The Basics of Occupier’s Liability

In British Columbia, property owners and occupiers are required to ensure that their premises are in reasonably safe condition at all times. Occupier’s liability means that the potential exists for property owners or occupiers to be sued when a person is injured on their property. Accidents such as slipping, tripping, and falling are commonly the result of structural safety issues or lack of maintenance and can result in serious injuries. When these injuries are caused due to hazardous conditions and/or a lack of safety and security, the owners or occupiers of the property could be found responsible and have to pay compensation to the injured party. Responsible property owners will have insurance that covers them in case of such claims.

In British Columbia, the Occupier’s Liability Act governs your rights to claim for compensation in case of injury due to improper property maintenance and safety measures. Whether the property consists of land or buildings, it is the duty of the occupier to maintain the property properly, keeping it in a reasonably safe and usable condition for visitors. The Act defines the occupier as being in physical possession of the premises and includes those who have responsibility for and control over the premises. An occupier is the person who owns or controls the following: residential property, bare land, government land or buildings, municipal property, commercial or business premises, recreational centres or sports facilities. At times, it can be difficult to identify the occupier of a property as there is often more than one responsible owner or occupier. This is the case in many landlord/tenant situations. Your lawyer can help you to determine who is liable in an efficient and effective way.

Claims Against Municipalities

If the owner of the property where the accident occurred is a municipality, you must notify the municipality immediately, and in any event no later than two months after the accident, and commence your personal injury claim as soon as possible. There are strict time limits and requirements that you must meet. If you delay, or make a mistake with the paperwork, you face losing your right to claim compensation. As soon as you are able, you should contact a lawyer to determine whether you are eligible for any special notice requirements. Your lawyer will ensure compliance with those requirements for you. To have a successful claim against a property owner, it is important to prove that the owner was aware of the danger and failed to take the proper measures to prevent an accident. Make sure your lawyer has the expertise and contacts on hand to properly investigate and present your claim to ensure that you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

Hazardous conditions that pose a risk of injury and lead to subsequent occupier liability claims are typically found in poorly lit, poorly maintained, and unsecured areas or around unstable structures. These circumstances include, but are not limited to: defective or absent railings; shaky, rusting, or icy stairways; unrepaired, rotting, or poorly constructed decks; unsupported scaffolding and poorly marked construction sites; wet or slippery floors; icy parking lots or sidewalks; poorly maintained driveways, lawns, and sidewalks; uneven surfaces and unmarked obstructions, such as open holes. It is important to contact a lawyer for assistance in determining whether your injury will support a personal injury claim against an occupier.

Steps to Take if an Injury Occurs

Steps to take if you have been injured in a slip and fall accident due to the negligence of a property owner:

  • Take pictures of the location and site of the incident and your injuries, as well as photographs of the footwear you were wearing at the time.
  • Photographs should be taken immediately, or as soon as you are able, in case the occupier fixes the problem and compromises the validity of your evidence. Have a friend take photos if you cannot do it.
  • Preserve any evidence that you think is relevant to your case.
  • Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
  • Report the accident to the property owner(s) and occupier(s).
  • Visit your doctor and follow treatment advice.

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you will need the assistance of a qualified personal injury lawyer to ensure that you adhere to the strict requirements necessary to successfully claim your compensation.