Inordinately high numbers of people are injured in slip and fall accidents during our harsh winters. With increased slip and fall injuries come heightened liability for property owners. Homeowners, as are commercial property owners have a responsibility to ensure their homes are proofed of all reasonable slip and fall risks during the winter season.
This winter season has seen record snowfall and blizzards across Canada, with residents struggling to dig themselves out of mounds of snow in Newfoundland where St. John’s International Airport recorded a new record of 30 inches of snow in one day. A state of emergency was declared in several parts of the province. Other parts of Canada, like Ottawa in Southern Ontario, also set new snowfall records.
Slip And Fall Injury Liability For Homeowners
Slips and falls are a serious risk in winter, especially during day time. The reason for this is snow melts as the sun rises, which turns it to water. As temperatures fall, that water turns to black ice on walkways and driveways. This ice is often extremely slippery and can cause injuries.
As a homeowner, you have to take steps to clear snow on your property and remove all risk of slips and falls. If you don’t, visitors – whether expressly invited or whose visit is implied – who slip and fall because you neglected to make your property reasonably safe for them may sue you.
However, the best way to protect yourself against liability arising from people slipping and getting injured on your property is to carry homeowner’s insurance that fully covers you against the risk. As many in Canada will know, it can get very difficult to fully proof your property against this risk if the weather can get as rough as it has been lately.
If your homeowner’s insurance has all the necessary protections your policy will cover both the damages and the medical bills resulting from the slip and fall injury.
Proving Liability In Slip And Fall Cases
Under a legal principle known as premises liability, as a homeowner, you may be held liable for injuries sustained by a visitor to your property if it can be proven that you acted negligently. The law requires you to make sure every part of your property is safe for visitors and even trespassers.
Many falls and injuries resulting from people slipping on icy driveways, walkways, and stairs result in litigation. Slip and fall payouts can top $48,000, which can be devastating for your family if you are not covered by insurance. Now, litigation simply means you will get sued for failing to ensure your property is safe for visitors. Proving legal liability is a different story, though.
For a homeowner to be liable in a slip and fall accident it has to be clear that the surface on which the person slipped on was unreasonably unsafe. If shoveling the snow would have prevented the slip and fall, a case of negligence (and liability) can be pursued against the homeowner.
But simply because slips and falls are known risks in winter that require everyone to be especially careful, the one suing must work hard to prove your liability as a homeowner. But there are many cases where homeowners have been successfully sued. So, you do not want to take your chances with the legal route.
Whether you are liable or not, an insurance policy with adequate coverage will remove all that headache. But you are probably asking, who would be so aggrieved to want to sue for an injury they sustained on private property?
The Extent Of Insurance Coverage In Slip And Fall Claims
The principle of premises liability states that homeowners have to make sure their properties are safe for visitors. This includes clearing snow from areas where a visitor may slip and fall on black ice. But who exactly are these visitors?
Anyone you have expressly invited to your property may sue you for a slip and fall accident. Examples are people who have responded to your ‘open house’ invitation for a property you are selling, construction workers, people attending a party you are hosting at your house, a babysitter, or a plumber fixing your broken toilet.
There are also instances where a person’s visit may be implied, like a postman delivering your mail. People you may even consider trespassers, like a salesman, whose presence on your property you would not have expressly consented to may also sue you for slip and fall accidents they suffered while on your property.
Typically, homeowners insurance will have two different coverages, namely liability coverage and medical coverage, otherwise known as ‘at no-fault medical coverage’. Liability coverage covers damages where a person sues for the cost of the slip and fall accident on their ability to earn and to live their normal life, while medical coverage covers the medical bills the injured person incurs getting treated for their injuries.
The hope with liability coverage is that your policy covers the damages in full, otherwise you will have to pay the difference. It’s for this reason why it is wise to purchase additional insurance if your homeowners’ insurance policy does not have adequate coverage.
Homeowners’ Insurance Will Protect You Financially In Slip And Fall Accident Cases
If a slip and fall accident happens on your property and the injured party decides to sue, it is the insurance company they will be dealing with. Unless, of course, you don’t have insurance. In which case you will be sued directly. Avoid this by buying adequate homeowners’ insurance.
Where you are leasing the property, you have to be sure who between you and the property owner is responsible for the upkeep of the property. If the lease expressly states you are supposed to maintain the property, including shoveling snow and making sure stairs, walkways, and the driveways are free of slip and fall hazards, you may be acting negligently if you fail to do so. To protect yourself as a tenant, you have to insure against the risk.
A homeowners’ insurance policy will protect you financially in the event someone gets injured in a slip and fall accident on your property. Carrying this insurance also prevents awkward situations where someone you would have enjoyed a good relationship with has to make is forced to make a claim against you. If you have insurance, there will not be any hard feelings as the cost of the claim will be borne by the insurance company.
Do you have adequate homeowners’ insurance to cover yourself against slip and fall accident claims this winter?
Able Elite Team is an experienced brokerage that works with the top insurers in Canada. We will advise and shop for the best insurance policy for your residential property. Contact us today to arrange your policy before a slip and fall injury happens on your property.