Winter increases potential suits

BY BECKER LAWYERS, THE TIMES JANUARY 24, 2013

Whether you are driving on the new Port Mann Bridge, walking on an icy sidewalk while doing some local errands, or simply participating in a recreational activity, you should always understand your legal rights if you become injured.

You should also validate assumptions about any possible claims.

It’s the icy season of slips and falls, and we’ve seen many clients who have suffered significant injuries from what you might consider a simple fall from either ice or a crack in the sidewalk.

I recall one such elderly client who tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell face first into the concrete. She eventually recovered, but she suffered some truly awful facial injuries.

When you consider that, as residents, each of us must keep the walkways and sidewalks of our residential property ice-free and safe, it won’t surprise you to know that municipalities have the same obligations.

Municipalities must maintain safe sidewalks and keep them ice-free or repair hazardous cracks or other safety-related issues. While they are obligated to keep them safe, if you slip on municipal property you have only two months from the date of the injury to notify the municipality in writing of your potential claim.

This notification must be delivered directly to the municipality and include all pertinent information, including your legal name and address, and the time, place and manner in which the injury was sustained. Failing to provide the municipality with this type of notification may jeopardize your claim for injury compensation.

Now, if a municipality has complied with a reasonable standard of care and is maintaining the sidewalk regularly and a sudden freak storm occurs, creating treacherous icy conditions, they may not be held responsible should you fall and sustain an injury. This is because they may have met a reasonable standard of care, especially if they could not have anticipated the freak storm. Similar considerations apply to the maintenance of your own residential property to ensure the safety of your visitors.

As for the Port Mann Bridge, liability for falling ice and a slippery bridge deck is still to be debated by lawyers and decided by the courts, but individuals won’t know for sure whether they have a reasonable claim until the issues of standards of care and liability are properly assessed.

But the test will always be the same: was a reasonable standard of care met?

For those who sustain injuries during recreational activities, such as skiing, you may have a claim against the operator of the ski hill, even if you signed a waiver of liability. A waiver does not necessarily absolve a party from their responsibilities.

Insurance companies deter a lot of claims with the use of waivers, but what’s not well known is that many claims are worth pursuing and can result in settlements in favour of the injured.

As with any injury, it’s best to check with a lawyer to review your details and get advice on the best course of action for your individual matter.

© Copyright (c) Maple Ridge Times