Municipalities play a critical role in our daily lives, from providing essential services to maintaining roads and public spaces. But what happens when a person suffers a personal injury due to the negligence of a municipality?
If you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a municipality in Ontario, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. However, bringing a personal injury claim against a municipality requires knowledge of the specific rules relating to municipalities.
Below, we’ll outline some of the key considerations for individuals involved in personal injury claims against municipalities in Ontario.
Types of Municipal Personal Injury Claims
Unlike motor vehicle accidents, personal injury claims against municipalities can arise in a variety of situations. Below are just a few examples:
- Slip and fall accidents on municipal property, such as sidewalks, roads, or public parks;
- Injuries resulting from improper or unsafe road construction or maintenance, such as incomplete or poorly marked construction zones;
- Injuries resulting from inadequate lighting or other forms of security in public areas, such as parks or parking garages; and
- Injuries resulting from the failure of municipal employees to properly maintain or supervise public areas, such as public swimming pools or playgrounds.
Limitation Periods for Municipal Liability and Personal Injury Claims
Under Ontario’s Limitations Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 25, Sch B, in most circumstances, you must bring a claim within two years of the accident.
However, an exception applies to municipal liability in personal injury actions.
Under s. 10 of the Municipal Act, 2001, SO 2001, c 25, personal injury claimants must provide written notice of their claim to a municipality within 10 days of their injury. You must provide this notice to be able to bring an action against the municipality. As a result, it’s critical to speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an action to ensure you preserve your right to bring a claim.
Municipal Liability and Personal Injury Claims
Under the Municipal Act, 2001, SO 2001, c 25, municipalities have certain statutory duties to maintain the municipal property. A failure to meet their statutory duties, or otherwise failing to meet their duty of care to those using their property, can open municipalities up to liability for personal injury claims.
For example, under s. 44 of the Municipal Act, 2001, municipalities with jurisdiction over highways or bridges must keep them in a reasonable state of repair in the circumstances. Failing to comply with this requirement means a municipality will be liable for any damages a person sustains because of the municipality’s error.
If a statutory duty does not exist under the Municipal Act 2001, a personal injury claimant will advance their claim under the traditional principles of negligence. To summarize, a case for negligence is established where a personal injury claimant can prove:
- the defendant (in this case, a municipality) owed them a duty of care (a specific legal obligation not to harm others);
- the municipality breached the standard of care they owed to the claimant;
- the municipality’s actions caused the claimant’s injury or loss;
- there was a foreseeable connection between the municipality’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury or loss; and
- the plaintiff suffered an actual harm or loss.
Municipal Liability and Exemptions for Personal Injury Claims
Given their unique nature, municipalities have some degree of immunity from liability for certain claims.
Under s. 448 of the Municipal Act, 2001, no proceeding for damages can be commenced against a member of council or officer, employee, or agent of a municipality (or people acting under their instruction) for any act done in good faith in the performance or intended performance of a duty or authority under the Municipal Act, 2001 or a bylaw passed under the Municipal Act, 2001.
Another example of municipal liability exemptions specific to personal injury claims comes from s. 450 of the Municipal Act, 2001. Here, the legislation states that a personal injury plaintiff arguing negligence against a municipality cannot bring an action against injury sustained due to the performance or non-performance of a discretionary function if the action or inaction leading to the injury arose due to a “policy decision” of a municipality or local board made in good faith.
Exemptions to Liability for Municipal Personal Injury Claims: An Example
Take, for example, the decision in City of Nelson v. Taryn Joy Marchi, 2021 SCC 41, which we covered in a previous blog post. This case considered the legal principle that municipalities are not responsible for any injuries that arise if the policy that guided the wrongdoing was made “in good faith” (as outlined in s. 450 of the Municipal Act, 2001 in Ontario).
In the case referenced above, a plaintiff was trying to navigate a snowbank between her parked car and a sidewalk and injured herself while trying to get through it. The plaintiff sued the City of Nelson, arguing that the municipal snow crew should have left openings in the snowbank to ensure pedestrians could pass through safely.
While the lower courts disagreed with the plaintiff, finding that she was unable to sue because the decision to plow in the way the City had was made in good faith, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the City’s decision to create snowbanks while failing to clear pathways for pedestrians fell into an operational decision, allowing the plaintiff to argue that the municipality was liable for her injuries.
Final Thoughts on Municipal Liability and Personal Injury Claims
Bringing a personal injury claim against a municipality in Ontario can be a complex process. It’s, therefore critical to understand the notice requirements and specific rules relating to municipal liability to determine whether your claim will be successful.
To ensure you are meeting the tight notice requirements for municipal actions and to determine whether you have a valid claim, it’s essential to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to help you provide adequate notice and determine the likelihood of success for your claim – to say nothing of the guidance a skilled personal injury lawyer can provide when navigating the often-complicated personal injury litigation process.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have many years of experience going up against various actors to get full and fair settlements for our clients. We will advise you of the best course of action to obtain the maximum possible settlement so that you can recover financially and move on with your life.