Who is responsible?
In this province, winter is no stranger. Cold weather, freezing temperatures, then warm snaps are a recipe for ice build up and slippery conditions. The can cause some serious concern for many individuals who try to remain mobile through the winter and to get from “a” to “b” on foot. So what happens when you wipe out while walking on public or private property and you suffer an injury? Can you sue? Can you hold a community, business or individual accountable? The short answer- yes!
The key word in all of this is “negligence”. In order to sue someone for damages incurred to your person or property, you must first have a case for negligence against the person or entity you are pursuing for said damages. This means that the person or entity did something, or failed to do something that a reasonable person would or would not do. If you get an inch of freezing rain and three days later your sidewalks remain a skating rink and there is snow laying on top to boot, you have a case for negligence. However, if the owner has put up a sign encouraging caution and warning a person of slippery conditions, then there is a case to be made that the owner did in fact act reasonably in the situation. If the conditions are right where anyone residing in the general area for a reasonable amount of time (determined by the court) would have known about the slippery conditions and braved them anyways, there could be another case made that the person should not have been out and about in the first place.
When to sue
Suing is ugly, costly, and usually the course of action taken once all other efforts to remedy a situation are exhausted. Further, due to the cost of pursuing damages in the court of law, you’ll want to make sure that the damages being pursued is worth hiring a lawyer for, and that you are ok with making an enemy in the process. If you slip and fall and suffer a bruised limb, chances are the damages are not worth pursuing. However, if you slip and fall and suffer a bruised limb and you were carrying a million dollar heirloom that broker in the fall, you might have a case if negligence can be proven. The damages to your person and property would likely be worth pursuing in this instance.
What else can you do
When suing isn’t a practical method, and the damages sustained to your person or proerty are minimal, there are other things you can do to remedy the situation:
- Talk to the person that you feel was negligent. Address the issue, stay calm and state your case. Chances are good that the person (or entity) will be very apologetic, and will have not intentionally sought ill-will or harm to you. They will seek to remedy the situation and address the area of concern in a practical way
- Be a good Samaritan. Warn others around you of the danger, and do your part to ensure others don’t experience the same danger as you have
- Call the city, town or community office you are in and report the incident if you feel like your concern is not properly being addressed by the entity who is deemed to be “potentially negligent”. There are bylaws that can be enforced to ensure that the third party is addressing areas of concern in practical ways
Use caution this winter when going out and about. Wear proper footwear, don’t be in a rush, and use simple walking techniques that can help combat slippery conditions (ex. walking on your toes, and avoiding weight transfer to your heels). Should you slip, help others, address the area of concern with the third party responsible, and seek any medical help you may need. If your concerns fall on deaf ears, contact a bylaws professional. When all those items fail and the damages warrant it, sue. Changes are good that a situation will be extraordinary for you to escalate things that far though.