The Occupiers’ Liability Act in British Columbia outlines the duties of property owners and occupiers towards those who visit their properties. According to this law, occupiers are obligated to take reasonable measures to avoid hazards to prevent harm and injuries.
When one sustains an injury on another’s premises, determining fault isn’t always straightforward, especially when the defendant’s lawyer seeks to blame the victim or minimize the instigating hazard.
But in dangerous premises cases where a property owner or someone operating a property on behalf of an owner commits an unlawful act of negligence, they are often legally and financially liable for the harm they caused.
Among the most common premises liability claims are slip and fall accidents, whereby hazardous conditions result in injury when visitors fall and hurt themselves. If you experienced an accident or injury while on someone else’s property, such as a commercial or public entity, consulting a reliable dangerous premises lawyer can help you make sense of what happened and whether you have a premises liability claim.
Proving responsibility for an injury that occurs on someone else’s property can be complex but there are a few consistent elements of a successful case. In a general sense, a premises liability claim includes these aspects:
1. Duty of Care
The first step to proving premise liability is establishing the owner/operator of the property owed you, the visitor, a duty of care. Duty of care generally means that individuals or entities have a responsibility to avoid causing harm or creating unreasonable risks to others who could be foreseeably affected by their actions or inactions. Duty of care not only requires owners to avoid creating risky situations but property owners must take reasonable steps and precautions to minimize risks and ensure the safety of others. Properly inspecting buildings, maintaining premises, and closely following building and maintenance codes are among the obligations the Occupiers’ Liability Act is intended to limit and mitigate risks of improperly managed and maintained properties.
Generally, occupiers are obliged to ensure that:
- Premises maintain reasonably safe and hazard-free conditions for visitors.
- Designated activities on the premises are carried out in a reasonably safe manner.
- Third parties on the premises behave in a manner that doesn’t foreseeably endanger visitors.
After a duty of care is established, the plaintiff must prove that the duty of care was violated or otherwise breached in some way. In dangerous premises cases, breaches often entail a failure by the owner/operator of a property to inspect, clean, repair, or maintain the premises, directly leading to or causing your injuries. Other common failures culminating in breach of duty of care include:
- Neglecting to warn visitors about potential hazards: Examples can include failing to clearly mark wet floors, the presence of a dog, or an area under repair/construction.
- Inadequate supervision of third parties on the premises: Property owners have an obligation to protect visitors from accidents involving one another as they conduct their legitimate business on the premises. This responsibility does not extend to unlawful acts by visitors resulting in harm.
- Failure to mitigate the risks posed by an attractive nuisance such as physically prohibiting access to a pool at night or during the off-season.
In addition to proving a breach occurred, victims must prove the owner was negligent. Generally, the term negligence refers to the absence or delay of an action or activity that could have reduced the risk of harm to an individual. Negligence by a property owner with a duty of care to visitors usually involves some form of disregard for their safety and well being with a degree of recklessness, carelessness, or apathy.
Breaches often stem from negligence rather than deliberate wrongdoing, although claims of intentional harm or reckless disregard for someone’s safety aren’t uncommon in cases of occupiers’ liability.
The evidence needs to clearly demonstrate a direct causal link between the occupier’s negligence and the injuries the victim sustained due to the premises accident. Typically, this connection is established through medical records and witness testimonies.
Both occupiers and insurance companies commonly challenge claims asserting a visitor’s injuries resulted from hazardous conditions and negligence. They may argue that injuries stem from a lack of care on the part of the visitor or were caused by factors beyond the occupier’s control. They might also challenge the severity of the injuries in order to claim that damages, the fourth component of a premises liability claim, aren’t warranted because the victim’s injuries aren’t severe enough to cause any sort of loss, whether it be financial, social, or quality of life.
Ultimately, it’s necessary to demonstrate the injuries sustained on the premises resulted in damages. You might be eligible for compensation covering various losses, including:
- Current medical expenses not covered by insurance
- Anticipated future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Costs linked to household services, in-home medical care, assistive devices, medical-related travel, and similar expenses
- Pain and suffering
5. Visitor Duties and Obligations
Similar to property owners and occupiers, visitors in British Columbia also bear specific legal responsibilities. When on someone else’s property, visitors must take care to prevent self-injury by:
- Exercising caution around clear hazards.
- Paying attention to posted warnings regarding potential dangers.
- Heeding notifications from the property owners about risky conditions.
- Making reasonable judgments about the risks posed by unavoidable hazards during inclement weather or those that can occur from careless conduct.
Be aware an injury occurring due to an obvious hazard or within a dangerous area on someone else’s property may not constitute negligence on the part of the property owner.
If trespassing on another individual’s property in British Columbia, the property owner has no legal obligation to ensure your safety and is not liable for accidents causing harm. Their sole legal duties require refraining from deliberately creating or failing to limit hazards that demonstrate reckless disregard for your safety.
For trespassers and individuals willingly assuming risks on the premises, the duty of care owed by occupiers is limited to:
- Intentionally creating hazards to harm the person.
- Refraining from recklessly disregarding the individual’s safety.
- Eliminating or reducing risks to safety from an attractive nuisance.
- Mitigating the risk posed by the legitimate activities of other visitors.