‘Tis the season and, as a homeowner, beware that the slip, trip, or fall of a visitor to your rented or owned property could leave you liable!
With winter underway and the season of entertaining and visiting upon us, the chances of an accident due to weather conditions increase exponentially.
As a homeowner, it’s important that you understand that you’re responsible for keeping your property and areas such as stairs, walkways, and driveways as safe as possible for anyone using them. Before a delivery person, courier, babysitter, or repair technician visits, be aware of common hazards such as:
- Ice and snow – use salt, shovel and/or sand to keep walking surfaces clear within bylaw timeframes
- Unexpected elevation changes, surface cracks or gaps – fix issues within your property line and/or report issues on a municipally-owned property such as uneven sidewalks
- Slippery surfaces such as wet floors or tile flooring – put down a non-slip covering
- Missing or loose handrails on stairs – arrange repairs
- Debris such as slippery and wet fall leaves – keep walking paths clear
- Lighting – ensure all areas are adequately lit
What is Your Legal Liability?
If you don’t provide a reasonable standard of maintenance in keeping your home and property free of hazards, you may be held liable for slips, trips, and falls. This includes hosting parties and also events such as a yard or garage sale.
If you’re a renter, the liability may be shared with your landlord. Who is held liable depends on the circumstances of the accident. In the case of a shared space when you are a tenant, ensure your lease agreement clearly states your responsibilities.
The following criteria are considered:
- Was the danger foreseeable?
- Was the homeowner’s conduct in accordance with acceptable standards of practice?
- Did the danger exist for an unreasonable amount of time?
- How easily could the danger have been prevented?
The most sure-fire way of avoiding liability is prevention. Be diligent in keeping your property free of hazards and regular maintenance is one of the most effective ways to defend yourself against a claim or lawsuit should one occur.
What to Do If a Mishap Occurs:
- Assist the injured person in finding medical treatment. Call an ambulance if necessary.
- Record the names and contact information of any witnesses. Obtain and record detailed descriptions of the incident from the victim and witnesses.
- Refer any discussions with the claimant to your insurer. NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY!
- Take pictures of the area where the incident occurred. If possible, photograph the footwear that the injured person was wearing.
- Document the incident. This may help to establish a defense for a claim presented at a later date and help your insurer analyze the cause of the incident.
- Report the incident to your insurer. Provide them with:
- Details of the incident
- Information about what you did to avoid the incident.
- Investigate potential causes and take steps to prevent and/or respond better to similar incidents in the future.
Working Ventures Insurance is British Columbia’s top insurance broker with a specialty in group and union member insurance. If you are a union member in BC, we can get you the best rates on your insurance.