Winter is upon us! Break out the parkas, toques and winter boots and get ready for some blistering cold. This week we are expecting some sub 20 degree weather in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario. Don’t get me started about what it’s like up there in Northern Ontario. It’s been chilly since the beginning of October (so they say).
The drop in temperature presents safety hazards created by winter snow conditions. Ice accumulation makes for some slippery conditions which can be dangerous.
It’s around this time that our law firm sees a spike in calls for slip and fall accidents.
The focus of this installment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post will be the “Do’s and Don’ts after you or a loved one has sustained a slip and fall accident“.
- DO: Seek medical attention right away after you’ve been injured in a slip and fall. Your first call should not be to a personal injury lawyer. Your first call should be to a hospital, therapist, 911 or another medical professional so that you get the care and attention you need. Time can be of the essence. Don’t believe me? Read up about Cauda Equina Syndrome, which is an injury to the back or spine. Cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder that usually is a surgical emergency. In patients with cauda equina syndrome, something compresses on the spinal nerve roots. You may need fast treatment to prevent lasting damage leading to incontinence and possibly permanent paralysis of the legs. If you don’t get surgery right away, you may be left with permanent damage. Not good.
- DON’T: Leave the scene of the accident without you, or a loved one taking photos of the hazard which caused you to fall. Conditions change from day to day. What was snow and ice one day, can melt to nothing the next. Without proper photos of the accident scene, your lawyers will have no idea of what the exact cause of the slip and fall was. A picture says a thousand words. Photos are powerful tools for insurers, judges and juries. Think ahead and get those photos taken as soon as possible.
- DO: Get the names and contact information of all the people who witnessed your slip and fall, or who were present at the scene of the accident shortly before or after the accident took place. Your personal injury lawyers will want to take witness statements from these people right away. Memories fade. So the sooner your lawyer can get the statements, the better. In addition, witnesses have a tendency to change addresses, phone numbers, or simply vanish of the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. Witness statements can be the difference between a successful case, and a loser.
- DON’T: Walk around this winter in sandals, crocs, slippers, or footwear not suitable for snow and winter condition. Not only is it dangerous, but an insurer, judge and jury will frown upon such a decision and likely trim your award on account of your contributory negligence. Basically, the Court may rule that because you the author of your own misfortune by wearing footwear which was not appropriate for the winter conditions. Think of it as a Court penalty on your award for making a bad decision.
- DO: Purchase a good pair of winter boots! Fashion and safety can mesh! Do yourself a favour and take a trip to the mall or your local shoe store, and treat yourself to a pair of good boots. Think of them as snow tires for your feet! Not only will they keep you safe, but they will also keep you warm as well. It’s a win win.
- DON’T rely on a store’s surveillance footage which you believe captured your slip and fall accident. You would be amazed at how many clients think their fall was caught on camera, so they believe that their case is a sure thing such that they won’t need any photos from the accident scene or witness statements. Most of the time, those little cameras you see in the sky of your local store or shop don’t even work! They are put there as a deterrent to thieve to make them think twice before doing something bad. Of 10 cameras, perhaps 1-4 of them are actually working. Those cameras also only point in one direction. So, if the camera is working, it also needs to be shooting in your direction. If the camera is working, the video quality might be so poor that the tape isn’t helpful. Just because a fall is caught on tape, doesn’t mean that it picked up the snow or icy hazard which caused you to fall on the footage.Finally, that surveillance footage might not be as helpful for the Plaintiff, as it is for the Defendant. The footage cuts both ways, and may show somebody sanding or salting the area upon which you fell just moments before your fall. This would hurt your case as property owners in Ontario are not held to a standard of perfection. All they need to do is show that they had a reasonable system of winter maintenance in place and they can potentially absolve their liability. The fall may rest entirely on the Plaintiff’s own failure to keep a proper lookout or maintain proper footing.
- DO: Keep a proper lookout! The winter is a dangerous time. Particularly to the disabled and the elderly. Canadian winters are tough. Act accordingly. Don’t expect a jury to be sympathetic to your fall. Do you really think that the members of a jury want to be taking time off work; sitting through a week, two week, or even three week jury trial? They might just think that you were not paying proper attention when the fall took place and not side with you at trial. Distracted walking (walking while operating a smart phone) is a thing which judges and juries HATE! Even if you sustained a terrible fracture in a slip and fall accident, a jury may not be on your side on account of your pre-slip and fall behaviour.