A little while ago, I wrote about accessible friendly places to visit in Niagara Falls. By sheer coincidence, I got a call a day later from someone who had sustained an injury in a slip and fall accident, at a tourist venue in Niagara Falls.
The actual location shall remain nameless, but it occurred to me that this would be a good topic to review on the blog.
A slip and fall accident is one where you fall and are injured on someone else’s property, public or private. Incidents that qualify would include sliding on uncleared ice or an oil slick, for example. Unstable, ill repaired stairs or a set of stairs without a handrail, which cause a fall, are others.
Who Is At Fault?
The ‘fault’ always remains with the owner of the property. If you are in a public place, it’s the municipality that is responsible. If you’re at someone’s home, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility. If the friend whose home you were visiting when you injured yourself is only renting, it’s the landlord or owner’s responsibility.
A tourist site in Niagara Falls would have the same categories of responsibility. The crux of any slip and fall case here is whether the property is privately owned site versus a public location. Why does this matter? Because you’re time to file a claim is MUCH shorter in the case of public property. I’ll address this below.
Bottom line: if you own any property, it’s up to you to keep it in good repair and free of anything that could cause an accident: debris, potholes, ice, unstable stairways or walkways and so on.
Liability isn’t always attributed 100% either. You could be found to have contributed to the incident as well, which can decrease the owner’s liability. How? Let’s say you were warned verbally and by way of a great big sign at the entrance not to wear high heels at the Journey Behind the Falls tourist site because of the water on the steps. (Now this is an example, I actually have no idea of a sign like this exists!). But let’s pretend it does exist and that you ignored that rule, slipped and broke your leg. You could be considered partially responsible for your injuries, which would ultimately reduce your compensation.
Time Limits To File Claims In Slip And Fall Accidents
A slip and fall accident on any property has a limitation of two years by which the claim must be filed. A claim against the city has a slight variation in that the city / municipal clerk needs to be notified of the loss within ten days (the two years to file still applies) BUT there are exceptions to every rule and this rule is no exception.
A judge wouldn’t necessarily throw a case out if the notification wasn’t done within first ten days, particularly in instances where the extent of the injuries wasn’t known right away, as is the case with many soft tissue injuries.
Example? A woman fell and broke ankle on public property but she thought she would be fine. About 4 months later, she realized that she wasn’t fine and there were residual issues from the break. She didn’t put town on notice until well after the 10 days but the court said she had reasonable excuse because it wasn’t until 4 months later that she knew she wouldn’t heal properly. It was reasonable for her to sue the town and therefore put them on notice, even with the delay.
What To Do If You Have A Slip And Fall Accident At A Tourist Site (Or Anywhere Else!)
Step 1: Get an incident report —
This is the beginning of a paper trail that will be relevant if you end up having to sue for lost wages, pain and suffering, injury management and so on. It’s essential that you document everything from the moment the injury occurred, and most property owners (retail stores, for example) will produce an incident report whenever a slip and fall occurs, so get a copy. If there are witnesses to the incident, make sure the report includes their information, or that you collect it separately.
Step 2: Visit a doctor —
Changes are, if you’re injured at a public site, someone will call an ambulance. It’s important that you tell this first responder EVERYTHING that you are feeling. Don’t shrug off that pain in your knee or your slight headache, assuming you’re just ‘a little shaken’. Small aches and pains can be indicative of larger issues, so it’s good to get them reported the moment they begin.
Then, go see your own doctor or a local physician at the ER at Niagara General. Obviously, if your injuries are severe, that’s a no brainer. But even if all you got was a bump on the head that doesn’t, at the time, seem to be a big deal, it’s important to get medical advice. Again, those small symptoms that we are are usually inclined to minimize could become a big deal down the road.
If it turns out you actually sustained a concussion, all the details provided to the doctor will be relevant to your case. It’s another step on the paperwork trail to ensure that a future claim or lawsuit isn’t compromised by lack of evidence and documentation.
Step 3: Call a personal injury lawyer —
It never hurts to get a PI lawyer involved from the get-go. There is no cost to you, and if you do have a case, it’s important to get all the i’s dotted correctly, from the beginning. That’s something a lawyer can help you with, step by step. Ideally, you’ll pick a lawyer who has experience in slip and fall accidents so you are getting the most relevant representation.
And an extra word to the wise. If you’ve been injured at a tourist site, you need a personal injury lawyer. Not a family lawyer, not a corporate lawyer, even if he’s your brother in law.
Step 4: Talk to your disability insurer —
If you can’t work, you need to talk to your employer and disability insurer about your short and long term coverage. If you don’t have insurance, you could be covered under EI benefits (Employment Insurance), though there are some limitations based on how long you’ve been working at your current job.
Step 5: Document! —
Keep copies of any reports (police, medical) and make sure you have receipts for all the expenses you incurred from the moment the accident occurred. That includes the taxi to the doctor’s office, your prescriptions, therapy, special services… everything!
Step 6: Don’t ignore your doctor’s orders —
If your doctor has prescribed a course of treatment, follow it. Even if you’re feeling much better, you need to follow his or her directions to the letter, to be sure that you cannot, at some later date, be accused of not having done everything possible to mitigate the extent of your claim.
Sometimes injured people can be their own worst enemy when it comes to staying the course in a claim or lawsuit. Remember that while you may think you feel better, your doctor knows best about how your injuries will likely play out.
Step 7: Be smart —
Avoid public scrutiny by skipping social media while your case is pending. Anything you say on a public forum (or a form that you *think* is public but isn’t), or pictures of you doing the lambada a week after your injury, will hurt your case. Listen to your lawyer and work with them to get the best result possible.
Ultimately, while the owner of a property is legally responsible if you get hurt, you need to do what you can to ensure your safety too. No high heels on slick steps at Niagara Falls is just one way you can protect yourself. Use common sense and heed posted warnings!
If you are in a slip and fall accident, steps 1 to 3 are critical. Call a lawyer as soon as you can and find out what your rights are and what your best next steps will be. I’m happy to answer your questions and help you decide the best course of action in your case.