Falling on an Icy Sidewalk: What Remedies Exist?

In the News

Falls on icy sidewalks are currently a hot topic. For example, the city of Montreal is rethinking how to prevent them: by prioritizing de-icing sidewalks over snow removal. But eliminating all falls is impossible… so if you fall and get hurt, who’s responsible? Are you entitled to compensation?

The city and your injuries 

You will not be automatically compensated if you’re injured or if your personal belongings break when falling on an icy sidewalk. You must prove that the city was negligent or that its snow removal and sand, gravel or salt spreading plan is inadequate. 

The city is responsible for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, but it’s not automatically liable for falls. Permanently snow- and ice-free sidewalks cannot be guaranteed given our difficult winter weather conditions. The courts have also confirmed that we can’t expect municipalities to deal with the consequences of a heavy snowstorm followed by freezing temperatures within 24 hours. It wouldn’t be reasonable.  

If you don’t reach an agreement with the city, you have three years to sue and prove negligence in court.  

Short deadlines to sue for your personal possessions 

The same principle applies if you break your glasses or another valuable object when you fall. 

However, in this case, you must send a written notice to the city as soon as possible to avoid losing your right to be compensated. Depending on where the accident happened, you have 15 or 60 days to do so. Check with the city to find out which timeline applies.  

If you do not reach an agreement with the city, you have six months to sue.  

Falling on private property 

You are also not entitled to automatic compensation if you are injured while visiting private property. You must prove that the owners were negligent or did not make normal efforts to remove snow and salt their property. 

If you do not reach an agreement, you have three years to sue for compensation for your injuries and valuables broken in the fall.  

To find out how to calculate damages and learn more about your right to be compensated, see our article on Civil Liability: Receiving Compensation for Damages.

But sometimes, it’s better to be safe than sorry: you can choose to insure yourself for the costs and loss of income you would have to bear in the event of a fall. Find out more by reading our article on Accident, Illness and Disability Insurance.