Trip and fall incidents can leave victims with serious, lasting injuries. When costs associated with the incident start to pile up and the pain and suffering related to the fall become too great, many victims may wonder who they can hold accountable and from whom they can seek damages. This is a common question we receive from trip and fall victims who contact our office: “Who can I sue in my trip and fall case?”
While falls are sometimes the result of clumsiness or carelessness, many trip and fall accidents are the direct result of a property owner or occupier’s negligence. An owner or occupier of a property can be a person, business, city, or other entity. Property owners and occupiers have a responsibility to ensure visitors are safe by making certain that their properties are free from potential hazards that could cause injury. If they fail to maintain a safe environment, and you are injured as a result, you may have a claim against them for negligence and may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses.
In these negligence cases, a plaintiff or injured party must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent and that their negligence was the cause of the injuries and damages. In British Columbia, the Occupiers Liability Act describes and details the legal duties and responsibilities of property owners and occupiers. These protections establish and define the duty of care owed to all people who are allowed to enter a property and help to differentiate between accidents and acts of negligence clearly.
In trip and fall cases, the most likely defendants are property owners and/or occupiers of the property. In this blog, we will discuss and define a property owner and occupier and examine some of the other elements related to a trip and fall claim.
Property Owners and Occupiers
Two common defendants named in trip and fall cases are property owners and occupiers. Property owners own the property and may reside there, conduct business there, or rent or lease the property to another person, business, or entity. An occupier can include the property owner but also includes any person or business that “is in physical possession of premises” or “has responsibility for, and control over, the condition of premises, the activities conducted on those premises and the persons allowed to enter those premises.” An occupier may own or control premises like residential homes, apartments, land, government buildings, municipal property, commercial businesses, recreational centres, or other facilities. In some instances, more than one occupier may be responsible for a premises. A tenant renting a house or a business leasing a commercial property are both considered occupiers. Occupiers and property owners may share liability in trip and fall claims depending on the circumstances unique to the case. An experienced trip and fall lawyer, like our experts here at Klein Lawyers, will be able to obtain Land Title searches to confirm the identity of the owner(s) and occupier(s) of the property/premises where your injury occurred as well as investigate the circumstances of your trip and fall to determine who was at fault.
What Hazards Must Property Owners and/or Occupiers Eliminate?
Property owners and occupiers are responsible for maintaining a safe and hazard-free property. If a lawful visitor to the property is injured due to the presence of a foreseeable hazard or unsafe condition, then they have failed in their duty and may be liable for damages. The expectation is that they take reasonable steps to keep their properties safe. Common hazards that can cause trip, slip, and fall injuries include:
- Unexpected elevation changes on a walking surface, including potholes, gaps, and bumps
- Cracked or broken pavement or concrete
- Holes, gaps, inconsistency, breaks, or cracks in flooring
- Inadequate lighting especially in areas like stairways
- Missing, broken, or insufficient handrails on stairways
- Ice, snow, debris, or leaves that have not been sufficiently cleared
- Slippery floors inside due to standing water or other substances
- Flooring that is not sufficiently secured including loose tiles or hardwood
- Carpets or rugs that are not sufficiently secured
- Objects or debris left in walkways
- Any other building code violations
In determining liability, the length of time the hazard or unsafe condition was present is critical. The more time the danger was present, the less likely the property owner or occupier is able to claim that the hazard was unforeseeable or not preventable. Your lawyer will focus on gathering evidence that supports the presence of unsafe conditions for a period of time before your trip and fall.
What Should I Do if I Trip and Fall Due to Unsafe Conditions?
If you were injured in a trip and fall accident on someone else’s property, that can be a scary and traumatic experience. It is easy to feel embarrassed and want to minimize your pain and injuries. Be sure you assess your injuries before you move or get back up. If you are in need of medical assistance, call or have someone else call 911 or the local emergency number. Allow the paramedics to evaluate your condition and provide transportation to a hospital if necessary. If you are able to move safely or can communicate to a companion with you at the scene, then there are a few things you can do to document your experience. That documentation will be critical if you pursue a premises liability claim against the property owner and/or occupier.
- Be sure to note where and when exactly the trip and fall occurred.
- Take photographs of the location where you fell, including the elements you believe made it unsafe or hazardous.
- Take photographs of the clothing you were wearing, including and especially your footwear.
- If anyone saw you fall, be sure to speak to them and get their contact information.
- Report the trip and fall to the owner or occupier of the premises immediately.
Once you leave the scene, assess your condition again. Some injuries that result from trip and falls may begin to manifest hours or days after the incident. Seek medical care as soon as possible if you begin to experience symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, swelling, stiffness, bruising, or neck pain. Be sure to keep all medical records and billing records related to the treatment of your trip and fall injury.
It will also be critical to contact a trip and fall lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. Depending on where you fell, the time limit to file a claim may be very short. An experienced lawyer will know exactly what to file, when to file it, how to investigate your claim, and how to prove your claim in court. They can investigate your claim and determine who may be at fault for your injuries. Your lawyer can handle all communications with the property owner or occupier and their insurance company. They will understand how to navigate powerful defences against your claim. As is the case with other types of personal injury cases, the burden of proof will fall to you, the victim and plaintiff, to prove that the property owner and/or occupier was negligent and failed to maintain safe premises free of hazards. You must be able to demonstrate that your trip and fall injuries were a direct result of their negligence and failure to uphold their duty to maintain a reasonably safe property. The quicker you contact a lawyer after your trip and fall, the better. That will allow ample time to conduct an investigation and file all necessary documents.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured as a Result of a Property Owner’s Negligence?
Klein Lawyers has an outstanding track record of handling trip and fall cases. We understand how to identify and investigate trip and fall incidents and determine whether or not there was negligence on behalf of the property owner(s) and/or occupier(s). We have the resources, knowledge, and experience British Columbians need to get the justice and compensation they deserve.
We will start by conducting an in-depth investigation into the evidence of your case. We will take the time to really listen to your story, obtain any registry searches, incident reports, medical records, and witness statements, and thoroughly evaluate your potential claim. During the case, we will retain key experts to establish the critical details of the injury that occurred. We strive to make this process as easy for you as possible. You will focus on your life and recovering from your injuries while we focus on your case.
We keep you informed throughout the entire case, so you never feel like you are in the dark. We want you to understand the process and feel comfortable asking any questions along the way. Too often, we hear concerns expressed by potential clients about what the process will be like, what they will need to do, and how often they will hear from their lawyer. We will make it clear right from the start so that you know what to expect, and we will stay true to our commitment to you. Communication and transparency are important to our team, and you will recognize that as our client.
Klein Lawyers Can Help
Klein Lawyers has over 30 years of success and experience in the legal field. During that time, we have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of British Columbians who need legal representation. Working with an experienced lawyer is critical, and our team understands the trust clients place in us when we are representing them. We value that trust and feel honoured that so many clients choose our law firm to fight for them. We are passionate about obtaining the best possible outcome for our clients.
Contact Us Today
Contact the Klein Lawyers team today at (604) 874-7171 for a FREE consultation with a Vancouver trip and fall lawyer. We serve clients injured in British Columbia and Class Action and Mass Tort clients throughout Canada. There is no obligation, and your consultation is completely confidential. We are here to help victims of a property owner and/or occupier’s negligence receive the justice they deserve.