A simple outing to the grocery store or coffee shop can quickly turn into a trip to the hospital if there is an unmarked puddle at the storefront from rainwater or a greasy floor that was not properly cleaned after merchandise was spilled earlier in the day. Slip and falls can affect people of all ages, and landing on a hard tiled floor or concrete can result in broken bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or torn ligaments. Falls are a leading cause of hospitalization injury in Canada, and unfortunately many slip and fall victims are unaware of their rights to compensation when their falls are caused by another party–the business owner or property owner.
Canadians 65 and older are at the most risk of injury during falls. The most common injury is a fracture, which make up 37% of all injuries. 16% of slip and fall injuries are to the shoulder or upper arm, according to a study; these injuries may never properly heal in older adults. Another study pinpointed potential fall risks for seniors as acute illness, poor eyesight, disability, cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, medications, inadequate diet, and using assistive devices. However, it must be noted that no matter the victim’s disability, they have the right to be safe on a premises, and the owner is responsible for creating conditions that accomplish safety for all.
In return for a customer’s business, the owner of that business or property must ensure that the premises is safe for everyone who enters. Customers, browsers, people coming in to use the bathroom or ask for directions, and anyone else who enters a business legally is considered an “invitee,” and they have the right to sue the owner if they slip, trip, and fall on the premises. It is the owner’s duty to make sure that walkways are cleared of tripping hazards, floors are swept and mopped regularly to reduce slips, stairways are equipped with hand railings, and accidents such as spilled food or drink are cleaned up in a reasonable amount of time.
What does “reasonable” mean when discussing the owner’s duty to take reasonable precautions and to deal with spills, puddles, and damaged flooring in a reasonable time frame? The answer to that varies on the circumstances. Examples of taking reasonable precautions include regular cleaning, repairing damaged tiles, removing all tripping hazards from walkways, putting door mats at entrances when it is raining, mopping up puddles when rainwater or snow is tracked inside, using non-slip surfaces and paint, making sure that all areas of the premises are clearly lit, marking step ups and step downs or uneven walking areas with neon or yellow tape, and having hand railings at all stairs and steps.
In order for a store or property owner to be liable for causing a slip and fall, they must have had knowledge of the hazard in the first place. For example, if a store owner knew about a leaking pipe that had been dripping off and on out onto the floor for days on end, they did have a reasonable amount of time to make repairs, close off that section of the store, see that it was mopped up regularly, or to at least put out caution signs. A person who slipped and fell if the store owner did not do any of those things would be able to sue the owner and win. On the other hand, if a pipe burst all of a sudden and caused a spill that resulted in a customer slipping and falling, it could be argued that the owner did not have knowledge of the hazard, and therefore is not liable.
In some cases, the business or property owner may not have had literal knowledge of a hazard, but they could have had constructive knowledge. For example, they may not have seen with their own eyes that a standing puddle had formed at the entrance of their store during a rain storm, but they could construct that knowledge fairly easily. Rain equals puddles, which are a serious hazard on smooth linoleum.
If you sustained any type of injury during a slip and fall at a business or another person’s home, you should contact a West Kelowna slip and fall lawyer to discuss fault, negligence, and liability. Call our experienced slip and fall lawyers at the Preszler Law firm today at 1-844-373-8202.