Last week, Ontario entered Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen. Among other things, Ontario Parks have resumed overnight stays on campground and backcountry campsites, along with continuing to offer outdoor recreational activities for day use. With citizens eager to begin vacations planned for overnight or multi-day adventures, accidents are unfortunately inevitable.
There are specific legal rules and limitation periods relating to injuries in provincial parks that require injured parties to act quickly in the wake of an accident, discussed below. If you have been injured in these circumstances, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer right away in order to make sure you don’t wait too long to bring a claim.
Liability for Personal Injury Claims in Ontario Parks
In Ontario, the Occupier’s Liability Act gives property owners and occupiers a general duty of care to ensure the safety of guests and visitors. This rule extends to the province itself. Ontario Parks owes a duty of care to provincial park visitors to “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises, and the property brought on the premises by those persons are reasonably safe while on the premises”. Therefore, Ontario Parks (more specifically, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) will be held accountable if you are hurt in an Ontario provincial park due to their negligence.
The test the courts will look at when determining whether an occupier is responsible for accident-related injuries is “reasonableness”. That is, did Ontario Parks take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their park visitors?
Contributory Negligence for Personal Injury Claims in Ontario’s Provincial Parks
Even if Ontario Parks is found to be liable for injuries sustained by a visitor, it doesn’t mean they will be found wholly responsible for those injuries. Under the legal concept of contributory negligence, any damages that a park visitor is awarded for an injury will be reduced by the amount that the visitor’s actions contributed to their injuries.
If a visitor is engaging in risky behaviour in an Ontario park when the accident occurs or is otherwise partially responsible for your injuries, they will not be entitled to a full damages award. For instance, there may be signs and warnings throughout the park alerting visitors to particular dangers in the park. Failing to take note of these signs and heed any applicable warnings could mean that you will be found contributorily negligent if you are injured in an Ontario park.
Limitation Periods for Personal Injury Claims in Ontario Parks
Last week, we posted about limitation periods. It is important to remember that if you are injured in an Ontario park, you have 10 days to provide written notice to the province. If this notice is not submitted on time, you may not be able to advance your claim. As we have noted in previous articles, it is very important to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an accident, even if you aren’t aware of the full extent of your losses and injuries, in order to preserve your right to bring a claim at a later date.
Tips For Staying Safe in Ontario’s Provincial Parks
Whether you’re staying at a drive-in campsite or hiking in the backcountry, make sure you are prepared for the unexpected in Ontario’s provincial parks.
Ontario Parks provides great articles covering camping safety. We’ve summarized a few tips below (click here to read the full article):
- Make note of the emergency services available in the park, such as the location of park staff and how to contact them in case of an emergency;
- Follow signs and warnings throughout the park;
- Carry a first-aid kit;
- Plan ahead to avoid getting lost (for example, tell a friend or family member where you’re going and how long you plan to be there for);
- Dress for the weather and pack appropriately; and
- Carry water and snacks at all times.
Don’t let poor planning ruin your Ontario Parks visit this summer. Be prepared for the unexpected and follow all recommended safety guidelines.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
Serious accidents can happen anywhere and Ontario’s parks are no exception. Whatever the circumstances of your accident, the client-centred and approachable team at Tierney Stauffer LLP can provide you with the necessary guidance to understand your rights, aid in our recovery, and help you obtain the best resolution to your situation.
Our personal injury lawyers have over 35 years of experience advocating for those who have been injured in accidents, or through the negligence or abuse of others.
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we recognize that no two accidents or accident injuries are the same, which is why our personal injury team gives each client the personalized attention needed to bring about the best possible resolution. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation to discuss your matter with a skilled lawyer.