazardous. If a property occupier allows snow outside their building to accumulate without clearing an adequate path for visitors, people trying to access the space may lose their footing and injure themselves in a fall.

The same goes for slick patches of ice in outdoor walkways, parking lots, or other places of busy foot-traffic along a property’s exterior. If the property’s management fails to adequately salt treacherous swaths of ice, remove it entirely, and/or warn visitors about it, people can sustain serious injuries requiring hospitalization. A slip and fall on improperly cleared ice may even cause an accident victim to sustain lasting or permanent injury.

In Ontario, people who have sustained injuries because of snow or ice have a two-year limitation period during which they may be eligible to pursue tort action against the negligent party that caused their injuries. However, in accordance with Ontario’s new Bill 118, which recently received Royal Assent, anyone injured by snow or ice who may decide to pursue legal action during that two-year limitation window must provide the negligent parties with a written notice of claim within 60 days of their accident. (And note below special rules that apply to injuries sustained on municipal properties.)

According to the newly enacted Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act, an accident victim’s notice of claim must be submitted to the negligent parties in writing. Their written notice must include the date, time, and location of their accident. It must also be delivered in person or by registered mail within the short, newly mandated 60-day timeframe.

That does not mean that an accident victim must bring legal action against the negligent occupier within the 60-day time limit. Accident victims will still be entitled to pursue action anytime within the two-year limitation period following their slip and fall, but only provided they supply written notice of their intention to do so within 60 days of their accident. A failure to provide notice to either the occupier or their contractor overseeing snow and ice removal within 60 days may prohibit injured people from pursuing their claims entirely. 

Now that the Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act has been enacted in Ontario, if you sustain an injury in a slip and fall accident caused by ice or snow, time is of the essence. Consider consulting with our London personal injury lawyers as close to the date of your accident as possible to determine what actions you may be able to take.

Limitation Period if you Fall on Municipal Property

City-owned properties such as sidewalks are treated differently in that if you plan to sue the city (town or village) because of an injury, you have only TEN days to give notice of your injury. You still have two years to commence a lawsuit as long as you have given the 10 days’ notice.

Who is Most at Risk of Being Seriously Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident?

Injuries caused by slip and fall accidents can happen to anyone. But the severity of injuries sustained may vary significantly depending on the age of the accident victim. Statistically speaking, senior citizens are more at risk of falling than younger people, and the injuries they sustain in a fall are more likely to seriously impact their quality of life. 

For example, if a young, healthy person slips on a patch of ice, the fall may lead to some mild aches and bruises. But if a frail senior citizen slips on the same patch of ice, they could sustain injuries in the fall that require hospitalization and/or surgery. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 81% of injuries that require a senior citizen to be hospitalized are caused by falling. That means that slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of injury among our country’s older population.

Canadians over the age of 65 are at risk of sustaining hip fractures in serious slip and fall accidents. Broken hips can lead to loss of mobility, prolonged pains, and a diminished quality of life. Accident victims who have sustained this serious injury may require total hip replacement surgery. While this invasive surgical procedure could improve an ailing senior’s situation over time, for many seniors, even after receiving a total hip replacement, sustaining a hip fracture could put them at greater risk of death. According to the co-author of a report on preventable deaths caused by delayed hip replacement surgeries published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), even after treatment, 30% of seniors who break their hips die within one year of their accidents.

What to Do if Your Slip and Fall Accident Was Caused by Negligence 

Slip and fall accidents happen suddenly and without warning. If the accident causes you to sustain an injury, in the frazzled moments immediately following your fall, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Future legal action against negligent property occupiers may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, taking a few simple steps at the accident scene in the aftermath of your accident may be beneficial for any future action you may decide to pursue.

If you are able to do so, after your accident, consider taking photos of the accident scene and any maintenance flaws or weather conditions that contributed to your fall and request the names and contact information of any bystanders who may have witnessed the accident. You may also be able to submit an incident report to the property’s managers. When you do so, be sure to keep a copy for yourself and write down any details about the time, weather conditions, and other contributing factors to your accident while they are still fresh in your mind.

If you have sustained an injury, even if it only appears to be mild in severity, taking photos of your injuries could help illustrate the extent of the physical damage you incurred. Seeking medical attention immediately may not just help you avoid future complications in your recovery process, but it may also provide you with accurate medical documentation that may be useful to submit as evidence during any potential legal proceedings. 

Finally, keeping track of any lost income because of your injuries, including medical expenses and missed work, could provide you with a comprehensive picture of the damage another party’s negligence has caused you.

A personal injury lawyer may be able to help the victims of slip and fall accidents on someone else’s property file a lawsuit against the parties at-fault. By filing a lawsuit against the negligent property occupier, an Ontario lawyer may be able to help their injured clients recover the costs they incurred as a result of their injuries, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Ongoing medical care/in-home care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Adjusted living expenses
  • And possibly more

How Cohen Highley LLP May Be Able to Help

If hazards on someone else’s property caused you to sustain injuries in a slip and fall accident, our Ontario personal injury lawyers may be able to help you find accountability and financial restitution. 

Cohen Highley LLP services clients throughout Ontario from our head office in London and branch offices in Chatham, Kitchener, Sarnia, Stratford and Strathroy. To discuss the circumstances of your accident and learn if you are eligible to pursue legal action, contact Cohen Highley LLP today.

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