Last week, up to 10 centimetres of snow fell in the city of Calgary during the second snow event of the fall season. Combining the snowfall with the subzero overnight temperatures resulted in slippery city sidewalks.
This is just the beginning of slip and fall season and we all need to be careful to avoid injuries as we travel throughout the city. As the snow falls and the temperatures drop, everyone, including business and property owners and the City of Calgary, have to take extra care to ensure that pedestrians can travel safely.
THE CITY OF CALGARY’S RESPONSE TO SNOWFALL
Chris McGeachy, speaking on behalf of the City of Calgary, advised that city crews worked all night applying salt to roadways to help melt snow and prevent ice from developing.
In Calgary, the city is responsible for clearing 249 of the 5,658 kilometres of public sidewalk. Calgary Parks will also clear 400 km of its 850 km pathways within 24 hours from when the snow stops falling.
The City of Calgary’s snow and ice clearing budget is substantially lower than other Canadian cities. There is currently a budge of $40.4 million, which covers the time period between January 1 to December 31, 2019. There is also a snow reserve fund of $12.4 million.
If an individual slips and falls on snow and ice and suffers an injury on a publicly owned street or sidewalk in Calgary, the individual may have the right to seek monetary damages for their physical and emotional pain and suffering. In Alberta, unlike a personal injury claim against an individual or business, the injured party must be able to prove “gross negligence” on the part of the municipality. This is a high, although not impossible, standard to prove. Gross negligence can be defined as a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care.
CALGARY PROPERTY OWNERS OWE A DUTY OF CARE
As a homeowner, property owner or even a renter, you are responsible for keeping your property reasonably safe for others. Property owners owe those lawfully on their property a duty of care to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. This includes cleaning your driveway, sidewalk and walkways from snow and ice. If property owners are negligent in this duty, they can be held responsible for any injuries.
According to city bylaws, property owners are required to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall ending. The failure to remove snow and ice can result in fines, which start at $250 for the first offence and up to $750 for repeat offenders. Property owners will also be charged a snow removal fee of at least $150.
These snow removal fines were introduced last year. The City has advised that residents and businesses will first receive a warning notice before any action is taken.
LIMITATION PERIODS TO BE AWARE OF IN THE CASE OF PERSONAL INJURIES FROM A SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENT
Limitation periods for personal injury claims are very important. If you miss a limitation period, you are unable to sue for your injuries and receive compensation.
In Alberta, the Limitations Act sets out the time limits for filing civil claims (i.e. personal injury lawsuits). For the most part, personal injury cases, including those involving motor vehicle accidents, serious and fatal accidents and slip and falls, need to be started as follows:
- Within two years of the incident in question; or
- Ten years after the claim arose, whichever occurs first.
The timeline for filing a claim begins to run on the date that the person filing the claim knew or ought to have known that:
- The injury occurred;
- The injury was a result of someone else’s misconduct;
- The injury warranted bringing a legal action.
There are exceptions to this rule regarding limitation periods. The timer does not begin to run until the conduct stops or the last act or omission takes place in the case of claims that are based on a “continuous course of conduct or series of related acts or omissions”.
In the case of claims involving minors, the operation of the Limitations Act is suspended until the minor reaches 18 years or age or until the minor can be represented by a litigation guardian or the Public Trustee.
There are special limitation periods that apply when an individual is making a claim against a municipality, such as the City of Calgary. In Alberta, according to the Municipal Government Act of Alberta, you must inform the municipality of your injury within 21 days after the fall (with some limited exceptions) if you are claiming that the municipality is grossly negligent for ice or snow on a road or sidewalk.
Contacting a personal injury lawyer promptly will assist you in commencing a claim and an experienced lawyer will advise you whether you have missed any limitation periods and whether or not an exception applies to your case.
If you have been injured in a fall due to snow or ice, please contact the experienced lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP online or at 403-571-0555. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Call our office for a free consultation to determine how we can help you following a slip and fall injury.