I’ve talked before about the importance of getting a personal injury lawyer involved in a slip and fall case on public property RIGHT AWAY because of the requirement of notice within ten days.
But what about accidents on private property?
How Notice Of Claim Limits Work On Public Property
Just as a quick reminder, according to the Municipal Act, 2001, a claimant has to put the municipality in question on notice that a statement of claim is going to be filed, within ten (10) days of the event.
The Notice of Claim—which is stating your intent to sue—isn’t the full filing of the Statement of Claim: it’s just putting the municipality on notice that it’s coming.
There are documented cases where people lost their suits because they missed the deadline to file.
Why? Because they didn’t contact a lawyer and weren’t aware of the time limit. On the whole, the judgments coming back are not favouring those who miss the deadlines.
If you’re injured in a slip and fall, ten days isn’t a lot of time. Not when you factor in going to the hospital / doctor’s office, difficulty with mobility, dealing with pain and so on. Working with a personal injury lawyer almost immediately is key.
How Notice Of Claim Works On Private Property
In Ontario, previous to the ten day deadline, there was no requirement to place the owner of private property on notice of a possible claim beforehand: the plaintiff had two years to file their claim.
As you can imagine, that can be problematic for insurance companies. How can a company assume the risk of responding to lawsuits that could occur almost two years past the date of the event?
How would you even acquire the necessary documentation to deal with such a suit? Not that I’m in the business of defending insurance companies, but you can see how it would be expensive…
Take the example of snow removal companies: because of this two-year possible gap, their insurance premiums are very high, making it a tough business model in years where there isn’t much work. How are they going to defend themselves in a suit for something that happened almost two years earlier? The answer is: with difficulty, hence the high premiums.
Bill 118, which has passed second reading and looks to become law, might change all that.
It is an amendment to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, which would require slip and fall claimants on private property to do the same as they would if they fell on public land: file a Notice of Claim within ten (10) days of the event.
They would have to file it with the occupier (owner) of the property, a contractor employed by the occupier (like a snow removal company) or a landlord.
Of course, there are exceptions to the ten-day Notice of Claim rule, like if the injured person died of their injuries or there is another reasonable excuse, accepted by a judge, for not having put the property owner on notice within the time limit.
According to Doug Downey, PC MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte:
“The business may not have any idea that something had happened until they get served a notice. This puts an undue burden on businesses to have to defend themselves against events for which witnesses may not recall the event clearly.” (Source)
On the flip side, Tom Rakocevic, the NDP critic for Government Services and Consumer Protection made this point:
“How is the customer who slips and falls in the parking lot of a strip mall supposed to find out the landlord’s name and address within the time frame? That information is not readily, and certainly not publicly, available, as in the case of municipalities, except to a small segment of industry insiders who work in real estate.” (Source)
My answer to that?
If you have a slip and fall, whether on public or private property, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.
Along with getting an incident report at the scene and going to see a doctor, it’s your best way to ensure that you don’t miss the time limit and potentially eliminate your ability to sue.
We can find out information more quickly and get that notice filed so that you can have peace of mind.