You have rights if you suffered an injury owned and/or occupied by someone else. In British Columbia, personal injury claims on dangerous premises are governed by the Occupiers Liability Act.
Occupiers’ liability claims are complicated and can be difficult to handle on your own. Generally, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible if you were injured on someone else’s property.
That said, there are steps you can take immediately following a dangerous property incident to protect your legal rights:
1. Examine Yourself for Injuries
Before you do anything else, you need to know the nature and extent of any injuries you have suffered. It is particularly important to determine whether you are able to move on your own safely, as well as whether you can remain on the premises without putting your well-being at risk.
2. Call for Emergency Assistance
If you have been seriously injured, you should call 911 (or the local emergency number, if you are injured on premises in a rural or remote area of British Columbia) immediately. Paramedics can evaluate your injuries, provide basic treatment, and transport you to the emergency room as necessary.
Your health should be your top priority after any accident or injury. If it is determined that you sustained a serious injury or were incapacitated on a property that someone else owns and/or occupies, you should seek medical care first and then contact an occupiers’ liability lawyer as soon as possible.
3. Take Photographs of the Premises
The BC Occupiers Liability Act § 3(2) states that the owner and/or the occupier of a property is responsible for ensuring the safety of visitors as it relates to the following:
- The “condition of the premises”
- All “activities on the premises”
- The “conduct of third parties on the premises”
If the owner and/or occupier failed to meet these responsibilities and you suffered harm on the premises as a result, you can pursue compensation. You will need proof of negligence on the part of the defendant(s) in order for your occupiers’ liability claim to succeed.
Photographs are a reliable way to show that a property is unsafe. You should take pictures of anything that may have contributed to the accident, including:
- Dangerous conditions, such as tripping hazards, poorly maintained stairs and handrails, unstable flooring, debris in walkways, etc.
- Negligent or wrongful acts on the part of the owner, occupier, and/or any employees, such as failing to warn visitors of known hazards or an unoccupied security post
- Dangerous conduct on the part of any third parties on the premises, such as maintenance and groundskeeping crews leaving debris in a walkway
You should also take photos of your injuries in the immediate aftermath of the incident. This can help document the extent of the harm you have suffered before medical professionals tend to your injuries.
4. Talk to Anyone Who Saw You Get Hurt
Witness testimony can further support your occupiers’ liability claim. If any bystanders saw the incident, make sure you get their name and contact information and ask them to tell you what they observed.
Dangerous conditions on the premises may be quickly cleaned up or repaired. If this happens and you don’t have proof, it comes down to your word against that of the owner and/or the occupier. Testimony from witnesses can be beneficial for overcoming the denials of defendants and insurance companies.
5. Look for Video Surveillance
Property owners and occupiers often invest in surveillance. Although cameras are generally installed to protect the interests of owners and occupiers, footage of accidents on the property can be beneficial for victims.
Make note of the location and positioning of any cameras in the immediate vicinity of where you got hurt. An experienced occupiers’ liability lawyer can request or subpoena the footage while investigating the accident and building your case.
6. Report the Accident to the Owner or Occupier of the Premises
Another important step you need to take to protect your rights after getting hurt on someone else’s property is to notify the party responsible for the premises as soon as possible that you have been injured. This could be a homeowner, a renter, a landlord, or the principal agent of a commercial establishment (such as the manager of a store, restaurant, or other business).
You may be asked to complete an incident report describing the accident and your injuries. Complete the report to the best of your ability, but avoid providing any information that could (a) indicate that you were at fault or (b) suggests that your injuries are not serious. Be sure to obtain a copy of any written report you provided regarding the incident.
7. See a Doctor as Soon as Possible
Those who are not seriously injured in a trip and fall or other property-related accident may assume that it is not necessary to seek medical attention. After all, they weren’t severely injured, so why go to the emergency room?
Such an assumption is a major mistake for two reasons:
- First, you could be seriously injured and just not know it yet. The symptoms of some serious injuries (such as head trauma) may not arise immediately. If you forgo timely treatment, you could end up facing a medical emergency.
- Second, failure to seek medical attention undermines your legal claim. Defendants and their insurers may point to delays or a lack of treatment as proof that your injuries are less severe than you claim.
8. Keep a Record of Expenses
Your life can be turned on its head after being injured on a dangerous property. A trip and fall, dog bite, or other incident or accident on the premises can leave you unable to work, in severe pain, and – in extreme cases – permanently disabled.
It is important to account for any and all financial losses you suffer as a result of the accident. This includes medical bills and other expenditures, as well as the wages you lose if your injuries prevent you from working.
You should also make note of any adverse physical and psychological effects you experience, such as chronic pain, loss of mobility, emotional distress, etc. Although not quantifiable like monetary losses, compensation for these damages can be recovered in an occupiers’ liability claim.
9. Do Not Communicate with the Insurance Company or Sign Anything
Insurance companies are always involved when somebody gets hurt on a client’s property. Agents for the insurer could try to contact you at any time, even when you are recovering from your injuries.
Trying to deal with the insurance company on your own is a mistake. Any questions you answer will be closely scrutinized for ways to dispute liability. If you sign a medical release or any other forms, you are putting your occupiers’ liability claim in jeopardy.
If the insurance company reaches out to you, your best course of action is to seek legal assistance promptly and refer any enquiries to your lawyer.
10. Talk to a Lawyer
Even if the insurance company does not contact you after you are hurt on premises owned and/or occupied by someone else, it is still in your best interest to get in touch with a lawyer promptly. An experienced lawyer can review your case and determine if you have a viable claim against an owner and/or occupier of the premises.
Hurt on Someone Else’s Property? Klein Lawyers Can Help
It is difficult to know what to do or where to turn if you suffer injury on a property that is owned and/or controlled by somebody else. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but you cannot rely on the property’s owner and/or occupier (or the insurance company) to pay you what’s fair.
Klein Lawyers has more than 20 years of experience representing clients in complex legal matters. We understand the BC occupier liability law, and we will fight for the full compensation you deserve.
Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free consultation. Our occupiers’ liability lawyers serve clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia.