All claims submitted to the County receive full assessment using consistent criteria and are considered on the basis of the presence of legal liability or a legislative or regulatory requirement. Please note that the County only makes payment where the County of Bruce is legally liable for the damage or injury caused.
For more information, please review the options below.
The Corporate Services Department handles all claims against the County. Before submitting a formal ‘Notice of Loss/Notice of Injury Claim’, it is important to keep in mind the following:
Making a claim against the County is not the same as making a claim against your insurance. Making a claim through your insurance company means that you are taking advantage of your existing insurance coverage for your personal assets, via your insurance policy, whereas a claim against the County requires an investigation to determine whether or not the County is legally liable.
If you have auto or property insurance, these should be the first avenues pursued in the event of a loss. Your existing insurance coverage may in fact be more extensive than any recovery that could be made from the County. If your insurer believes that the County is responsible, they may seek to recover damages against the County on your behalf.
Making a claim against the County is a legal process and will take time as an investigation will be conducted by the Corporate Services Department to determine if the County was negligent, causing the damage or injury.
Generally speaking, "negligence" involves the failure to meet the appropriate standard of care. For instance, if the County is aware of a dangerous situation on its property and it does not take steps to fix it within a reasonable time, the County might be found negligent if someone is hurt at that location. Similarly, the County might also be negligent if it built something that was not constructed according to the standards in effect at that time.
Please note that the County only makes payment where the County of Bruce is legally liable for the damage or injury caused. Determination of liability is based on the presence of negligence on behalf of the County.
For property damage claims, if the County is found to be negligent, the amount that you would receive in compensation is limited to current value and not replacement value and the County will not reimburse for improvements beyond the condition of the property just before the damage occurred.
The investigation of your claim must be completed before the County will be in a position to consider any compensation with respect to repairs/costs. It is your decision if you choose to proceed with repairing damaged property prior to the outcome of your claim.
The County is committed to resolutions that are fair, reasonable, and in keeping with the County's legal obligations. Although you may not get the answer you were seeking, our staff will treat everyone with respect and professionalism throughout the process, and, will do their best to explain the County's position regarding each decision.
All claims must be submitted on the County of Bruce ‘Notice of Loss/Notice of Injury Claim’ Form via our online Claim Submission Webform OR in writing via e-mail or regular mail/courier. If submitting by email, or regular mail/courier, please ensure to include all of the following details, which are required to properly open and assess your claim:
- Your name, home address, phone number and email address;
- A detailed description of the incident that caused the property damage or injury, including the specific date, time and location;
- Contact information for any witnesses, County staff and/or other parties with information that could help the County understand what happened;
- Any supporting documentation, including photos, drawings, receipts, etc.; and
- If a County Contractor was involved, please provide the contractor’s name (please also refer to our Claims Involving Private Contractors section).
Failure to provide any of the information listed above will delay the processing of your claim.
County of Bruce
Attn: Corporate Services, Insurance
30 Park Street,
Box 70 Walkerton, Ontario N0G 2V0
Once you have submitted your claim, the County Corporate Services Department will send you an acknowledgment within 10 business days. The length of time to investigate will depend upon the complexity and severity of the claim as well as the volume of claims received at certain peak seasons. A relatively straight forward claim often requires up to 4 weeks in order for staff to sufficiently investigate the matter. A more complicated claim can take several months to conclude.
Upon completion of our investigation, you will be notified of our assessment in writing. If your claim is denied, the Corporate Services Department will outline the results of the investigation and provide you with the information that supports the County's denial. If you still wish to pursue your claim after being denied compensation, your next option is to file a lawsuit against the County.
All claims should be filed with the County as soon as possible following an incident in order to initiate an investigation. There are cases that require you to place the County on notice within 10 days of the incident. To ensure that your claim does not fall outside of the notice period, in all circumstances, please forward it to the County within 10 days.
The Corporate Services Department will consider all information put forward in support of your claim and review in relation to any relevant legislation, regulations and documentation from operational departments to determine if the County of Bruce had any legal liability in the matter. The possible outcomes could include:
- The referral of the claim to another responsible party (i.e. private contractors);
- The denial of the claim if there is no evidence of County negligence; or,
- The settlement of the claim in whole or part.
While many claimants may feel that the County is morally responsible for their loss, it is the question of legal liability that ultimately determines whether a claim is paid. The reliance on legal liability as the basis for the evaluation of claims is in keeping with the provisions of the County's insurance policies and reflects the same considerations that would inform a legal assessment in the court system. It serves to ensure that, while claimants may feel that the County is morally responsible for their loss, all claims are considered fairly and in accordance with the same legal criteria.
Claims Involving County Vehicles
In Ontario, when two vehicles are involved in an accident and regardless of fault, the drivers/owners of those vehicles must direct themselves first to their own vehicle insurance providers. The same applies for incidents involving third-party and County vehicles. This model is referred to as ‘no-fault’ insurance, and means that each vehicle operator deals with their own insurer directly for reimbursement and coverage for any property damage costs, and/or expenses resulting from injury.
If your vehicle is damaged as a result of an accident with a County vehicle, all physical damage must be reported to and paid by your own vehicle insurance, by law.
If you need to repair your vehicle, or arrange a rental vehicle, you must contact your own vehicle insurance provider for assistance in this regard. The Corporate Services Department must complete an investigation to determine if the County is responsible for the damage before approving payment for any costs relating to vehicle repairs, etc.
Claims Involving Private Contractors
The County of Bruce provides many services with its own staff. However, the County also frequently enters into contracts with independent companies (“contractors”) for the provision of services on the County’s behalf. These can include services like major construction projects, road work, and snow plowing. The County’s agreements with these contractors contain a requirement that the contractor respond directly and promptly to any claims for damage, loss or injury caused to the public during the execution of their work.
Should a claim be received by the County whereby it is determined that a contractor had control over the accident location at the time of the loss/damage, the Corporate Services Department will forward the claim to the contractor for their investigation and response. Claimants will be notified in writing that their claim has been forwarded to the contractor to action accordingly. Should the contractor deny a claim for damage, loss or injury, the County cannot intervene directly on behalf of a Claimant.
Claims Involving Potholes or Other Road Deficiencies
Potholes are a result of the significant freeze/thaw weather cycles that deteriorate our road surfaces. During the freeze/thaw, water seeps into the crevices of the road. Fluctuations in temperature, vibrations and traffic volumes all create stress on the asphalt road surface, which can result in potholes.
In cases of road damage, including potholes, the Municipal Act, 2001 sets out the rules that the County 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 County 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 County’s obligation to fix a pothole is triggered only after the County becomes aware of the problem.
When the County receives a pothole claim, the County will determine whether the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways were met. If the County met those standards, the County is not responsible.
It is worth noting the Municipal Act, 2001, recognizes that the standard of care required of counties is one of reasonableness and not perfection. Applying this legal consideration means that the County is rarely legally liable for damage caused by potholes. However, all claims receive a fulsome, independent review to ensure that proper consideration is provided for assessing the County’s liability in relation to any and all damages claimed.
Please note, that if you have auto or property insurance, these should be the first avenues pursued in the event of a loss. Your existing insurance coverage may in fact be more extensive than any recovery that could be made from the County.
The County identifies potholes through regular patrols and as reported by the public to the Transportation and Environmental Services Department (Tel: 519-881-1291).
Claims Involving Overland Flooding (runoff from a County Roadway)
When a flooding claim is received it will be looked at to determine why the flooding happened and whether it was due to a problem in the design or construction of the road drainage system, whether the system was maintained according to industry norms, or whether the weather event was simply too much for the system to manage.
Claims related to the escape of drinking water or sewerage are handled by the local municipality in which the property is located.
Claims Involving Trees
Trees and accidents involving branches sometimes happen, particularly in high winds.
Claims related to damage from trees within an urban area are handled by the local municipality in which the property is located.
When making a claim against the County for property damage related to County trees in a rural area there are several factors that are considered in determining the County's responsibility. Some of these factors include:
The history of the tree, including whether there was any visible evidence of decay prior to the incident,
Whether the County had prior notice of the condition of the tree,
If the County was aware of the condition of the tree, whether the County's inspection and maintenance activities were reasonable.
Unless the County 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 County will not usually be legally responsible or liable for any damage. For example, if someone submits a claim because their car was damaged when a County tree branch fell on their car, the County would only be liable and pay compensation if the County was negligent in how it maintained the tree.
The mere fact that a County tree caused damage does not warrant automatic compensation from the County. Furthermore, if the tree is not found on County property, the County will not be found liable. Residents can request that the County of Bruce Transportation and Environmental Services Department determine ownership of a tree in the rural area or to request maintenance of a tree that is on County property.
If our investigation determines that the County is not legally liable your claim will be denied. When a claim is denied, the County provides written justification for this determination and explains the rationale behind the decision.
Notwithstanding the County’s efforts, some claimants will disagree with the assessment of the extent of the County’s legal responsibility for their losses. In such cases, claimants are free to commence formal proceedings before the courts in an effort to obtain compensation.
The Director of Corporate Services may provide a summary of all claim settlements as part of a Report to a County Committee and/or County Council.