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Understanding the occupier’s duty and premises liability

Slip and fall accidents are among the most common causes of personal injuries in Ontario. Should one of these incidents occur on a piece of property owned by someone other than the victim, there could be equitable cause for a lawsuit based on the regulations of premises liability. The following information may help a person determine if they have grounds for a claim based upon evidence of the occupier’s negligence.

With that in mind, what is premises liability law, and what are the occupiers of a building responsible for? Let’s explore in more detail together.

Defining the Occupier’s Legal Obligations

The occupier of a property could be the owner or other parties with control over its condition or usage. The space could be a section of land or water, a building or structure, or even watercraft and/or other moving vehicles. The occupier owes a duty of care to any person who sets foot on their premises, even if that person is trespassing or otherwise was not supposed to be there.

Having a duty of care means that the occupier is responsible for keeping the grounds safe. This may include keeping up general maintenance like cutting the grass, clearing debris like fallen trees or broken glass, and timely removal of snow and ice in colder weather. Each season comes with unique requirements to ensure grounds are kept safe. These responsibilities lie with owners of private property and public places alike, the latter of which are looked after by the corresponding city or township. Even if maintenance responsibilities have been passed on to an outside party, the occupier could still be liable if they did not show due care in hiring competent workers or did not oversee the work sufficiently. 

For example, a strip mall may be owned by a company or individual, yet it may have an outsourced maintenance company that is responsible for ploughing snow and salting icy sidewalks. However, the space outside of the store, depending on how far it extends, may remain the responsibility of the business owner to maintain. In the case that you fell in the plaza, where it happened would determine who you would file a claim against.

Determining the Level of Liability

When bringing forth a personal injury claim concerning premises liability, it is up to the plaintiff to argue that the conditions where they fell were unsafe and a result of the negligence of the occupier that caused them to fall. The occupier will have to argue a reasonable attempt was made to reduce the possibility of this incident happening. Documentation, such as photos, videos, and witness accounts of the conditions will also play a factor in the court’s decision.

Often, an occupier will use warning signage to alert people to potential hazards. However, even a sign may not be enough of a deterrent or sufficient attempt at ensuring the safety of those who may walk through the area. A vaguely worded sign may not adequately describe the danger, while hidden dangers require explicit warnings. Language can also cause a problem, as not everyone may easily understand the words used. In some cases, it could help to reduce the fault on the occupier if the victim ignored clear notices.

Slippery conditions are among the top reasons for slip and fall lawsuits. Constant snowfall is possible in the winter, as it accumulates quickly and reduces traction, creating a dangerous environment regardless of your footwear. A property manager would likely shovel and salt the area they are responsible for frequently in these conditions to ensure it is safe to walk on. The occupier would have to demonstrate their attempt to do this.

Premises liability of an occupier can also be reduced or eliminated if the plaintiff demonstrated recklessness or carelessness. The court may consider their footwear, whether they were on their phone when walking or even running, or if they could have easily avoided the area by going around the space.

Premises Liability and Personal Injury

Premises liability is a complicated area of Ontario personal injury law. Victims are often unaware of their rights after suffering an injury on another person’s property. A knowledgeable lawyer can review the incident and assess if there is a case for compensation to be made. 

At Bergeron Clifford, our experienced team will give your slip and fall case the attention it deserves to ensure a timely resolution. We take the time to discuss the incident with you, and our legal experts ensure that we understand the damages this event has had on you and your family. This way, we build a complete case to help you secure fair and appropriate compensation. Contact us to learn more about our services.

Contact Bergeron | Clifford LLP

Let us help you if you have been injured anywhere in Eastern Ontario. Contact us at 866-384-5886 or fill out our online form. We can meet at any of our office locations, including Kingston, Ottawa, Whitby, Carleton Place, Perth or wherever is most convenient for you.

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