New Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Rules Coming to Ontario
Every winter, thousands of Canadians are injured in slip-and-fall accidents on icy walkways, sidewalks, steps, and other surfaces. While the vast majority of these accidents are harmless, some can cause serious injuries, hospitalizations, and, in rare cases, even death. It is the job of slip-and-fall lawyers to field calls from these seriously injured accident victims, assess their cases, advise them of their legal options, and explain the process of filing a claim. In Ontario, that process is on the cusp of changing drastically.
Bill 118, Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act, 2020
Until recently, a person injured in a winter slip-and-fall accident in Ontario had up to two years to initiate legal action, which they could do without written notice to the defendant. Bill 118, which was given Royal Assent on December 8, 2020, proposed to change that. Under the new rules, a person injured in a slip-and-fall accident will have just 60 days to initiate the process and must deliver written notice to the appropriate parties.
Here’s what the Bill says about accidents on private property:
“For a slip and fall on private property that is due to ice and snow, you must serve the owner/occupier with written notice of the fall, the time, the date, and the precise location within 60 days of the incident by personal service or by registered mail.”
The rules for accidents on municipal property are even more stringent. Here’s what the Bill says:
“For a slip and fall on municipal property, you must provide the city with written notice of the fall, the time, the date, and the location within 10 days of the incident by service on the City Clerk or by registered mail.”
The one caveat to the new rules is in the case of death:
“Where the individual dies from the injuries and the court has discretion under reasonable circumstances to forgive late notice,” the Bill reads, “the time to file a claim in court is two years from the date of the fall.”
Who Benefits from Bill 118?
Snow-plow operators have the most to gain from the changes under Bill 118. A single slip-and-fall accident on a property that a snow-plow operator is in charge of maintaining can have a devastating impact on the operator’s insurance costs. One contractor who spoke to CTV News Toronto last month said his premiums jumped from $16,000 to $60,000 per year due to a single incident.
In the past, snow-plow operators have also criticized the two-year limit to file a claim, which they saw as excessive. Plaintiffs would reportedly launch lawsuits within days or weeks of the deadline, which would mean limited time for operators to gather the necessary evidence, paperwork, etc.
What are Slip-and-Fall Lawyers Saying About the Change?
Many slip-and-fall lawyers believe Bill 118 will act as a barrier to justice for injury victims. The written notice rule puts a significant burden of responsibility on plaintiffs’ shoulders, particularly given the harsh new time constraints.
Plaintiffs are now asked to identify the legal owner of the property where the accident occurred; to determine whether a tenant or occupier was responsible for maintaining the property; and also to determine whether a property manager or snow removal contractor was responsible. Two months may not be enough time to gather this information, particularly for seriously injured accident victims whose primary focus should be on their recovery.
Additionally, 60 days may not be enough time to assess the severity of a prospective plaintiff’s injuries. It is not uncommon for symptoms to materialize after several months, or for existing symptoms to deteriorate.
Contact the Slip-and-Fall Lawyers at Will Davidson LLP
If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, contact the slip-and-fall lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades, and is equipped to provide the advice, guidance, and legal representation you need on your road to recovery. Reach out today to learn how we can help.