Trip and fall injuries in Ontario are a very common occurrence and more often than not, the cause of very serious injury. In fact, trip and falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries throughout the Country. Whether you enter a commercial or residential property, or walk on a public sidewalk, use public stairwells, escalators or elevators, you expect that the premise that you are using to be reasonably safe to walk on. In Ontario, property owners and municipalities must take ensure that their properties and environments are safe for visitors and patrons – and if they aren’t, they can be liable for your injuries.
Our Hamilton trip and fall lawyers have been representing victims injured in trip and fall accidents since 2003. We specialize in representing individuals who have suffered serious injuries casued by such trip hazards as:
If you have suffered a serious injury in a trip and fall accident, call our trip and fall lawyers in Hamilton at 905-333-8888 or submit an online enquiry and we will get back to you within several hours.
In Ontario, trip and falls are governed by the Occupiers’ Liability Act. This law states that an occupier who has physical possession of a premises or has responsibility for the care and control over the condition of a premises must ensure that they ensure that visitors are those brought onto their premises are reasonably safe.
The standard of care for occupiers is that of reasonableness, not perfection. An occupier is required to take all reasonable steps to minimize risk of injury to its patrons. In order to meet this standard, occupiers must tailor their preventative measures to the particular circumstances which could give rise to unusual dangers. In other words, property owners must take positive steps to eliminate or reduce dangers or hazards on their property in order to prevent injury.
Along with uneven ground, trip ledges are the most common reason for trip and falls in Ontario. Trip ledges can be in the form of uneven sidewalk slabs, walkways meeting entrances and exits, potholes, asphalt cracks and dips, pavement sinkholes, thresholds of doorways, cracks in concrete etc. the question often asked by clients concerns the height of trip ledges in which liability will be imposed. Unfortunately our courts have come to different conclusions on this – however – the rule of thumb seems to be approximately 3/4 of an inch to an inch, depending on the circumstances of the case.
In one case several years ago, a 69-year-old woman tripped on the lip of a cement ramp where it met a walkway at the main entrance of a Beaver Lumber store. The walkway had shifted, resulting in the cement ramp being 3 to 3.5 inches higher than the walkway. An attempt was made to fix the lip by placing a cold patch of black asphalt along the lip, which soften the rise. Unfortunately it left a bump in the walkway approximately 1 to 1.5 inches. The court found that this was much too high and there was no doubt that it constituted a danger.
In another case, a plaintiff fell while entering a Westfair Foods Grocery Store. The court, in determining whether there was contributory negligence, found that the plaintiff had tripped on the lip formed by a worn floor covering which had curled up between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch. The court found that anyone entering the store would have been aware of the worn area, but not of the danger it presented. The court found that the plaintiff was not negligent and did not contribute to the cause of the accident.
In another 2009 case against Costco, the plaintiff tripped on a grate inside the defendant’s store. The grate moved when the plaintiff stepped on it, sinking downwards. The court held the defendant liable. There was considerable debate before the court as to whether the grate sunk down by 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch. The court found that the movement of the grates was such that no matter what the elevation, it caused the tripping.
Liability law changes sidewalk trip ledges. A sidewalk on private property and not abutting a highway or roadway (such as a hospital or sidewalk that wraps around a shopping mall) will fall under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. Business owners, storefronts or adjacent property owners may be found to be occupiers of a municipal sidewalk and thus responsible for the cleaning, clearing or maintenance of sidewalks.
A municipality is held to a different standard concerning sidewalk liability. In determining whether a municipality is liable for a victim’s injuries, a court will consider whether the sidewalk was in a state of disrepair; and if so, whether the state of disrepair caused the person’s injuries; and whether the municipality can rely on any defence under the Municipal Act to shield itself from liability. In particular, a Court will consider section 44(1) of the Act, which provides that a municipality has a duty to keep its sidewalks in “a state of repair that is reasonable in all circumstances.” Prevailing law is that a city sidewalk with height differentials greater than 3/4” will constitute non-repair. It must be determined whether or not the municipality was aware or unaware, prior to the accident, of the uneven sidewalk. If a municipality is deemed to be aware of the uneven sidewalk, or sidewalk trip ledge, and did not make proper attempts to fix the sidewalk, a Court may find that a height disparity constitutes an unreasonable state of repair in the circumstances.
In our practice we have seen very serious injuries occur as a result of trip and falls, both indoors and outdoors, such as:
Spinal cord injuries – Traumatic spinal cord injury as a result of falls have consistently increased over the last 4 decades in the Canada and the US. Falls cause about 31% of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Canada. Slipping, tripping, and stumbling are the most common cause, followed by falls from roofs, stairs and steps and then falls from ladders. People over 61 years old have the uppermost frequency of falls from tripping, while those aged 16–45 years had a higher percentage of falls from rooftops. Higher falls were more expectedly work-related and result in thoracic and complete spinal cord injury, while lower falls were are commonly associated with cervical and motor functionally incomplete spinal cord injury.
Serious Fractures and Broken Bones – Falls account for 87 % of all fractures in people over 65. Trip and fall injuries, especially when involved in tripping caused by trip ledge, is often the cause of shoulder trauma (fractures and dislocations), patella (knee) fractures, tibial plateau fractures, hip fractures, wrists and ankles. Ankle fractures, such as bimalleolar or trimalleolar fractures, which refers to a three part ankle fractures involving the medial malleolus, the posterior aspect of the tibial plafond and the lateral malleolus are tremendously common. Having three parts, this is a more unstable type fracture and often involves ligamentous injury.
Brain Injuries (TBI) – Falls are one of the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, and poses an especially serious risk for older adults. Brain injuries from falls are a major cause of disability and death in Canada. Serious brain injuries can cause brain bleeds, seizures, render a victim forgetful, confused, disoriented, left with a speech impediment, blurred vision, cause mood swings, changes in behavior, word-finding difficulties or difficulty speaking and distractibility issues, among other things. NBIA.ca has reported that annual occurrence of traumatic brain injury in Canada is 44 times more common than spinal cord injury and 30 times more common than breast cancer. Traumatic Brain Injury occurs at a rate of 500 out of 100,000 individuals yearly in Canada. Brain injury has also been reported as the leading cause of death and disability in Canada for victims under the age of 40. More then 30% of traumatic brain injuries are suffered by kids and youth – and are a leading cause of death and disability among children.
Torn Ligaments and Tendons – ruptured tendons can be caused by direct trauma of trip and falls. Common causes of tendon ruptures are quadricep tendon rupture, achilles tendon injury, rotator cuff tendon injury and bicep tendon ruptures or tears. Ligament tears occur when ligaments around a particular joint tear away from the bone. The most common types of torn ligaments are knee ligaments and ankle ligaments. Torn ligaments can be directly caused by trip and falls.
If you have suffered a serious injury in a trip and fall accident, you may have the right to compensation.
Compensation in a trip and fall case can range from thousands to millions depending on the injury and level of injury. For example, a spinal cord injury victim might require anywhere from two million to 10 million, depending on the age of the victim and the level of lesion. The lifetime cost of care for victims of very serious injury can be an extremely tremendous financial burden.
Typical a victim would file suit against the premises owner for compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of amenities, loss of housekeeping capacity, future cost of care and economic losses – such as past and future lost income or wages.
If you have suffered injuries in a trip and fall accident, call our Hamilton trip and fall lawyers today to recover the compensation you deserve at 905-333-8888 or fill in an online enquiry and someone from our office will get back to you within several hours.