I looked outside my window today and saw SNOW! Yuck. That means it’s slip and fall season in Ontario. A large proportion of the personal injury cases at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers are slip and fall cases. A large proportion of those slip and fall cases arise from slip and falls on snowey/icey/slippery surfaces caused by lack of, or improper maintenance. In many of those cases there is no maintenance at all which adds significant exposure to the Defendant property owner.
Given that it’s slip and fall season in Ontario, the team at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers would like to keep you up to speed with some do’s and don’ts for your slip and fall case. On this list are some common misconceptions when it comes to handling these cases.
DO: Take pictures of the surface which caused the slip and fall. If it was slippery, snow covered, or covered in ice, our lawyers want to see it. Judges, juries and insurers want to see the slippery surface as well. Just saying that the surface was icy is sometimes just not good enough. A picture says a thousand words and taking those photos is made much easier nowadays with everyone having a camera feature on their smartphone. Sometimes having a picture of the surface which caused the fall can be the difference between a case which succeeds, and a case which fails.
DON’T: Let the witnesses to your slip and fall accident walk away without getting their names and contact information. The police don’t investigate slip and fall accidents. The police don’t get called, interview witness or lay charges on the property owner. Unlike a serious motor vehicle accident, the police won’t be there to do all of your investigatory leg work to identify the at fault parties and witnesses. In a slip and call accident, all of this leg work is entirely your responsibility. Your personal injury lawyer will certainly help, but if the witnesses to the slip and fall left the scene of the accident, it’s a difficult ask for the personal injury lawyer to secure the contact information of the witnesses days or weeks after a fall took place and the witnesses are nowhere to be found. If you, a friend or family member can secure the names and contact information of the witnesses at the scene of the slip and fall accident right then and there; then do it. Don’t let that valuable evidence slip out from under your foot (pardon the pun!). It’s that type of evidence which can make or break a slip and fall case.
DON’T: Assume that cameras are working and will catch your slip and fall on tape. Everyone always assumes that everything is caught on video tape. More often than not, video cameras won’t pick up what you hope they will. Some cameras don’t work and are simply dummy cams to deter thieves. Other cameras aren’t pointed in the frame of your fall. Sometimes footage gets erased or deleted prematurely before it can be recovered. Either way, don’t assume that your slip and fall will be caught on camera. Would the footage help your slip and fall case? Certainly. Is footage always available? No.
DO: Wear proper footwear for the winter/slippery conditions. This is important. One of the first questions which an insurer, judge or jury will want to know is what type of footwear were you wearing at the time of the fall; and whether or not that footwear was appropriate for the weather conditions that day. Were you wearing sneakers, sandals, or winter boots. If the answer is the former on a wintery day, then a Judge and Jury may reduce you award because your footwear was not appropriate and likely caused you to lose your grip and slip and fall. It’s a good idea to take photos of the footwear you were wearing on the date of the slip and fall (all four angles from top, bottom and side to side). This will be important evidence for your slip and fall case.
DON’T: Forget where you fell. Remembering where you fell, and what caused you to fall is very important. The location of the fall can determine who is the Defendant in your case because your personal injury lawyer will have to identify the location of the fall in order to determine the party who you will be seeking compensation from. Sometimes a meter in either direction to change the Defendant; or can spell the difference between a claim against a private property owner vs. a claim against a Municipality. There is a big difference between suing a private property owner vs. suing a Municipality which carry different notice periods and standards or care. Suing a private property owner is much easier than suing a Municipal Defendant given the rigorous notice periods and standards under the Municipal Act 2001
Remembering what caused you to fall is equally as important. Was is snow/ice which caused you to fall or was it an uneven surface, speed bump or a crack on the pavement. Knowing what the hazard was which caused you to fall can make or break your case. Getting photos of that hazard is also important evidence towards establishing liability against a Defendant property owner; so get it done.
DON’T: Give a statement to an insurer without a personal injury lawyer present. If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall accident, the insurer for the property owner may want to take a statement from you (recorded, sworn, written, etc.). This can be a good idea, or not. It depends on the case. It’s certainly not a good idea without a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and to ensure that you aren’t saying things which will prejudice your case or your rights to recovery. So when that “friendly” insurance adjuster calls you wanting to take a statement, it may seem like a nice idea but think twice and lawyer up. You don’t want to harm your case before it even gets started.