What Does ‘Duty of Care’ Mean When It Comes to Slip-and-Fall Accidents?
Slip-and-fall injury victims and others injured on another’s property often wonder who is responsible for their accident and injuries. The Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act governs slip-and-fall accidents in the province. This law outlines who can be liable in a slip-and-fall accident and what is required to secure compensation successfully in a claim. It also includes an explanation of the “duty of care,” upon which a negligence claim is based.
This most-important aspect of the law states: An occupier (such as a business or property owner) owes those entering the property a duty to see that they are kept reasonably safe while on premises.
What does duty of care mean?
The “duty of care” requires a person, group or entity to act toward others and the general public with an established minimum of care. This means behaving with a level of care, attention and prudence as would any other reasonable person or entity acting in a similar situation.
The duty of care applies whether the hazard is caused by the condition of the property (such as an ice-covered walkway or broken step) or an activity that occurs on the property (such as event that could be dangerous).
A person or company who fails to uphold the duty of care is negligent. Those negligent actions may be actionable in an injury claim.
How does duty of care impact my injury claim?
The Occupiers’ Liability Act asserts an occupier — which can include a grocery store owner, an apartment complex owner, or residential homeowner — must take care to ensure all visitors will be reasonably safe while on their premises. The occupier cannot assume a property is safe and willfully remain unaware of potential hazards. Instead, Ontario laws have established a duty to inspect premises and take steps to remedy potential hazards.
The duty of care does not assign automatic liability in a slip-and-fall case, however. As the victim, you must be able to prove the occupier failed to address or remedy a hazard, or failed to practice reasonable standards of care.
To better understand how duty of care functions in a slip and fall accident and subsequent legal action, consider the following scenarios:
- An apartment building owner fails to remove snow and ice accumulation from the walkways and stairs residents use daily. This causes a slip-and-fall accident, resulting in severe head trauma or a broken bone.
- A hotel owner fails to remove or secure a loose rug located atop a slippery tile floor. An elderly guest falls and suffers a hip fracture as a result.
- A restaurant manager neglects to train employees on how to clean up spilled liquids properly. He also fails to establish regular inspections of the restaurant or a cleaning schedule. As a result, a guest slips and falls in a hallway and suffers a spinal cord injury.
In each of these situations, the victim may file a claim based on the owner’s failure to follow the duty of care to maintain a hazard-free property.
How Ontario Property Owners Can Fulfill Their Duty of Care
Below are a few examples of how an owner/occupier could fulfill his or her duty of care:
- Posting sufficient signs to warn of hazards, such as “Slippery Floor” signs on a freshly mopped or waxed surface, or “Step Down” on a sloping surface
- Repairing or remedying dangerous property conditions, such as a leaky roof, broken stairs, and cracked walkways
- Removing snow and ice from accessible walkways, sidewalks, and parking lots
- Installing safety features such as high-traction flooring, outdoor and indoor lighting, non-slip rugs, security cameras, smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and stairway railings
- Hiring qualified builders and contractors to update, build, and maintain safe premises
- Routinely inspecting property for new hazards
- Training staff on proper protocol for maintaining a safe property
- Responding to known hazards in a timely fashion and prohibiting public access to unsafe areas
Property owners also may take other actions to ensure they abide by their duty of care.
Failure to adhere to the above guidelines may constitute a breach of the duty of care. This, in turn, would signify liability in the event of an accident or injury on premises.
When to Call a Toronto Slip-and-Fall Lawyer
A lawyer may be able to help prove negligence in an accident claim by providing evidence of the breach of duty. Evidence might include photographs of hazards, property maintenance records, and witness testimony.
Have you been seriously injured in a slip and fall or similar accident on someone else’s property in Ontario? For personalized information about your own slip-and-fall accident, call 1-800-JUSTICE® for a free case evaluation by the slip-and-fall lawyers of Preszler Injury Lawyers.