The winter ice and snow are on the way! Be sure you’re covered against any cold-weather mishaps such as slips, trips, and falls – you could be liable.
Winter is definitely on its way. In fact, by now many area communities have already experienced their first snowfalls, subsequent melts, and hazardous freezes.
As lovely as the snow is, this time of year isn’t just about gearing up for the festivities of the Holidays and waxing skis and snowboards in anticipation of the impending powder. It’s also about preparing yourself against the possibilities of accidents due to chilling and changing weather conditions.
For homeowners, in order to safeguard against unfortunate mishaps, you must understand that you are responsible for maintaining the safety of your property – keeping clear of snow and ice your walkways, steps and stairs, and driveway. The trafficked areas around your home must be made as safe as possible for anyone who uses them.
So, with the recent changes in the weather, be sure that you are aware of such common hazards as:
- Snow and ice – spread salt, shovel, and sand to ensure your walking surfaces are safely cleared according to your local bylaw timeframes
- Note unexpected changes in elevation or surface issues such as cracks or gaps. Repair any potential issues that lie within your property boundary. You can also report issues such as uneven sidewalks that lie on municipally-owned property
- Ensure your lighting is adequate and maintained
- Manage slippery surfaces – wet floors or slick tile flooring. Simply install some form of non-slip cover
- Repair loose or missing handrails on stairs
- Debris such as wet, slippery fall leaves can be a hazard so keep your paths and walkways clear of them
What is your legal liability?
It’s up to you to provide a reasonable standard of maintenance, keeping your home and property safely free of any potential hazards. If you neglect to do so, there’s the possibility you could be held liable for slips, trips, and falls. Hosting an event – party or a yard sale? Due diligence could prevent a costly mishap.
Think this is only about homeowners? Not so! If you’re a tenant, you may end up sharing liability for an accident with your landlord. The individual held liable depends on the circumstances of the accident. If it’s a shared space with two or more tenants, be sure that the lease agreement states your responsibilities very clearly.
The following criteria are what will be taken into consideration:
- Was the danger or hazard foreseeable?
- Did the homeowner’s conduct conform to largely acceptable standards of practice?
- Was the danger or hazard in existence for an unreasonable span of time?
- How easily could the danger or hazard have been prevented?
If you want to avoid liability, the best way to do so is prevention, plain and simple. Be vigilant when it comes to keeping your home or property free of potential dangers and hazards. Regular maintenance is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself against a mishap and the resultant claim or lawsuit should it occur.
What to do if an accident occurs on your property:
- Certainly, you assist the injured party and get them the necessary medical treatment. Call an ambulance if it’s required.
- Document the names and contact information of everyone present – witnesses. Document detailed descriptions of the incident from all involved and present – victim and witnesses.
- Don’t talk about the event with the injured. Refer any conversations with the claimant to your insurer. DO NOT ADMIT LIABILITY!
- Take photographs of the area where the incident happened. If possible, take pictures of the footwear that the injured individual was wearing.
- Document the entire incident. This could very well assist to establish a defense if a claim is presented at a later date and help your insurer conclude the cause of the event.
- Report the incident to your insurance provider. Provide:
- All details of the incident
- Information about what you might have done preventatively to avoid the mishap.
- Explore the possible causes and take the necessary steps to prevent and/or respond more effectively to similar events in the future.
Questions about potential accident liability? We want you to TALK TO US!