Are Changes Coming to Ontario’s Slip and Fall Laws?

A Progressive Conservative (PC) politician has proposed changes to the rules around slip and fall lawsuits involving snow and ice in Ontario. Bill 118, sponsored by Parry Sound–Muskoka MPP Norman Miller, would update the Occupiers’ Liability Act and compel plaintiffs in slip and fall cases to notify defendants of their intention to sue within 10 days of the accident. The provincial NDPs and several slip and fall lawyers have criticized the proposal.

Today, personal injury victims in Ontario have two years from the time of their accident to initiate a civil lawsuit. This grace period provides time to seek medical care, pursue rehabilitation, assess financial needs, and decide whether a personal injury lawsuit is appropriate. Reducing the grace period puts potentially-traumatized injury victims on the hot seat and may limit their ability to pursue a lawsuit.

“How is the customer who slips and falls in the parking lot of a strip mall supposed to find out the landlord’s name and address within the time frame?” asked Tom Rakocevic, NDP critic for Government Services and Consumer Protection, according to Canadian Underwriter. “That information is not readily, and certainly not publicly, available, as in the case of municipalities, except to a small segment of industry insiders who work in real estate.”

“A 10-day notice to serve is simply not an adequate time frame, especially for those who have been injured and may be dealing with doctors’ appointments and medical treatments,” added NDP deputy leader Sara Singh.

But the Bill’s sponsor believes changes are necessary to protect businesses in the province. MPP Miller argued that snow removal contractors and other seasonal service providers sometimes have difficulty purchasing insurance due to delayed personal injury claims.

“In many cases, as soon as there is compensation involved for clearing snow, a company’s premiums increase significantly,” Miller said. “This comes from the insurance company’s fear of having to cover potential lawsuits as far as one or even two years into the future.”

The plan would allow businesses to maintain records and preserve evidence following an accident, the Bill’s supporters argue. It would also allow plaintiffs who miss the 10-day window to pursue their claim provided they have a “reasonable excuse.”

While private member’s bills are rarely passed into law, slip and fall lawyers and opposition politicians have reason to be concerned in this case. According to Canadian Underwriter, most PC MPPs ‘spoke generally in favour’ of the bill.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our team of experienced Oakville slip and fall lawyers can help.

Weather Causes Lawsuit Landslide in Windsor

An “unprecedented” number of damages claims were filed against the City of Windsor last year, with most of the increase attributable to pothole claims and slip and fall injuries. The city awarded very few payouts, however; lawsuits against municipalities are often uphill battles for plaintiffs, as any slip and fall lawyer can attest.

“When we’re assessing a claim and whether or not to pay it, we look at: were we acting reasonably, did we do everything we could have done in the circumstances,” deputy city solicitor Dana Paladino told the Windsor Star in April. Plaintiffs in these cases must prove that the municipality was negligent in its duties, a difficult claim to substantiate.

The City of Windsor received 185 claims for damages relating to potholes in 2018, up from 51 the year before. It also received 37 slip and fall claims, up from 22. The slip and fall claims were of more concern to the city: pothole damages usually range from $500 to $1,000; slip and fall damages are generally much higher.

Indeed, of the $2.5-million that the city paid to claimants last year, 37 per cent went to slip and fall victims and 29 per cent went to trip and fall victims. Just five per cent addressed property damages.

What caused the sudden surge of lawsuits? The city blames the weather.

“We’re unfortunate in that we’re probably in the worse weather zone in North America for freeze/thaw cycles,” city engineer Mark Winterton told the Star. “That’s a recipe for a pothole, numerous freeze/thaw cycles.”

Wild temperature fluctuation in February and March also caused sidewalks to become extremely slippery, which led to the uptick in slip and fall claims.

Even with extreme weather causing hazardous conditions, every slip and fall lawyer recognizes the challenges of lawsuits against municipalities. Ontario’s cities and towns are hard-pressed to maintain roads and sidewalks during the winter. High-density and high traffic neighbourhoods must be prioritized, which leads to safety risks in other areas. If a person is injured due to a slippery sidewalk in a low-priority zone, they have little legal recourse.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville Lawyers to speak with an experienced slip and fall lawyer today. Our team can assess the viability of your claim and lay out your legal options. Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.

Image credit: SmartSign/Flickr

Winter’s over; slip and fall season is not

With winter now over, it’s tempting to assume that slip and fall injuries will decrease across Canada. But as every slip and fall lawyer knows, new risk factors emerge with every season.

The tiny State of Vermont, home to just over 620,000 people, recorded 5,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths due to falls in 2018. The state’s harsh winters contributed to part of that total, but health officials say most falls occur during the spring.

“People don’t necessarily fall in the wintertime,” said Tanya Wells, injury prevention chief at the Vermont Department of Health, to WCAX. “What happens is they stay inside all winter, they get weak, they don’t get the vitamin D from the sun and they come out in the spring and summer and have a fall.”

Other springtime risk factors include unpredictable weather such as heavy rain; dangerous road and sidewalk conditions caused by winter weather and temperature fluctuations; and debris on road surfaces caused by a combination of the two. All of these factors are also common in Ontario.

Another reason for Vermont’s elevated slip and fall numbers is the age of the population. Vermont is a popular retirement destination, and seniors are at increased risk of both falling and sustaining serious injuries from falls. Ontario’s population is also aging, as every slip and fall lawyer knows, and may be fearful of suffering a slip and fall injury.

Worried about a fall? Here’s what to do.

As Wells noted to WCAX, “people who are afraid to fall are actually at a higher risk to fall.”

If you feel at risk of suffering a slip and fall injury, it may be useful to take some precautionary measures. First, arrange a visit to your doctor. They can help assess your fall risk and suggest exercises, procedures, or medications to improve your safety.

Next, develop a plan to follow in case of a fall. Ask neighbours, family or friends to check in if they haven’t heard from you in a while, and make sure you have a way to get in touch with someone if a fall should occur.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you don’t feel confident about descending a flight of stairs in public, ask for a hand from a bystander. If you’re not sure you can walk to the grocery store or post office, ask for a drive from a friend.

Contact Will Davidson LLP if you’re injured in a fall.

If you suffer an injury in a fall, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced slip and fall lawyer. Our team will determine the viability of your claim and assemble a plan to help you access compensation.

Winter has arrived! Here’s how to stay safe.

Oakville, like the rest of Canada, is prone to bad weather during the winter months. And while seasonal variety is part of the unique charm of Ontario living, there’s no denying that winter brings with it certain health risks. Slick roads and holiday driving are a recipe for traffic disaster, and icy sidewalks cause innumerable slip-and-fall incidents between December and March.

There are steps you can take to avoid injuries this season and, if a winter accident can’t be avoided, you can always contact an Oakville personal injury lawyer at Will Davidson LLP.

Driving

Drivers can take a number of precautions to ensure they get through the winter safely, and chief among those is equipping your car with winter tires. Thanks to their far superior traction compared to all-season tires, winter tires allow you to brake, turn, and accelerate more reliably in slippery conditions.

“Your tires are the only part of your vehicle that actually touches road in winter,” Michelin expert Carl Nadeau told the Globe and Mail in a recent article. “Making sure your vehicle is equipped with the right set of winter tires is integral to your road safety.”

Although most Canadians take the installation of winter tires for granted, a significant number fail to equip their cars come December. According to Michelin, as many as one in three Canadian vehicles rely on all-season tires throughout the winter months.

Even with winter tires, drivers should exercise extreme caution on the roads, especially during bad weather. Richard Warrington, an advanced driving instructor from Comox, BC, told the Globe and Mail that simply slowing down can make you significantly safer.

“Everything needs to slow down,” he said. “It’s not just speed, it’s the way you handle the controls. You don’t accelerate as fast on snow or ice. You don’t brake as hard.”

Outside of the vehicle

Drivers aren’t the only ones at risk of injury during the winter months. According to the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab), Ontario emergency rooms treat approximately 21,000 patients with slip-and-fall injuries every winter. And while slipping on ice can seem like a minor incident, there can be serious repercussions, especially for elderly people. If you’ve experienced a slip-and-fall injury, you should contact a Will Davidson Oakville personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

“It’s nasty if your break your hip,” said Toronto Rehab research director Geoff Fernie told the National Post. “You may never be mobile again if you’re older. With head injuries, some people die of it.”

Indeed, a recent Toronto Public Health report revealed that more than 40 per cent of people aged 35-39, and 60 per cent of people 60 or older stay indoors more often as a way to cope with dangerous winter weather.

“A lot of elderly people choose not to go out,” Fernie said. “So they get no exercise and they get depressed and isolated.”

In an effort to get more people outside, Toronto Rehab has developed a rating system to measure the slip-resistance of winter boots.

“For the first time, consumers will have winter slip resistance ratings available when they purchase winter footwear,” the Institute announced. The system uses the innovative “snowflake scale” to rate the boots: if the boot can grip an incline of seven degrees, it is rated one snowflake; if it can climb an 11 degree incline, it earns two snowflakes.

“These people are very seriously on to something,” remarked Barry Wellar, emeritus professor of urban transportation at the University of Ottawa, to the National Post. “Not everybody has proper footwear. They may think they have, but they don’t.”

How can an Oakville personal injury lawyer help?

Whether you have been injured in a winter driving accident or a seemingly innocuous slip-and-fall incident, you may be entitled to compensation to facilitate your recovery. If you have been involved in an accident, contact an Oakville personal injury lawyer today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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