What is an ice dam? It’s ice that accumulates at the edge of a roof. These ice dams develop because snow on your roof melts at a faster rate than the outside temperatures and when water hits the lower ledge of the roof, the water freezes. These ice dams can grow to a significant size and when not removed they can fall on someone passing underneath and cause serious injury. This may then lead to personal injury claims.
Who Is Ultimately Responsible for Removing Ice from Buildings?
There are a number of different statutes and laws that regulate this:
Occupiers’ Liability Act
Section 3 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act outlines an occupier’s duty of care. The occupier must provide reasonably safe circumstances for persons entering the premises and while on the premises. The occupier’s duty of care applies to dangerous conditions or activities taking place on their premises.
In Ottawa, the Property Maintenance By-Law No. 2005-208 states that the occupant and owner of the property are responsible for the removal of snow and ice that accumulates on roof tops that create a hazard. So, an owner or an “occupier” of a building can be liable for injuries someone sustains if an ice dam collapses on them.
As an owner or occupier of a building, it is important to be proactive in removing ice dams from your structures to avoid liability and prevent any persons from sustaining serious injury, and to avoid a personal injury claim.
If you are injured from a falling ice dam, please make sure you get medical attention right away. I always tell my clients to document their injuries right away by seeing their doctor, walk-in clinic or hospital.
Next, put the owner or occupier of the building on notice. Write them a letter and indicate that your intention is to sue them for the injuries you sustained in the accident. Interest on your claim will start to accrue on the date that you put the building owner/occupier on notice. This is very important!