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The expression, in like a lamb, out like a lion, has certainly been true this winter.

While December may have seen mild temperatures, January has brought plenty of snow and freezing rain. What may be great news for winter sports enthusiasts, brings potential hazards for commuters and pedestrians.

What happens if I slip and fall on a city sidewalk? 

In the municipality of Ottawa, the city is responsible for maintaining the municipal roadways and sidewalks. If you fall on city property, you need to notify the city within 10 days in writing. A municipality must be notified within 10 days of an incident that occurs on a municipal roadway. Not doing so can bar you from bringing a claim against the municipality in the future if it turns out that you are seriously injured.

The Municipal Act specifies that you must inform the city of:

  • The injury complained of;
  • The location of the incident;
  • The date and time of the injury.

In claims against the municipality, the injured person needs to prove that the city was grossly negligent in their maintenance of the sidewalk. It is a good idea to take photographs of the area where you fell, and to speak to a qualified personal injury lawyer to get advice about whether you may have a claim.

What happens if I slip and fall on private property? 

If you slip and fall on private property because of snow or ice, the Occupiers Liability Act says you must notify the property owner or occupier, in writing, within 60 days of the incident.

The Act specifies that written notice must include:

  • the date, time and location of the incident;
  • and must be served personally or by registered mail.

The notice letter must be sent either to an occupier of the property, or to an independent contractor who was hired to do snow or ice removal of the property during the period when the injury occurred. An occupier of the property is considered anyone who is in physical possession of the premises or has “responsibility for and control over the condition of the premises” or activities on the premises.

What can I do to prevent injuries and help keep people safe? 

It is best practice to wear winter boots that have good traction. Walk slowly on icy or snowy pathways and look where you are going. Avoid texting or looking at your phone to keep a look out for slipping hazards as you walk. Look for an alternative route and take the clearer path if one is available. Be cautious when entering an indoor establishment as ice and snow outside tend to result in more slippery and wet entranceways.

If you are a home or property owner/occupier, it’s important to maintain your property in a reasonable condition. Clear the ice and snow and apply abrasive material regularly to keep people safe. Make sure to have a good rug or carpet in the front entranceway to prevent people from slipping on water or slush when they enter.


This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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