Living in Southwestern Ontario inevitably means that you are used to getting pummeled with snow for months at a time! As beautiful as it is, snow brings challenges for drivers, homeowners and businesses in the region.
Here are some ways that you can protect yourself and others this winter season!
Auto - Snow Tires
Insurance companies are obligated to offer a winter tire insurance discount to all drivers. You can save up to 5% on your car insurance if you have 4 snow tires installed on your vehicle throughout the winter months. Some insurance companies have specific rules around the exact dates you need to have the tires on for, but most just want to ensure that you not only have the tires, but that you have them installed. It is a good rule of thumb to have the tires on starting November 1st and to keep the tires installed until April 30th.
Uninhabited Personal Property
Are you going away this winter for more than a month? It doesn't matter where you are going (though we hope it's somewhere warm!) but it does matter that you follow the proper steps to minimize your risk while you're gone. During the winter months, the insurance industry uses the term “heating season”. The heating season is typically November to April, and it is where a household would require the heat to be on in order to be comfortable.
While the exact rules differ between insurance companies, if you are away from your home for more than 30 consecutive days, your policy requires you to have someone checking on the home every 24 hours OR you are required to drain the water pipes and shut off the water supply. The main concern during these months are issues related to freezing water.
Slip and Falls - Personal Property
As a homeowner or tenant, it is your responsibility to keep your property reasonably safe for people who may use it. Areas such as stairs, porches, walkways and driveways are typically of concern, but you are responsible for all areas of your property, at all times. With ice and snow, using salt or sand to reduce ice buildup or keeping surfaces clear with a shovel are the best ways to reduce risk. If someone were to “slip-and-fall while on your property and they become injured, they could sue you. You are protected under the liability portion of your policy, subject to your terms, policy limits and deductible.
Slip and Falls - Businesses
Winter weather-related slip and fall accidents typically happen in parking lots or on sidewalks in commercial areas. Because the number of people visiting your property is higher than at a private residence, your risk exposure is a lot higher. If someone was to injure themselves, they could sue your business under the Third Party Liability section of your policy.
In Ontario, plaintiffs wanting to sue for personal injuries normally have two years after an accident to start a lawsuit. But if Bill 118 is passed into law, plaintiffs would have only 10 days to give defendants’ notice of slip-and-fall claims caused by snow and ice. This law is still under review.