Slips on Icy Sidewalks – Is Anyone to Blame?

Winter in British Columbia always comes with its own set of hazards, and not just for drivers. Pedestrians, too, are at risk of slipping on snow and ice. This can result in a variety of painful injuries, from broken bones to head trauma.

Slips on sidewalks are a particularly common problem across the province. Even Vancouver has had to deal with harsh weather conditions in recent years, with compact snow and ice making the walkways treacherous for pedestrians.

Is anyone at fault?

But if a pedestrian does slip on an icy sidewalk and injure themselves, is anyone to blame, or is it just a risk that we must accept?
It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer, as every case is different. Generally speaking, it all hinges on the question of whether or not the owner/occupier took steps to make the sidewalk ‘reasonably safe’.

This inevitably leads to a series of other questions, such as who is the owner/occupier of a sidewalk, and what does ‘reasonably safe’ mean?

Owners and occupiers

It seems strange to think that anyone would own or occupy a sidewalk, and the terminology is a little misleading. However, bylaws state that when it snows, owners and occupiers are responsible for clearing sidewalks.

The owner or occupier will vary according to the circumstances.

For example, if you own a single dwelling property which you live in, then you are responsible for clearing the sidewalks and paths around your home. If it is rented out to tenants, then they will likely be responsible, although it may depend on the terms of the lease.

With condominiums, the strata is responsible for clearing sidewalks adjacent to the building. With shops, businesses and organizations, this duty will typically fall to the occupier (the leaseholder), although this too may depend on the terms of the lease.

On other occasions, a municipal government – such as the City of Vancouver – will be deemed responsible.

What does ‘reasonably safe’ mean?

Regardless of who the owner or occupier is, their duty will remain the same – to make the sidewalks ‘reasonably safe’ in the event of snow and ice. This means clearing the sidewalk by a certain time each day. It may also entail salting or gritting the area, and taking any other steps within their power to make the sidewalk less hazardous.

It is worth pointing out that pedestrians must also look out for their own health and safety in icy conditions. For example, they should wear appropriate footwear with good tread, and if needed, wear corrective lenses.

Was an owner or occupier negligent?

Even so, if an owner or occupier fails to make a sidewalk reasonably safe, causing a pedestrian to slip on ice and suffer an injury, there may be grounds for a personal injury compensation claim.
It can be difficult to establish who the owner or occupier is, and indeed, whether they were negligent in making the sidewalk reasonably safe. That is why you need to speak to a personal injury lawyer at the earliest available opportunity, as this will allow you to confirm what your options are – including whether you are eligible to claim compensation.

Contact us

If you slip on an icy sidewalk this winter and would like to know if you are able to claim compensation, please do not hesitate to call the Personal Injury Lawyers of John Mickelson Law Corporation. Either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us at 604 684 0040.

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