The most common personal injury claims people make during the winter and how to prevent them.
“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt” is a familiar phrase that many of us heard our parents say while we were outside throwing snow or sledding down steep and dangerous hills. The winter season is an excellent time for those who love participating in winter activities; it’s also one of the the busiest times for personal injury lawyers due to an influx of claims. Whether you’re going skating or just simply walking to the corner store, there are dangers to be aware of. If you can recognize the most common winter dangers, you’re more likely to prevent them.
Slips and falls
The snow, ice, and rain create a very slippery terrain during the winter. Slipping on an icy patch in your driveway will often do more damage to your dignity than it will to your body. Generally speaking – most slips and falls in the winter result in minor bruises and some soreness. However, there are many instances where personal injury lawyers see claims for broken bones, head injuries, and worse. The reality is that slips and falls can be extremely dangerous, especially for those with disabilities and the elderly.
If you slip and fall on a property that you own – unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that. Even if you sustain a severe personal injury from your fall, you can’t sue yourself for damages. However, when it comes to public property and businesses, there are laws in place to keep you safe. It’s the legal responsibility of a property owner to reasonably maintain their premises to prevent accidents like these from happening. Shovelling snow out of walkways, knocking down large icicles from roofs, and laying down salt to melt ice are examples of general maintenance that property owners must do. If any of these things are neglected, the property owner could be liable should a personal injury occur on their property.
Slips and falls don’t happen exclusively outdoors either. When you walk through a mall with winter boots on, there’s a good chance that you’ll leave a wet trail behind you, or you may slip in someone else’s wet trail. The same goes for your own home – always be sure to dry up the floors if you’re walking through with wet boots and shoes.
Changes to slip and fall claims in Ontario.
As of December 2020, any slip and fall cases involving snow and ice have a notice period of just 60 days under the Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act. Within 60 days of any slip and fall accident, the plaintiff must give and serve notice of their claim. Therefore, if you sustain an injury from a slip and fall accident due to the negligence of another party, you must contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. After 60 days have passed, you’ll no longer be able to bring an action for recovery of damages for your personal injury.
Simple ways to prevent slips and falls:
- Wear proper winter footwear
- Try to stay off your phone while walking
- If you approach an icy patch, waddle like a penguin until you clear it
- Always salt and shovel the driveway and walkway of your property
- Slow down and observe your surroundings
If you own a vehicle or don’t – you’ve seen how dangerous the roads can get during the winter in Ontario. A personal injury from a car accident can be devastating, and winter accidents can be some of the most fatal. As a driver, there are a lot of entirely avoidable accidents, but there are many that aren’t. Even if you take all of the necessary precautions, there’s always a likelihood that someone else didn’t – resulting in a personal injury that you never saw coming. It’s not possible to prevent accidents entirely. Preparing your car before the winter, getting snow tires, and driving slowly are all ways to avoid accidents and to decrease the severity of injuries if an accident does occur.
As a pedestrian, it’s crucial to pay extra attention to your surroundings because an accident can result in a fatal personal injury. Cars may slide into intersections, and it can be harder to see you if you’re wearing dark winter clothing. If sidewalks are not plowed, and you must walk on the road, always be sure to walk in the opposite direction of traffic so that you can see oncoming cars. If possible, wear reflective clothing when you know you’ll be walking on the roads at night time. Avoid j-walking or crossing intersections before the light turns in your favour. It’s significantly more challenging for cars to stop suddenly in the winter, and it’s not unusual for them to slide slightly into a crosswalk as they approach it.
Winter sports and activities
If you’re a thrill-seeker or like to spend time in the snow, you’re probably an avid participant in winter sports. While they can be a lot of fun and great exercise, there is always a risk of personal injury, especially for children. In many instances with winter sports, a voluntary assumption of risk applies, meaning that you are fully aware that the activity you’re participating in is inherently dangerous. For example, if you’re injured while skiing or snowboarding, you may be unable to sue other parties (i.e., the resort, someone who crashed into you) because these sports are inherently dangerous, and you were aware of this before the accident.
Since it can be more difficult to recover damages for a personal injury related to winter sports, it’s essential that you take all precautions to protect yourself. Always be sure to wear necessary, proper-fitting gear and safety equipment. If you’re ever unsure whether you can file a personal injury claim after a winter sports accident, consult with a lawyer to get more information.
When to contact a personal injury lawyer
If someone else is responsible for a personal injury you sustained, you should always contact a personal injury lawyer. Even if your injuries are minor at the time, they could affect you or develop significantly in the long run. There’s also always a possibility that an accident can debilitate you in terms of mental health and trauma – injuries aren’t always physical. A personal injury lawyer will answer any questions you may have, explain your rights, and advise you on the best course of action to take.