Clintar Blog

Slip and Fall Liability for Snow Removal Contractors

Kimberly Khoury | December 6, 2019 | Winter Maintenance

Property Managers all across Canada are being left out in the cold with snow removal services this winter.

With an increase in “slip and fall” lawsuits, many insurance companies will no longer insure snow removal contractors, and those still serving the market have placed a lot of financial pressure on contractors through skyrocketing premium rates and deductibles.

To keep up with these demands, contractors have had to either raise their service prices or face shutting down their businesses altogether.

Unfortunately, these increased prices have often deterred existing clients from continuing business, which not only causes concern for patron safety, but further exposes snow removal companies to the threat of bankruptcy.

Who is Liable for Slips, Trips or Falls on Commercial Property?

Snow removal contractors are relied upon to keep commercial and residential properties safe during the icy winter months.

The seasonal demands can be challenging to face with harsh, ongoing and unpredictable weather patterns.

While contractors are diligent with road salt and/or sustainable salt alternatives, any minor error can have a devastating impact on the future of their business.

In the event of an injury claim due to snow or ice, the legal charges and payouts (less policy deductibles) become the responsibility of the insurance companies. It is the increasing expenses of the insurance companies that is causing the increase in premiums.

In fact, snow removal contractors are often subject to a “Hold Harmless” clause in their contracts; a mandatory clause that places full liability on the contractor for any slips, trips or falls that may occur on the client’s properties.

Unfortunately, even the most experienced snow removal contractors can have a difficult time competing with the Canadian winter.

While snow removal and salting can be provided at the highest industry standard, the freezing temperatures and prolonged snowfalls can have a dangerous impact on safety, as well as job security for the contractor.

How Are Snow Removal Contractors Impacted by Slip And Fall Liability?

While insurance policies are mandatory for snow removal contractors, these rates are becoming more and more expensive.

In the case of an accident, contractors are required to prove to the courts that they have taken every possible precaution to prevent it. This process would include documented GPS routing, proof of service, scheduling details and even the amount of salt distributed to the property.

While a liability claim can lead to a six-figure payout, contractors who have zero claims against them have also been burdened with unsustainable premium hikes. With a single slip and fall claim, some companies have seen their insurance premiums jump by almost 400 percent!

This creates a difficult climate within the snow removal industry as businesses struggle to cover expenses and pay their employees while providing reasonably priced services to their loyal customers.

Unfortunately, these price increases and widespread bankruptcies have made it difficult for commercial property owners to secure reliable, affordable snow removal services throughout the icy Canadian winter.

What Can Be Done To Improve Liability Concerns for the Snow Removal Industry?

According to Tony DiGiovanni, Executive Director of Landscape Ontario, there is a current “insurance crisis” within the snow removal industry.

With non-existent standards to regulate these increasing insurance rates, landscaping and contractor groups have been working hard to bring positive change to the industry:

Accredited Contractors:

In 2018, the Snow and Ice Operations Risk Management Guidelines were developed by Landscape Ontario to support contractors with safe and preventative snow and ice removal practices.

Today, the association is encouraging governments to accredit and protect contractors who have implemented leading practices.

Reducing The Statute of Limitations:

While municipalities, towns and cities are given a 10-day statute of limitations on slip and fall claims, current legislation allows 2 years to make a claim against snow removal professionals.

To combat this inequality, MPP Norm Miller (Muskoka, Ontario) has put forward a Private Members Bill 118 called the Occupier’s Liability Amendment Act, 2019.

This act calls to create equality for snow removal contractors by matching the amount of time to claim a slip and fall lawsuit from 2 years to 10 days as well.

Public Awareness:

The liability of slip and falls for snow removal contractors is an urgent issue to address.

While countless snow removal businesses across the country have suffered the strain and burden of skyrocketing insurance premiums, many more are forced to shut down their businesses for the upcoming winter season.

While these problems ultimately impact the end users ability to maintain safe, affordable and reliable snow removal services, it is important to spread public awareness so that improvements can be achieved.

Snow Removal Services You Can Trust

At Clintar Commercial Outdoor Services, we are proud to offer environmentally friendly solutions with industry-leading customer service.

Since 1973, we have offered decades of award-winning solutions to snow and ice removal all across Canada!

As Snow Magazine’s Top Canadian Snow & Ice Removal Company for 2019 (and second in North America), our dedicated team is committed to providing the peace of mind our clients deserve.

If you would like to learn more about the liability of slip and falls for snow removal contractors, please feel free to contact us for more details.