The Ground Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling the Aftermath of a Slip and Fall

The Ground Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling the Aftermath of a Slip and Fall

Written by: Lindsay Charles and Jamie Davison, Student-At-Law

Slip and falls happen in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s navigating icy sidewalks or walking on slick floors in a grocery store, the possibilities for injury in Ontario are unfortunately endless.

However, in the event that you slip and fall on someone else’s property, you could be entitled to compensation under either the Occupier’s Liability Act or the Municipal Act, 2001. However, the crucial element is establishing that your fall and subsequent injuries resulted from the negligence of those responsible for maintaining the property.

The Occupier’s Liability Act holds property owners and those responsible for property upkeep accountable for ensuring that the property is reasonably safe for those using it. The expectation set is that they exercise reasonable care in the maintenance and inspection of the property.

The Municipal Act, 2001 places responsibility on municipalities to maintain highways – a broad category which includes sidewalks. The expected standard is that highways be in a reasonable state of repair. Nevertheless, exemptions exist under section 44(3) of the act, which shield municipalities from liability if:

  1. the municipality did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to have known about the state of repair of the highway;
  2. the municipality took reasonable steps to prevent the state of disrepair from occurring; or
  3. at the time the cause of action arose, the minimum safety standards set under the Municipal Act, 2001 had been met.

Regardless of the legal avenue pursued—Occupier’s Liability Act or Municipal Act, 2001— you still must prove that negligence occurred to successfully claim compensation. In a slip and fall claim, proving negligence is very fact specific. Some questions that a personal injury lawyer will need to know in bringing a negligence claim following a slip and fall may include:

  • Was the area in which you fell well lit?
  • Was there water on the floor where you slipped?
  • Were there any wet floor signs in the area?
  • Did anyone see you fall?
  • What footwear were you wearing at the time?

These details are pivotal in demonstrating that those responsible for maintaining the property failed to meet the requisite standard of keeping the property reasonably safe for those using it. While an experienced personal injury lawyer can guide you through the complexities of a slip and fall claim, there are immediate steps that you can take post-incident to gather essential evidence and safeguard your rights.

Immediately after a fall, priority number one is obtaining any immediate medical attention required to respond to your injuries. However, if you or your loved ones are able, consider taking the following crucial next steps in laying the groundwork for a potential compensation claim for your injuries.

1.Record Details of the Incident Location and Conditions

Take note of where your slip and fall occurred and the immediate surroundings. If it happened on a street or sidewalk, jot down the nearest property’s address. Capture essential details such as the precise timing of the incident, the weather conditions, the level and type of lighting (natural or artificial), the presence of warning signs, and the existence of security cameras.

The recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Musa v Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 255, underscores the significance of the specific details in slip and fall claims. The Plaintiff was walking in his condominium parking lot during a snowstorm, slipped and fell, and fractured his ankle. He sued his condominium and its winter maintenance company. Ultimately, it was the details of timing on which the success of the case hinged. The Plaintiff had evidence that the snowstorm had begun at 4:00 a.m. and the Plaintiff slipped and fell at 9:30 a.m. However, the Plaintiff also had evidence that the snow removal company did not arrive to salt the parking lot until 10:00 a.m. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Trial Judge who held that it was a breach of the occupier’s duty to take reasonable care to ensure that residents walking on the premises were reasonably safe by failing to salt the premises in a timely manner.

2. Capture Photos

Snap photographs of the conditions that led to your slip – whether it’s spilled substances, uneven pavement, or icy patches. Time is of the essence, as circumstances may change rapidly. Immediate photos not only document the scene but also provide a time and date stamp for your incident. Take both close-up photos of what caused the slip and fall, as well as photographs of the wider scene.

3. Collect Witness Information

Gather names and contact details of any witnesses, including those who offered assistance. Witnesses play a crucial role in validating your account later on.

4. Preserve Footwear and Clothing

The shoes you were wearing at the time of the fall are vital evidence. Preserve them in their post-fall condition and refrain from wearing them again. Take multiple-angle photographs of the shoes, especially of the soles.

Depending on the circumstances, it can also be beneficial to preserve your clothing. For example, if you slip and fall on snow-covered steps, the presence or lack thereof of salt stains on your coat may be valuable evidence indicating whether or not the occupier or municipality met their burden of salting the area.

5. Provide Notice if Necessary

If the slip and fall occurred on municipal property, the Municipal Act, 2001 requires that you provide notice of the incident to the municipality within 10 days. If you are unsure if you fell on municipal property, contact the municipality to clarify.

If you do not provide notice within 10 days, you can still start a legal claim against a municipality if you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so and the municipality will not be prejudiced by the late notice. Check out our blog on the Superior Court of Ontario decision, Graham v City of Toronto, that outlines the exceptions to the mandatory 10 day notice period.

There are also specific rules surrounding notice if you slip and fall on snow or ice. In 2021, Bill 118: An Act to amend the Occupier’s Liability Act was enacted as law giving plaintiffs in slip and fall incidents on snow or ice only 60 days to file a notice of claim. This is why it is crucial for you to notify the property owner as soon as you fall, or, contact a personal injury lawyer so that they can do so on your behalf. For more details, check out the article written by McLeish Orlando Associate, William Harding, on Canadian Lawyer Magazine.

6. Seek Medical Attention

Prioritize seeking medical attention. Do your best to clearly communicate the details of the incident and your injuries to your doctors. Regular follow-ups help build a documented history of your case, making it challenging for property owners to dispute the timing and origin of your injuries.

How can McLeish Orlando help?

While it can be quite easy to slip and fall, it may not be as easy to receive compensation for the injuries you sustain. Our team of personal injury lawyers has decades of experience navigating these claims. If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall, don’t hesitate, call our office to speak to a member team and receive a free consultation.

Check out our other blogs on slip and falls:


Lindsay Charles


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