Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the leading causes of serious injuries in Canada. It’s the most common workplace injury, injuring around 60,000 workers each year according to Statistics Canada. So they’ve also become a common cause for lawsuits.
If you’ve suffered because of a fall, you may be eligible for monetary damages.
As with most personal injury lawsuits, the crucial question is whether someone else is liable for your injury and why. If you just tripped over your own shoelaces, you probably don’t have a case against anyone else. If your accident was the result of hazardous conditions caused by another party’s negligence, you can hold them liable. Such conditions would include:
- ice and snow;
- wet surfaces;
- uneven, narrow or otherwise unsafe stairs;
- unsteady or missing handrails;
- poor lighting;
- uneven surfaces, such as cracks, gaps, potholes, or changes in elevation; and
- debris or other obstacles.
In cases like these, it’s typically the occupant of the premises who is responsible for these conditions, whether it’s a tenant or just someone currently in control of the property, such as a house sitter. The property owner can also be liable as well as anyone performing maintenance or repairs on that property. They all have to provide a reasonable standard of care to prevent trip, slip, and fall hazards. Owners and occupiers of a property can demonstrate this standard of care by
- Posting signs to warn of potential dangers;
- Blocking access to possible hazards;
- Removing threats (cleaning up spills or salting icy walkways, for example);
- Carrying out necessary maintenance; and
- Performing regular inspections and keeping records of them.
To establish liability, a court would consider several elements.
- Was the accident foreseeable?
- Was the occupier’s conduct in accordance with acceptable standards of practice? (carrying out the duties listed above).
- Were regular inspections mandated and performed?
- Was the hazard allowed to exist for an unreasonable length of time?
- How difficult would it have been to prevent the hazard?
Contributory negligence is another important consideration. This means you are at least partially responsible for your own fall and injuries. For example, if you’re running on an icy sidewalk and fall, the property owner might bear some liability for not clearing the ice, but you were also not taking reasonable care for your own safety. You are still eligible for damages, but they may be reduced depending on how reckless you were.
If you experience a slip-and-fall and you believe someone else is liable, try to document the conditions that caused your accident as quickly as possible. Conditions can change — ice can be cleared, lighting fixed, obstacles removed — and you need to prove that those hazards caused your injury.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Dealing with liability in slip and fall accidents