Slips, trips, and falls can make a winter wonderland a dangerous place. New amendments to the Occupiers’ Liability Act will soon make it mandatory for individuals who intend to make a claim about a wintry injury to give notice within sixty days of their accident—closing what was a two-year window.
If somebody were to fall on some black ice outside their apartment, they might seek damages from the person responsible for winter maintenance. But after two years, very little of the evidence that would help the defendant is still available. The new legislation aims to address this issue.
To satisfy the amendments, the written notice must:
be addressed to at least one of the occupier(s) or independent winter maintenance contractor(s) responsible for the premises—not to every single party;
include the date, time, and location of the accident; and
be served personally or by registered mail.
In turn, the party on notice must give notice of the claim to any other occupier or independent contractor responsible for the premises at the relevant time.
This new, shorter time frame for claims is good news for property owners, managers, tenants, and winter maintenance contractors. Often, in cases where the claimant has delayed giving notice of the claim, useful evidence is long gone, putting the defence of the claim in jeopardy. Given the new amendments, it is a good idea to keep maintenance logs, GPS data, invoices, surveillance videos, and any other documents on file for a minimum of sixty days after they are created. However, we recommend keeping this evidence for at least two years, since, as discussed below, under certain circumstances a claim can still be brought within the two year window.
One downside is these amendments may make it more difficult for the injured party to make a claim. Unless they can prove a “reasonable excuse” for the lack of notice and can demonstrate that the delay did not prejudice the potential defendant(s), individuals who fail to give their notice in time will be barred from commencing a claim. After the sixty day mark, they’ll have to take their case up with Jack Frost.
The amendments to the Act received Royal Assent on December 8, 2020 but have not yet come into force.
This new, shorter time frame for claims is good news for property owners, managers, tenants, and winter maintenance contractors.