Winter is fast approaching and though it may be a drag to think about snow falling on the ground, it’s a reality Albertans will soon be facing! Winter weather brings with it an increased risk of slip and fall accidents, particularly on sidewalks or driveways that are not cleared of ice and snow. If you find yourself injured as a result of ice or snow you may be able to turn to occupier’s liability in order to claim compensation from the occupier of that property.
What is Occupier’s Liability?
Occupiers – people who own or are responsible for the maintenance of private property – are required by law to take reasonable steps to keep their property safe for those entering or using it. Think of shoveling your driveway so the mail carrier doesn’t fall, or a business cleaning snow and ice from its entryway.
A party with some degree of possession of a property may be considered an occupier and subject to claims brought by people who are injured on their property. Determining who qualifies as an occupier can lead to complex legal questions. Some properties can have multiple occupiers, such as a rental property which may see both its owner and tenant qualify as occupiers.
In Calgary property owners are required to keep their property clear of ice and snow (including public sidewalks) within 24 hours of the snowball ending. City bylaws impose a fine starting at $250 for the first offence and going up to $750 for those with multiple offenses. The city also imposes snow removal fines of $150 for those who fail to comply.
Needless to say, whether you own a home or business, it’s a good idea to be diligent about removing snow and ice in order to prevent accidents.
What if I find myself injured in a slip and fall?
If you’ve been injured as a result of an occupier failing to maintain safety on their property, you may be able to bring a claim against them. It’s important to speak to a lawyer after making sure any medical needs are addressed.
It’s also a good idea to keep limitation periods in mind. Limitation periods are the windows of time in which people have to bring a claim. In Alberta, the Limitations Act establishes these time limits. For civil claims, such as slip and falls or motor vehicle accidents, injured parties have either two years from the incident, or ten years after the claim arose (whichever occurs first). The clock actually starts ticking when the person filing the claim knew, or ought to have known that the injury occurred, was a result of someone else’s misconduct, and warrants bringing a legal action.
At HMC Lawyers, our Insurance Team takes the time to understand the needs and perspective of commercial occupiers, and endeavors to resolve occupiers’ liability claims through responsive and forward-thinking legal work. Although we are always prepared to take matters to trial, we also look for ways to settle matters through alternative dispute resolution and take every available opportunity to minimize costs for our clients.
If you have questions about your potential liability as an occupier, or if you are facing an occupiers’ liability claim, make an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers. Call 1-800-480-3534 or contact us online.