It is a property owner’s responsibility to ensure that the risk of injury on their property is reasonable. This means clearing foliage that may cause trips or falls, removing low-hanging tree branches that could cause injury and ensuring that ice patches, slippery spots, and other dangerous surfaces are addressed in a timely fashion. However, the law also understands that property owners cannot be monitoring their land for potentially dangerous areas at all times. Therefore, in order to determine liability, several separate criteria must consider, amongst them:
- Was the property owner aware, or ought they have been aware of the dangerous area(s)?
- Did the property owner cause the condition of the dangerous area, either directly or through negligence?
- Did the owner take steps to address the dangerous area, or repair it in a reasonable time frame?
The definition of “a reasonable time frame” varies depending on the situation. Different city by-laws require snow and ice to be removed from your sidewalk within 8 to 24 hours after a snowfall to ensure that the risk of accidents is minimized. Other areas or home associations may have different by-laws on general maintenance and upkeep.
However, some responsibility may also fall upon the injured party. The courts must consider if individual carelessness contributed to the accident. Would a careful person, for example, have noticed the bulge in the carpet, the slick of water in the driveway, or the loose floorboard? Was the injured party warned of the dangerous area and told to avoid it? Was the injured person fully paying attention to their surroundings, or were they, for example, texting while walking along a slippery sidewalk? Such factors are likely to be taken into consideration by the courts when determining fault in a personal injury claim of this nature.
Whether you are the homeowner or the injured party, proving fault in personal injury accidents can be difficult and time consuming. You will likely need an objective, honest assessment of how the courts of likely to deal with your claim, should it proceed to court.