Large temperature fluctuations this winter have made conditions ripe for the formation of ice; with ice come slip & fall injuries. The laws of Ontario allow people who have suffered falls to pursue claims for damages when the slip was caused by negligence. To preserve your legal rights and collect the right evidence after suffering a fall on ice, there are a number of things that you should do.
1. Determine the Location
It is extremely important that you determine the location of your fall. Always determine the municipal address of the fall location, as this will enable you to determine the owner of the property through a property search. Even if your fall occurred on a municipal sidewalk or roadway, always determine the municipal address of the adjacent property, or closest property, as it is not always clear whether a slip location is public or private property.
2. Immediately Provide Notice
Sections 44 (1), (2) and (10) of the Municipal Act, 2001, state that a municipality must keep their highways and bridges in a reasonable state of repair. If this obligation is neglected, the municipality is liable for any damages caused by their inaction.
Because of this, municipalities are entitled to receive notice of a fall within 10 days of the incident. If notice is not provided with 10 days, you may lose your right to pursue a legal action against the municipality. If there is even the slightest potential your slip occurred on a public sidewalk or road, prepare a notice containing details about the fall – date, location, time and injuries – and contact your municipality.
3. Collect Witness Details
Witnesses to a fall can be invaluable, as they can support the injured person’s story, and comment on the conditions that caused the fall. Far too often, the injured person does not obtain the name and contact information of witnesses, causing the witnesses to disappear as if they never existed. If someone comes to your assistance after you slip, try to obtain the person’s name and contact information.
4. Preserve Your Shoes
The shoes a person was wearing at the time of a fall are very important to the claim. The type and condition of the shoes can help determine the cause of a fall. As a result, it is very important that the injured person preserve the shoes until the claim is resolved, and avoid wearing the shoes to keep them in their current condition. Preserving the condition of the shoes can assist with preventing the wrongdoer from blaming the shoes as the cause of the slip. As well, obtaining photographs of the shoes, from all angles, including the soles, can be helpful in showing the condition of the shoes at the time of the fall.
5. Take Photographs
A picture is worth a thousand words. The conditions as they existed at the time of the fall will never exist again. Therefore, it is essential to capture photographs depicting what caused the slip, and also depicting the fall location as soon as possible. The photos of the fall location should include closeup photos – to allow for a clear picture of the hazard that caused the fall – and also panoramic photos, to allow people to identify the fall location. Good and timely photos can be essential to determining fault.
When people suffer traumatic injuries in a fall, they understandably become focused on the symptoms they are experiencing and on obtaining medical attention to address the symptoms. They are not able to put on their detective hat and record the evidence right after a fall. This list represents helpful tasks in theory, but in practice they can be difficult to perform in the moment. Hiring a competent lawyer as soon as possible after being injured in a fall will help you ensure the above list is completed in a timely manner.
Note: This post originally appeared on Ontario Trial Lawyers Association Blog on March 10, 2017.