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Slip and fall — FAQ

A man walks on a recently mopped sidewalk with caution sign. Stock photo by Getty Images
Stock photo by Getty Images

“Winter is coming.” So goes the famous quote from Game of Thrones. With that lovely season, there is an increased likelihood of accidents, including slip and fall injuries.

Here is a list of questions which answers some of the concerns people have about such accidents.

How do slip and fall accidents typically happen?

It’s easy to slip and fall when you’re not paying attention. Often slip and falls can happen at work or while you are walking on a street due to things like:

  • wet or oily surfaces;
  • occasional spills;
  • weather hazards;
  • loose, unanchored rugs or mats;
  • flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have same degree of traction in all areas;
  • obstructed view;
  • poor lighting;
  • clutter in your way;
  • wrinkled carpeting.

How can you best prevent slip and falls?

Obviously be careful and look around you. You need to take reasonable care of yourself to ensure you don’t trip and fall. However, you’re not the only one who has to take care to ensure you don’t have an accident.

Whoever owns or occupies the premises and sidewalks has to ensure they:

  • clean all spills immediately;
  • mark spills and wet areas;
  • mop or sweep debris from floors;
  • remove obstacles from walkways and always keeping them free of clutter;
  • secure mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat;
  • always close file cabinet or storage drawers;
  • cover cables that cross walkways;
  • keep working areas and walkways well lit;
  • replace used light bulbs and faulty switches.

What do I do if I have an accident?

Immediately seek medical help if you’re hurt. Even if it’s a minor injury it’s best to go by the concept “better safe than sorry.”

If this accident happened at work, inform your supervisor as soon as possible. Your supervisor has to report this accident to the worker’s compensation board within three business days usually.

If this accident happened on a municipal street, you must notify the municipality as soon as possible. Every province has its own strict limitation period for accident reporting. For instance in Ontario, you usually have 10 days to notify the municipality of your intent to sue and you must begin your lawsuit within two years. The notification of intent to sue, however, has to be given as soon as possible, as per notification requirement, or you may not be able to sue the municipality.

Keep all medical and other documentation that relates to your slip and fall accident. Make sure you have easy access to those records should you be asked for them.

You may also want to consult a lawyer if you’re thinking of suing, or even if you are unsure of what options you have. Just remember, there are limitation periods and it’s usually a good idea to consult a lawyer as fast as possible.

Who carries liability for a slip and fall accident?

If conditions were good and not hazardous and you slipped and fell, you will likely not be able to hold anyone else responsible. If conditions were hazardous, generally the occupier of the premises carries responsibility, because the occupier has to ensure that the premises are safe, therefore the occupier has a duty of care to the users. Occupiers are tasked to take reasonable precautions and provide a proper standard of care for users of the premises. It’s important to understand that “occupier” doesn’t just mean the owner of the premises, it can also mean a person who has control over the premises, which isn’t necessarily the owner.

Who can I sue?

Usually the occupiers of the premises are sued. Often, especially when they’re owners, they carry liability insurance and the insurance company would defend them. Be warned though, insurance companies defend such claims rigorously. If it’s a municipal sidewalk slip and fall, then you would sue the municipality.

Consult a personal injury lawyer if you want to sue, because the lawyer will be able to tell you who exactly you can sue and the chances of success should you decide on a lawsuit.

Read more:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Dealing with liability in slip and fall accidents