Winter is coming, and with the ice and snow comes an increased risk of slips and falls. John Michael Bray is a personal injury lawyer at Orendorff and Associates in Sudbury, and before the cold weather sets in he wants people to be aware of the potential pitfalls around the new rules for slip and fall lawsuits.
As of January 2021, if someone is injured in a slip and fall on ice or snow, they will now have just 60 days to provide written notice of a pending lawsuit to the target occupier of the premises, property owner or winter maintenance contractor. Previously the notification period was two years.
The reason for the change, is because occupiers and winter maintenance contractors and their insurers were complaining they’d often get notification of a lawsuit, two years after it happened.
At that point, the ability to prepare a defence is severely curtailed. The opportunity to speak to witnesses, take photographs and pull up maintenance records is lost.
What are the ramifications?
Bray is concerned about the impact of the changes on the injured party. He said, “It’s not practical or even possible for the injured person to know who owns the property or who the winter maintenance contractor is. If someone falls in a shopping mall parking lot, they may not know within 60 days who manages or owns the property.”
Moreover, if someone is hospitalized or not healthy for months, they may not be in the proper state of mind to hire a lawyer within 60 days.
Bray said, 60 days is a short requirement. “It could add an extra procedural layer for injured people who may not have the resources or time to notify someone. It can actually be an access to justice problem.”
There are some exceptions that may help. If you provide a reasonable explanation as to why the notification wasn’t made by the deadline, a judge may accept it. For example, if you were hospitalized and could not contact a lawyer.
The notice period for slips and falls on municipal property is 10 days, and courts will accept a reasonable explanation as to why it was not filed by the deadline. However, not being aware of the rule would not be a reasonable explanation. “I didn’t know is typically not a valid excuse that would be accepted by the court.”
What should you do if you are injured in a slip and fall incident?
Bray said, “My advice would be to contact a lawyer immediately. If your injury prevents you from contacting a lawyer, have a friend of family contact a lawyer on your behalf.” A lawyer can run property and corporate searches, they can prepare written notice and access a process server quickly.
Not contacting a lawyer can put an injured person in further peril. In many cases what are initially thought to be bumps and bruises could develop into something much more serious. Bray added, “People might not know after day 60 whether they have a claim that’s worth pursuing. The best advice would be to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.”
If you would like to speak to a lawyer at Orendorff & Associates please call (705) 673-1200 or visit: www.sudburypersonalinjurylawyers.ca