Insurance / Risk Management Services

The Insurance & Risk Management Section of the Department of Finance is responsible for administering the City of Cornwall’s risk management and insurance programs.

The mandate of this section is to provide a framework committed to preventing injuries, preserving the Corporation's assets and minimizing financial loss through well co-ordinated risk management guidelines. Theses functions include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Procurement and maintenance of acceptable insurance coverage suitable to meet the needs of the City of Cornwall.
  • Ongoing review of contracts, leases, special events, etc. in order to effectively address potential risk exposures. Examine feasible alternative risk management techniques for dealing with those exposures.
  • Administration of claims, in order to achieve fair, equitable and reasonable resolvement/settlement of same. 
  • Provision of ongoing risk management advice, in particular, in the area of loss control, to all city departments.
  • Promote a risk-awareness environment ensuring precautions are taken to protect and maintain public trust and integrity.
  • Develop, implement and evaluate the Risk Management Program.

Making a Claim against the City of Cornwall

While the City understands that individuals apply for a claim because they believe that the City bears at least some responsibility for the injury or damage received, it is important to remember that submitting a claim is a legal process. Each claim is investigated and evaluated based on the City’s legal responsibility and liability.

If you believe that the City has been negligent in its maintenance of City facilities, roads, trees and sewers, which has caused bodily injury or damage to your property, you can file a claim against the City of Cornwall.

 

What is negligence?

The City has an obligation to maintain its infrastructure. In doing so, it must exercise a reasonable standard of care. The City may be found negligent if it fails to meet the appropriate standard of care, and that failure results in damage or injury to the public.

If you choose to submit a claim against the City, it is important to outline why you believe the City is responsible for your accident and provide proof of your damages. The City will conduct an investigation to determine if it met its maintenance obligations.

If the City did not exercise a reasonable standard of care, the City may be found to be negligent. In that circumstance, the City will attempt to resolve your claim. Any compensation paid to you will be based on proof of damage that has arisen as a result of the City's negligence. If the City did exercise a reasonable standard of care, your claim will be denied.

 

What should you consider when making a claim?

 

Any damage to your property can be upsetting and disruptive; however, it's important to know that the City of Cornwall is not your insurer.

If you have auto or property insurance, we suggest you consult your insurance company or broker first, for advice on how to deal with your loss. Your insurance coverage may be more extensive than what you can recover from the City. If your insurer believes the City is responsible for your damages they may seek compensation against the City on your behalf.

The City will not be held responsible for any claims/costs unless you can provide evidence that the City committed a negligent act or omission that resulted in injury or damage. The City, by way of its insurer, only compensates when it is legally liable for the damage sustained. This approach helps to reduce costs for the taxpaying public, who ultimately bear the cost of these claims. The City does not pay "nuisance settlements" to avoid going to Court.

 

When should I notify the City about a claim?

Written notice must be submitted as soon as possible after the occurrence. The Municipal Act states that in certain situations a person is required to place the City on notice within 10 days from the date of an occurrence.

All claims made against the City must be filed in accordance with the following:

Claims can be submitted by mail or by e-mail in the form of a letter or by completing the Notice of Claim form.  Even if you first contact Risk Management by phone, you will be asked to put your claim in writing. Remember to include all of the information that the City will need to properly process and assess your claim.

Your claim e-mail or letter will need to include the following:

  • Information on how we can best contact you, including your name, home address, phone number and e-mail address;
  • Information about the incident that caused the property damage or the injury, with specific details about what happened, where and when;
  • A description of the incident, including contact information for any witnesses or anyone else with information that could help the City understand what happened;
  • Any documentation that supports your claim, including photos, drawings, etc.; and
  • Details of the damage or injury, if these are available. If you are making a claim for property damage, you should include any receipts for the property and at least two (2) estimates of the cost of repairs.

Claim Form:  Notice of Claim

Mail To:       City of Cornwall

                   Attn: Risk Management

                   100 Water St E, Suite 104

                   Cornwall, ON K6H 5T9

Email:          claims@cornwall.ca

 

How are claims handled?

When Risk Management receives your claim, an investigation will be started. You will receive a written reply to let you know your claim has been received.

Our investigation may include an on-site visit by employees or an adjuster, if appropriate, as well as obtaining internal and external documentation, and speaking to employees and/or contractors who may have some knowledge of the incident.

A decision will be made when all of the information has been reviewed. You will be advised as quickly as possible.

Claim Types

 Pothole and Road Hazard Claims
 

Potholes

Cornwall has a significant freeze/thaw cycle each winter and spring. This cycle, together with high volumes of traffic, creates holes in road surfaces. Potholes can damage a tire or a wheel. In some cases, suspension and/or steering systems can be affected. Potholes are maintained year round and road maintenance is scheduled carefully to minimize traffic disruptions.

Unlike many other types of maintenance, the Municipal Act, 2001 sets the rules that the City has to follow to avoid claims for such damage. These are called the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways (MMS) and can be found on the Provincial Government’s E-Laws website, at the following link:

Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways

These Provincial government standards require the City to fix a pothole within a period that ranges between 4 days and 30 days, depending on the size of the pothole and whether it is on a paved or an unpaved road. It is important to note that the City’s obligation to fix a pothole is triggered only after the municipality becomes aware of the problem.

When the City receives a pothole claim, an investigation will commence to determine whether the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways were met. If the City met those standards, the City is not responsible.

 

Road Hazards

A municipality that has jurisdiction over a particular road is responsible for cleaning up debris in reasonable time. The City is regulated under Ontario Regulations (O. Reg. 239/02, s. 9 (2); O. Reg. 47/13, s. 9) which states the following;

Debris

9. (1) If there is debris on a roadway, the minimum standard is to deploy resources, as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the fact, to remove the debris. O. Reg. 239/02, s. 9 (1).

(2) In this section, “debris” means any material (except snow, slush or ice) or object on a roadway,

(a) that is not an integral part of the roadway or has not been intentionally placed on the roadway by a municipality, and

(b) that is reasonably likely to cause damage to a motor vehicle or to injure a person in a motor vehicle. O. Reg. 239/02, s. 9 (2); O. Reg. 47/13, s. 9.

Who can I call about potholes or other road hazards I see?

Contact Municipal Works at 613-932-5354 ext 5354. This line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive your calls. The exact location of the pothole/hazard will be recorded and an inspection arranged so appropriate action is taken.

  

My vehicle was damaged by a pothole or road hazard. What should I do?

Have a licensed automobile mechanic inspect the damage. Do not continue to drive your vehicle if it is not operating properly. Notify the City of the exact location of the pothole/hazard so any needed repair work can be done. Document your damages with photographs, original invoices and bills of sale.

 

If you believe the damage will exceed your deductible, contact your insurance company for assistance.

 

If you want to claim directly against the City, follow the procedures outlined under Making A Claim. Each claim is examined individually. Based on the findings of the investigation, compensation will be provided if it is proven that property damage is the result of negligence on the part of the City.

 Flood Claims
 

It is important for individuals submitting a claim for flooding damage to understand that the Ontario Government changed the Municipal Act in the 1990’s such that cities and towns are no longer liable for damage caused by the escape of water or sewage if they are not negligent. Therefore, a claimant has to show that the City was negligent, either in the design, construction or the maintenance of the sewer or watermain for the City to be responsible.

Even when industry standards change because of advances in technology, a better understanding of weather or even things like climate change, the law does not require the City to rebuild its older sewer systems to meet new standards because the cost of rebuilding an entire community’s infrastructure may be too high, or the changes might be impossible to put into place.

When making a claim against the City for flood or sewer back-up damages it's important to note that the City will not be responsible for your property damage if the City's Water/Sewer division has met installation and maintenance standards for its water and sewage systems, specifically:

Installation

  • Installation of water or sewer service was completed in accordance with the engineering practices that prevailed at the time.

Maintenance

  • A reasonable maintenance system is in place and adhered to. This includes proactive measures to prevent water and sewage systems from failure and to ensure mechanisms are in place to enable the City to respond appropriately to system failures.

Sewer backups and Watermain breaks can be attributed to causes other than the City's failure to properly install or maintain its infrastructure. The weather, for example, can have a significant impact.

The pressures created by the freeze/thaw cycles during the winter can also place a significant amount of strain on watermains. These pressures often result in leaks and ruptures. Severe weather systems that pass through the City can also strain the sewer system.

 

Significant rainfall over a short period of time can result in the City's storm and combined sewers taking in more water than they are designed to accommodate, resulting in sewer backups.

 

Sewer Back-Ups

 

All sewer laterals in the City of Cornwall are governed by Municipal By-Law. It stipulates that every property owner that has a sewer lateral connected to the City’s sewer is responsible for the maintenance, repair and/or replacement of the entire sewer lateral which includes plumbing cost and lateral camera inspections.

 

Most sewer back-ups happen because the line is plugged or requires maintenance work. Sewer back-ups are also caused by unusually heavy rainfalls, especially during the spring when there is also water accumulating from melting snow.

 

There are a number of steps property owners can take to reduce the contributing factors that cause weather-related sewage backups such as lot grading, downspout drainage and installation of flood-proofing devices.

 

The City sewer runs underneath the roadway collecting storm (rain) water and/or sewage from private laterals and transports it to a sewage treatment facility.

 

Private laterals connect each property from the building to the City sewer line. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all connecting laterals from the building to the connection at the sewer main.

 

By-Law 001-2000 (section 12)

Sewer Lateral Policy

 Fallen Tree and Branch Claims
 

The City owns more than xxx trees and accidents involving branches sometimes happen, particularly in high winds. When a claim is received, an investigation will look at the history of the tree to see whether the City had prior notice of the condition of the tree and, if it did, what steps it took in response. Unless the City had some advance warning that one of its trees posed a hazard, such as a rotting limb or a cracked trunk, and it did not take appropriate steps to deal with the hazard, the City will not usually be legally responsible or liable for any damage.

The mere fact that a City tree caused damage does not warrant automatic compensation from the City. An investigation will look into the history of the tree to consider all factors.

If the tree/limb failure occurred as a result of a storm event, then the City will not be responsible for your property damage.

 Other Claims
 

Claims Involving Private Contractors

The City of Cornwall provides many services with its own staff. However, sometimes private contractors are used for services like major construction projects, snow plowing, grass cutting and garbage collection. If these private contractors cause damage to others while carrying out their work, the City’s agreements require the contractors to deal with these claims directly.

If you believe that you have been injured or that your property has been damaged by a private contractor working for the City, you have two avenues to make a claim. You can make your claim directly to the contractor or you can send your claim to the City’s Risk Management Department.

If you file your claim through the City, Risk Management will forward the claim to that contractor, so that it can be investigated. Risk Management will let you know that the claim has been turned over to the contractor. The private contractor should be in touch with you in a few days to let you know that they have received the claim and to provide you with the name of a contact person. If you do not hear from the private contractor, please let the City know and the City will help to identify the private contractor's contact person.

The private contractor will conduct an investigation and make a decision regarding your claim. If the contractor determines that it is legally responsible for your loss, it will resolve the claim directly with you.

If the private contractor determines that it is not legally liable for the damage or loss, your claim will likely be denied. If you disagree with the contractor’s decision, you can contact the City to help better understand the basis on which the claim might have been denied, although the City cannot intervene directly on your behalf.

 

My property has been damaged as a result of City construction activity. What should I do?

Write down the details of when and how the damage occurred; include the date, time and location. Some construction work is done by independent contractors. If possible, identify the company, equipment or event that caused the damage.

 

Contact your insurance company as they may provide coverage for your damages. If so, your insurance company can pursue any party they believe responsible for the damages. This may be the quickest way to recover any costs and have repairs made.

  

Slips, Trips and Fall’s

 

In claims against Ontario municipalities, accident victims must submit notice of their personal injury claim to the municipality within 10 days of their accident, unless they have a strong reason for delaying the claim.

 

The accident victim in any municipal liability case must prove their injury is a direct result of municipal negligence.

 

The Ontario Municipal Act, 2001 (“Act”) defines a municipalities obligations pertaining to the services and infrastructure under their jurisdiction, including its responsibilities for roads, bridge and sidewalk maintenance.

 

Trip and Fall’s on Municipal Property - The basic rule regarding the liability of a municipal authority in a trip and fall on a public road or sidewalk is set out in s. 44(1) of the “Act” which makes a municipality liable if it leaves a road or public sidewalk in a state of non-repair.

Slip and Falls Involving Snow or Ice on Municipal Sidewalks - Under s. 44(9) of the “Act”, a municipality is not liable for injuries suffered arising out of a slip and fall caused by snow or ice on a municipal sidewalk unless the municipality was grossly negligent in regard to the circumstances which led to the accident.

 

What qualifies as gross negligence on the part of a city?

Gross negligence means that there was a blatant breach in the duty of care.

 

For more information, please contact claims@cornwall.ca.  

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Financial & Risk Management Coordinator
100 Water Street East, Box 877, Cornwall ON, K6H 5T9
T.: 613-930-2787 ext. 2332
F.: 613-937-7509
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