Securing adequate insurance coverage for contractors with snow removal operations has proven to be a difficult task in Ontario but relief appears to be in sight with the proposal of Bill 118, Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act, 2019.
“[This] Bill amends the Occupiers’ Liability Act to provide that no action shall be brought for the recovery of damages for personal injury caused by snow or ice against an occupier, an independent contractor employed by the occupier or, in the case of a tenancy described in subsection 8 (1) of the Act, a landlord, unless, within 10 days after the occurrence of the injury, written notice of the claim and of the injury are served. The Bill also sets out exceptions to this rule.”
At Scrivens, we believe this is an encouraging move that could help relieve some of the risk of slip and fall claims caused by snow and ice.
Previously, individuals could sue for personal injuries up to two years after an accident.
What Bill 118 is proposing is to decrease the amount of time one can decide to start a lawsuit to 10 days.
Why is snow removal operations so expensive to insure?
It’s expensive to insure snow removal operations because from an insurance company’s point of view, the risk of covering potential lawsuits up to two years into the future is simply too great.
Consider receiving notice a year and a half after an incident you never knew happened that your company is being sued for a slip and fall. Will you have the necessary documentation to protect your case?
There has been some push-back stating that 10 days simply isn’t enough time for an individual to go see a doctor, receive medical treatments, etc.
However, Bill 118 doesn’t state they must file a statement of claim in court by 10 days after the incident, just to put a defendant on notice.
Also, if an individual isn’t able to put a defendant on notice in 10 days, they still may be able to proceed given there is a “reasonable excuse” as determined by the judge.
Reasonable excuse does not appear to be defined in the bill and can be left for interpretation but one instance to consider could be the individual couldn’t determine who exactly would be responsible for the claim.
Currently, the “10-day rule” is in place for municipalities under the Municipal Act, 2001 where individuals must serve “written notice of the claim and of the injury complained of, including the date, time and location of the occurrence” within 10 days. Essentially, Bill 118 extends this same rule to an occupier, independent contractor, or a landlord relating to incidents involving snow and ice.
This bill will help ease some of the strain on insurance companies and snow removal companies by ensuring they are made aware of any slip and fall claims caused by snow and ice with enough time to preserve their evidence and records.
Bill 118, if passed by the Ontario government, could open up more opportunities for contractors to advance their winter operations as more insurance options become available.
At this time, it simply isn’t worth the risk!