Winter Slip and Fall Accidents in Ontario

Winter Slip and Fall Accidents in Ontario
Winter Slip and Fall Accidents in Ontario 

In Canada, many of us enjoy winter sports and relish the sight of a landscape covered in sparkling new snow. However, Canadian winters can also be hazardous. It’s estimated that 12% of motor vehicle accident injuries and deaths in Canada are due to icy road conditions. Snowmobile accidents account for 50 deaths per year in Ontario and Quebec alone. Even such iconic Canadian pursuits as tobogganing, skiing, and hockey are responsible for a number of deaths and serious injuries each winter. But one of the most prevalent problems in any Canadian winter is the slip-and-fall accident that occurs on an icy sidewalk. Given the wrong conditions, any one of us is vulnerable to this type of mishap, and the consequences can be serious.


In Toronto, unpredictable winter weather -- combined with the fact that large numbers of people use the sidewalks -- means that slip-and-fall accidents are all but inevitable. Sometimes, in southern Ontario, rain followed by freezing temperatures can create particularly treacherous conditions. In a December, 2016 article, Torontoist magazine quotes Dr. David MacKinnon, the deputy chief of the emergency department at St. Michael’s Hospital: “The first day of the icy sidewalks we tend to get a bit of a rash of fractures because of that. People fall and they do break their wrists and they break their ankles. They’re people of all ages—it’s young people, it’s old people. It’s not limited to any gender or age range.” McKinnon adds that throughout the winter, the ER at St. Mike’s also sees many wrist and ankle fractures caused by slip-and-falls on sidewalks that haven’t been properly cleared. A recent report released by Toronto Public Health [PDF] indicates that between 2006 and 2015, nearly 30,000 people went to an emergency room after falling on ice or snow. Of these, 2,800 were hospitalized. During that same period, there were 2,300 claims against the City of Toronto due to slip-and-fall accidents on snowy or icy sidewalks.



This year, Toronto has a budget of $12 million for cleaning and salting sidewalks. This may sound like a lot of money, but every time it snows, about 6,000 km of sidewalks need to be cleared. In Toronto’s snowier months (December through March), the city policy is to clear high-pedestrian area sidewalks after a snowfall of 2 cm or more; low-pedestrian area sidewalks are cleared after an 8 cm snowfall. However, it can take up to 72 hours for this to happen, depending on the severity of the conditions. If pedestrians use the sidewalks before they can be cleared, the snow packs down and becomes slippery. (It also becomes more difficult to clear efficiently.) And the only about ¾ of the sidewalks in the Toronto are routinely cleared; many inner-city sidewalks are deemed to be too narrow to be cleared with current plows.


According to Section 44(9) of the Municipal Act, when someone slips and falls on a public sidewalk due to ice or snow, the city may be liable for the injuries sustained. The latest figures show that slip-and-falls cost the city about $6.7 million per year in liability claims.


If you slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, is the City of Toronto to blame? The answer is a cautious: “Maybe.” It’s a question that should best be answered on an individual basis, by an experienced personal injury lawyer. One thing to remember is that you must contact a personal injury law firm as soon as possible after the accident has occurred, or you may forfeit your right to bring a legal action against a municipality. There is a strict one-week deadline for filing this type of claim.



A private citizen or business may also bear some of the responsibility in your case; city residents also have a responsibility to clear snow and ice. Again, according to the Municipal Code, a resident must “clear away and completely remove snow and ice from any sidewalk on any highway in front of, alongside or at the rear of the building,” within 12 hours of a snowfall.


Liability for a slip-and-fall accident may be divided between two or more people, and responsibility for the fall can also be shared with the injured party. Damages will be split in these types of cases. For example, if the judge decides that you were 25% responsible for the accident, you will recover 75% of the damage award.


Claim amounts are based on the severity of the injuries, and the extent of the impact on the victim’s life. For example, if injuries sustained in a slip-and-fall accident leads the victim to miss work, he or she can potentially make a claim for lost wages. An individual could also claim medical or rehabilitation expenses, and even claim an amount for pain and suffering. 


If you’ve had a slip-and-fall accident on an icy sidewalk, call Sokoloff Lawyers. The firm has experienced lawyers who will be able to advise you about the potential for bringing a suit. Accidents happen; Sokoloff Lawyers can help your family to deal with the aftermath.

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