The term “premises” is defined as including:
- Land, structures, ships, vessels, trailers and portable structures designed or used for a residence, business, or shelter
- Railway locomotives, railway cars, vehicles, and aircraft while not in operation
The Occupiers’ Liability Act establishes that the premises occupier owes a duty of care in all circumstances to see that a person and their property will be “reasonably safe in using the premises.” The Act provides that this duty of care applies in to the condition of the premises, activities on the premises, or the conduct of any third parties on the premises.
The Act also provides what is known as a reduced duty of care under which an occupier has no duty of care to a person in respect to risks willingly assumed by that person other than a duty not to:
- Create a danger with intent to harm the person or damage their property
- Act with reckless disregard to the safety of the person or the integrity of their property
The standard duty of care applies in all instances that the reduced duty of care does not. The occupier has no duty of care to a person in some instances. For example, no duty of care is owed to a trespasser who is committing or intending to commit a criminal act.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act also provides an exception for any limited liability entity, which is defined as each the maintainer of a resource road and the government. The maintainer of a resource road is the person, including the government, obligated or authorized to maintain the resource road. A resource road is defined any road or portion of a road that is on Crown land and is used or intended for use by motor vehicles (but does not include a municipal highway or a provincial public highway as defined in the Transportation Act).
What Do You Have to Prove in an Occupiers’ Liability Case?
Proving an occupiers’ liability claim will require you to prove the four central elements of a negligence claim. You will have to prove that the occupier owed you a duty of care, the occupier breached that duty of care by not correcting or informing you about a particular hazard, the breach of duty caused your injuries, and your injuries resulted in damages.
Occupiers’ liability cases can become complicated fairly quickly. Courts will generally look at several factors as they relate to a person’s injuries.
The foreseeability of danger will be examined, as well as how long that danger was allowed to exist and whether it was an unreasonable length of time. The conduct of the occupier will also be considered, as will the difficulty of correcting the hazard in question.
The bottom line in an occupiers’ liability case is that a person suffering an injury alone is not enough to constitute a liability claim. An occupier must have done something that violated their expected duty of care under BC law.
Common Types of Occupiers’ Liability Cases We Handle
Occupiers’ liability extends to many different kinds of properties. Restaurants, concert venues, nightclubs, hospitals, shopping malls, apartment buildings, retail stores, parking lots, grocery stores, hotels, office buildings, and many other facilities can be subject to Occupiers’ Liability Act claims, as can many private property owners.
Some of the most common causes of these claims include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Negligent security
- Dog bites
- Unsafe circumstances
- Inadequate lighting
- Ice or snow accidents
- Uneven surfaces
- Building code deficiencies
- Sporting injuries
- Municipal property accidents on roads and sidewalks
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Asbestos exposure
- Building collapses
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Amusement park accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Faulty stairs or handrails
Keeping in mind that occupiers must ensure that a visitor will be reasonably safe, most businesses have safety and maintenance policies in place to help reduce the likelihood of certain kinds of incidents listed above. Many occupiers’ liability cases can hinge on how long a particular danger existed and whether an occupier had a reasonable opportunity to correct the condition.
Common Causes of Premises Liability Accidents
The actual cause of a person’s injuries on the premises of another party is critical to the success of an injury claim. When the cause is not known, recovery may not be available.
Some of the most frequent causes of Occupiers’ Liability Act claims include:
- Wet, slippery flooring
- Torn floor mats
- Snow and ice
- Stray electrical cords and wires
- Defects in pavement
- Broken handrails
- Cracked or uneven flooring
- Potholes, ice, curbs in parking lots
- Dirty or trash-covered floors
- Inadequate lighting
Do not stress if the cause of your accident is not immediately apparent. Focus on getting medical attention for your injuries and quickly contact our lawyers so we can conduct an independent investigation into your accident.
How Can a Vancouver Occupiers’ Liability Lawyer Help?
When you have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property, the insurance company is highly likely to claim that you were at fault for your injuries. A lawyer will be able to protect your rights and prove another party’s negligence.
Warnett Hallen LLP can identify the cause of your injuries, collect valuable evidence, and then identify all liable parties. Occupiers’ liability cases can quickly become very complicated when there are multiple occupiers.
Our firm will work tirelessly toward negotiating a just settlement to your case, but we could also file a lawsuit in some cases.
Warnett Hallen LLP is also committed to helping people recover when paying for treatment becomes an issue. Our firm can assist with treatment costs or arrange an agreement with the treatment provider to defer costs.
Compensation Available for Injury Victims
Many occupiers’ liability cases are resolved through settlements, as the insurance companies involved rarely want to take on the costs of going to trial. Some cases do result in lawsuits, however, and a person who succeeds in proving an occupier’s breach of duty can be awarded various kinds of damages depending on the specifics of their case.
Some of the damages may include:
- General or Non-Pecuniary Damages — Damages that are not quantifiable such as emotional distress, disfigurement, or pain and suffering. Non-pecuniary damages cannot total more than $350,000.
- Psychological Injury or Nervous Shock Damages — Damages for psychological injury or nervous shock when it was reasonably foreseeable that an ordinary person would have sustained the same injury because of the defendant’s negligence.
- Future Expenses and Losses — Damages relating to future expenses or losses, such as loss of earning capacity and ongoing costs of care.
- Past Expenses and Losses — Damages for losses incurred up to trial, such as lost income and cost of care.
- Loss of Income and Earning Capacity — Damages for both lost income and earning capacity prior to the date of trial as well as future loss and incapacity. Plaintiffs do not have to have been employed at the time of the accident to receive this award.
- Loss of Housekeeping Capacity — Damages for work a plaintiff cannot do after an accident, work the plaintiff did with increased inefficiency and pain, or work the plaintiff had to pay others to do.
- Past Cost of Care Claims — Damages for medical treatment, housekeeping, and rehabilitation.
- Future Care Costs — Damages for future care costs incurred as a result of their injuries.
- Loss of Pension Income — Damages for past or future loss of pension income.
- Dependents’ Claims under the Family Law Act — Damages for dependents of people killed or injured by the negligence of another party.
- Aggravated and Punitive Damages — Damages awarded to punish defendants for malicious, reprehensive, or oppressive conduct. Aggravated and punitive damages are very rare, especially in occupiers’ liability cases.
All of the types of damages that apply to your case will be considered during settlement negotiations, as many of these costs will the basis for settlement demands.
What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt on Someone Else’s Property
After any accident on someone else’s property, always make sure that you get medical treatment. This is true even when you do not initially think you were hurt, as some injuries can have delayed symptoms.
Make sure that you are receiving the proper medical care right away. Creating a medical record can also prove beneficial when you are prepared to file an injury claim.
A very beneficial step that people can take is also to take pictures of the scene of the accident. Take as many pictures as you can and try to get multiple pictures from different angles and distances, so you have a variety of viewpoints.
When there are people who happened to see your accident, you should try to get their contact information. Names and phone numbers will be helpful in case witness testimony is needed later.
Be especially careful about who you speak to about your accident and where you decide to share information. It is highly recommended that you avoid posting anything about your injuries on social media websites, as they are typically one of the first places that insurance companies will look for information to undermine your injury claim.