The four seasons of personal injury and property loss

Canadians love to talk about the weather, and personal injury lawyers in Oakville are no exception.

Our relatively temperate climate gives us distinct divisions between winter, spring, summer and fall, and over my years in practice, I have noticed that you can also track the changing seasons according to the nature and frequency of personal injury and insurance claims.


Winter weather makes its mark most forcefully on the frequency of motor vehicle accidents, with poor visibility, black ice and slipping tires often cited as reasons for crashes.

The shorter days and longer nights we experience in the winter months play their own role in many of these incidents, with pedestrians and drivers typically leaving work in the dark after a tiring day’s work — a dangerous combination once they hit the road. A recent Statistics Canada report found that around 300 pedestrians die annually in Canada after being struck by vehicles, with poor visibility, challenging weather and infrastructure reported as a factor in more than 20 per cent of fatalities.

It’s not just drivers who struggle with icy conditions underfoot — the winter months are also where the majority of our slip-and-fall claims originate. Improper footwear and inattention are often factors in these incidents, but untreated sidewalks and parking lots are just as likely to come into play, and it’s important to remember that businesses and property owners also owe duties of inspection and maintenance to ensure that their premises are safe to use.   

Another set of Canadian government data — this time from a survey of the 170,000 recorded injuries annually by emergency departments across the country — gives a fascinating insight into the types of winter sports injuries that befall our fellow citizens and provides some clues as to why so many cities are reluctant to open their hills to tobogganing: according to the survey, a sobering 21 per cent of sledding injury victims suffered traumatic brain injuries, while 32 per cent broke bones.


By the time the calendar has turned to April, our slip and fall cases tend to have given way to their warmer weather equivalent: the trip and fall.

After several months under snow or ice, it’s not unusual for sidewalk or walkway slabs to re-emerge in slightly shifted positions, just in time for a wave of increased footfall, which is why spring is the peak season for these claims.

Again, the behaviour of property managers and owners is often the key to claims, as cases typically proceed under Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, which provides a mechanism for injury victims to sue the owners and managers of property for damages when they fail to meet their duties of inspection, maintenance and upkeep.


Summer activities come with their own risks, and many feature in our personal injury lawyer caseload as people take to public and private trails on their ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes.

This is also when we see an unfortunate uptick in cases featuring motorcyclists. I recently wrote about police statistics that provided a shocking reminder of the vulnerability of this particular class of road users — almost 350 of them have died on Ontario highways over the past decade.

Many of the most serious injuries occur during the summer months since it’s not a feasible year-round activity in Canada. The risk is higher early in the summer as rusty motorcyclists return to roads full of drivers unaccustomed to checking for riders.

Although car accident injuries are a year-round occurrence, there are some notable differences in terms of the causes in our experience. While winter crashes can generally be attributed to poor weather conditions, the critical factor in the summer is often high speed or driver distraction, which can impact the severity of the injuries sustained by vehicle occupants or pedestrians caught up in the incident. 


It’s not just personal injury claims that have a seasonal element to them. As the frequency of severe storms and flooding continues to grow, the fall is an increasingly busy time for our property loss team, who are there to help clients make claims and fight insurance denials after disaster strikes.

It remains to be seen how long the correlation between accident type and season will hold strong. In the last year, the El Nino effect has led to warmer-than-average temperatures across the province, contributing to the sense that our seasons seem to be melding into one another.

There is scientific support for the idea that certain seasons are waning, such as a recent Harvard University study that found spring and fall in the northern hemisphere are between five and nine days shorter than they were in the 1950s, while summer has lengthened by 17 days over the same period.

Those of us in the personal injury and insurance law realm already feel the effects as these changing weather patterns affect people’s behaviour. 

With predictably long spells of consistent conditions giving way to more sporadic adverse incidents, such as large dumps of snow, fast freezing and thawing or severe storms, it’s harder for everyone to be prepared. For example, drivers and pedestrians get less time to adjust to changing conditions, while businesses struggle to get their maintenance and safety protocols in place quickly enough.

As these trends intensify, we will have to adjust our behaviour to keep ourselves safe. In the meantime, if you have been injured in an accident, feel free to contact me or another member of my team of personal injury lawyers in Oakville at Edwards Pollard LLP.

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