Have a Potential Claim for a Slip-and-Fall Injury? Here’s What to Do

As temperatures in Ontario drop, slip-and-fall incidents unfortunately increase.  However, whether falls occurs indoors or out, there are some important steps that you must take after a slip-and-fall to preserve your legal rights.  These steps are important in case you decide to pursue an action for damages against anyone who may have been responsible for the cause of your fall.

In some cases, if certain steps are not followed, any legal claim you have could be jeopardized entirely.  A recent Ontario case, an example of this is Hamilton v. Ontario Corporation #2000533, a tenant of a residential building sued the landlord for what she said was a slip-and-fall on the “shiny and slippery” vinyl floor in the corridor outside the rental apartment where she had lived for nine years.  However, the landlord succeeded in bringing a motion for summary judgement at having the court case thrown out entirely since the tenant failed to provide the motion judge with enough evidence to show that it should go forward.  In this regard, the judge noted that the tenant’s Statement of Claim failed to describe the cause of the fall in sufficient detail as the claim mentioned only that there was a “hazard”, but did provide any objective evidence of an unsafe condition or a lack of maintenance and failed to specify exactly the manner in which the landlord may have breached a duty of care.  The motion judge noted that while the tenant certainly had a subjectively held belief that she slipped on something, she could not identify any specific unsafe condition or hazard to the judge’s satisfaction.

If you have suffered a slip-and-fall, whether indoors or out, do not let this happen to you.   Here are some tips for marshalling the information you will need to effectively present your case:

Document the Location of the Slip and Fall

If the fall took place indoors, your first step is to take down the address.  This will allow for searches of the land titles registry to identify the property owner who might be responsible. Similarly, if the fall took outdoors on what is likely public property (like a street or sidewalk), make a note of the nearest address, as well as the closest intersection, and any other identifying details.

Give Notice Promptly

It is a little known, but highly important fact that in Ontario, the provisions of the Municipal Act state that a person who experiences a slip and fall on a public road or sidewalk must give the municipality written notice of the incident within 10 days.  If that notice is not given then a claimant’s claim may be “statute-barred.”   It is therefore vital that you not only take down the details of your slip-and-fall promptly and accurately, but that you also take steps to give the municipality the notice to which it is entitled before your legal claim can proceed.

Collect Your Evidence

As the case above illustrates, it is also important to begin organizing your evidence immediately after you experience a slip and fall incident in order that you can establish sufficient and persuasive proof to the court’s satisfaction.  Accordingly, it is important to:

  • Collect testimonial evidence from witnesses, their names, addresses and any statements they are willing to give about the observable conditions that may have caused your incident.
  • It is also important to Preserve physical evidence. Including the footwear and pants or any other relevant clothing that you were wearing and any other physical evidence that may be pertinent to your slip-and-fall.  In particular, in relation to slip and falls caused by ice or snow as inadequate, shoes or boots are often blamed as the cause of the incident, it is important to preserve that evidence in the  exact condition it was in on the date of your incident.
  • Finally, it is crucial to take photos of everything immediately.   This includes the physical location of the area that the slip-and-fall took place as well as the particular hazard that likely caused the slip.  Take wider-angle pictures, as well as close-ups and do not forget to take a photo of your footwear as well as numerous photos of the injuries you suffered on your body as a result of the fall from a variety of angles.

Hire a lawyer

When someone is involved in a serious slip-and-fall injury, they usually obtain prompt attention from doctors to begin treatment.  However, given the intricacies involved in organizing and bringing a lawsuit, it is important to hire an experienced lawyer right away in order that he or she can properly organize the matter as appropriate to your situation.

_____________

Hamilton v. Ontario Corporation #2000533 o/a Toronto Community Housing Corporation, 2017 ONSC 5467 (CanLII)