Municipalities have an obligation to maintain municipal roads and sidewalks. If you slip and fall on public property due to icy or snowy conditions, you might have grounds for a personal injury claim. However, there are a number of factors to keep in mind:
- In Alberta, municipalities’ obligations are set out in the Municipal Government Act. The Act states that a municipality is only liable for injuries caused by snow, ice or slush if the municipality is “grossly negligent.”
- There is no clear definition of “grossly negligent.” It typically means actions or inactions that deviate greatly from normal practice or from what a reasonable person would expect. A court will look closely at the facts of each case to determine if there was gross negligence. It normally means that if the municipality was unaware of the hazardous situation prior to your accident, it will not be held liable.
- This very high bar means that very few lawyers are typically willing to take on a claim against a municipality, particularly for a slip and fall accident. You essentially need proof that someone already complained about the particular issue that caused your injury prior to your accident. As you can imagine, that sort of proof is very, very hard to come by.
- Good documentation is essential for any personal injury claim. Take photos as soon as possible of the slip and fall area, any injuries sustained and the footwear worn at the time of the accident. Also, get contact information for any witnesses and visit a doctor as soon as possible after the incident.
- In Alberta, if you wish to pursue an injury claim due to ice, snow or slush on public roads or sidewalks, you must inform the municipality of the accident within 21 days of its occurrence.
There are only three exceptions to the 21-day deadline:
- You have a reasonable excuse for not notifying AND the municipality is not disadvantaged by the lack of notice.
- OR Death resulted from the accident.
- OR The municipality has waived the requirement for notice, in writing.
These are just a few things to consider if you have been injured by a slip and fall on a municipal road or sidewalk. If you have any questions, please contact me.