Slips, falls on icy sidewalks in Toronto dangerous, expensive, experts say

Wearing a "big ugly pair of winter boots" is the best way to avoid slips and falls on icy sidewalks in February, but accidents do happen and they can be dangerous to residents and costly to the city, say a doctor and a lawyer.

An ER doctor recommends wearing a 'big ugly pair of winter boots' to avoid falls on ice

The best way to avoid slips and falls is to wear sensible boots with wide soles that can grip the surface, Dr. Brett Belchetz says. (CBC)

Wearing a "big ugly pair of winter boots" is the best way to avoid slips and falls on icy sidewalks in February, but accidents do happen and they can be dangerous to residents and costly to the city, say a doctor and a lawyer.

Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room doctor, said slips and falls can mean broken bones, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Allan Chapnik, a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm, said slips and falls can lead to financial compensation in cases where "gross negligence" on the part of the city can be proven. 

There were nearly 30,000 emergency department visits and 2,800 hospitalizations in the city from residents who fell on snow and ice between 2006 and 2015, according to an October 2016 Toronto Public Health report.

The injuries cost the provincial health care system nearly $4 million a year, the report said, and slips and falls on snow and ice cost the city about $6.7 million a year due to liability insurance claims.

Fashion 'not the priority'

For Belchetz, the best way to avoid slips and falls is to wear sensible boots with wide soles that can grip the surface.

"It's amazing to me the number of times where I see people that are out, you know, women in their high heels, men wearing dress shoes, with slippery flat bottoms," he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday. 

Dr. Brett Belchetz says: 'Fashion is not the priority at this time of year. You want good, gripping soles. So go out, get a big ugly pair of winter boots that have very good treads on it.' (CBC)

"Fashion is not the priority at this time of year. You want good, gripping soles. So go out, get a big ugly pair of winter boots that have very good treads on it." 

'Looking at whoever is responsible'

Chapnik said people who suffer broken wrists, ankles and hips and concussions, after falling on icy sidewalks and in parking lots, will sometimes call a law firm. 

"They'll get their immediate care taken care of at the emergency room, but the fallout from the injuries they have suffered can be pretty significant and long lasting. The injuries will often times push people out of work, whether it's for weeks or months or sometimes years, and they will also need help at home that isn't provided under the public system," he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning​.
Allan Chapnik, a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm, says injuries from slips and falls 'will often times push people out of work, whether it's for weeks or months or sometimes years, and they will also need help at home that isn't provided under the public system.' (CBC)

"They're looking at whoever is responsible for wherever they fell. If it's a city sidewalk, they're looking to the city. If they're in a parking lot in the shopping mall, it's the shopping mall owner."

Asked how often public institutions are involved in liability insurance claims, he said: "All the time."

Lawyers have to show that the city was "grossly negligent," he said. For example, if city crews failed to clear sidewalks in front of a hospital, lawyers could argue the city did not protect a vulnerable population.

Sidewalks in Toronto can be treacherous in February. (CBC)

Beware of icy patches

Currently, city crews are continuing their "mechanical sidewalk salting" after snow fell in Toronto on the weekend. 

Freezing and thawing this week could mean icy patches on sidewalks and streets. 

The forecast for Toronto calls for below freezing temperatures on Tuesday, with a high of –3 C and a low of –6 C, and above freezing temperatures on Wednesday, with a high of 3 C and a low of 1 C. It is also calling for a 40 per cent chance of showers on Thursday during the day and a 60 per cent chance of flurries or showers at night.

With files from Metro Morning

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