MPs argue over constitutionality of proposed roadside testing bill

Automotive accident lawyers are keeping tabs on an ongoing debate in the House of Commons concerning the constitutionality of mandatory roadside breathalyzer tests. On June 13, federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould took the floor to defend Bill C-46, which would allow police to demand breath samples without evidence of intoxication.

“Questions around its constitutionality have been raised,” Wilson-Raybould said, but she insisted the law will be “minimally intrusive” and that “the benefits in lives saved will be immeasurable.”

Deputy Attorney General William Pentney also stridently defended the bill.

“We’re not saying that every police officer that stops every person for a broken tail light must ask,” he said. “But we are saying that everyone who gets pulled over for whatever reason in whatever context should know that they might be asked, and if they’re asked, they have a legal obligation to comply.”

Under current roadside testing laws, police must have a reasonable suspicion of intoxication before demanding a breathalyzer test. With marijuana legalization on the horizon, however, fresh concerns about intoxicated driving have been raised by road safety advocates and automotive accident lawyers. Bill C-46 represents the Canadian government’s attempts to address those concerns; under the proposed law, police would also have the right to conduct saliva tests for marijuana intoxication.

Both the NDP and Conservative parties believe the policy would be difficult to defend under the Canadian Constitution.

“Let’s not underestimate the fact that this is a significant infringement on individual liberty when we’re talking about taking a bodily sample without the slightest hint of suspicion that someone is breaking the law,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper.

The Liberals have used a number of arguments to defend the Bill, including pointing out that police would still need a good reason to pull someone over; that around half of all impaired drivers go undetected; and comparing a mandatory breathalyzer test to the existing requirement for drivers to show a valid license when they are pulled over.

Liberal MPs have also noted that Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland have all implemented similar strategies and have seen significant decreases in road-collision deaths, a result that would be welcomed by automotive accident lawyers.

While the opposition parties are well within their rights to question Bill C-46’s constitutionality, the Liberal government’s focus on reducing road traffic fatalities is also commendable. Whether or not the legislation can be passed in sync with Ottawa’s desired marijuana legalization date of July 1, 2018, remains to be seen.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact the automotive accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to discuss how we can help you access compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: KOMUnews/Wikimedia Commons

 

Ontario’s redefinition of catastrophic impairment puts injury victims at risk

Last June, the Government of Ontario enacted widely-publicized changes to its Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) which dictates how benefits are distributed to motor vehicle accident victims. Motor vehicle accident lawyers and advocates for injury victims were particularly disturbed by harsh cuts to available benefits, and for good reason: catastrophically injured individuals had access to a combined $2-million in medical, rehabilitative, and attendant-care benefits prior to the changes, and just $1-million after.

Slashed benefits were not the end of injury victims’ troubles, however. The Government also redefined “catastrophic” injuries, which has had significant negative impacts on some victims’ lives.

What are catastrophic injuries?

Determining whether a person is “catastrophically” injured depends on a number of criteria, including what part of the victim’s body is affected. Brain and spinal injuries are the most common causes of catastrophic impairment, though afflictions like blindness and chronic pain may also qualify.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), which regulates the province’s auto insurance industry, defines a variety of impairments as catastrophic, including paraplegia and quadriplegia; other injuries that permanently prevent a person from walking or using both arms; total blindness or vision loss in both eyes; and extreme impairment from mental or behavioural disorders.

In general, catastrophic impairment implies that an injury victim’s life has been severely – and often permanently – affected and that their ability to function in daily life has declined. This overarching sentiment holds true following the Government’s 2016 changes, but changes in methodology have impacted accident victims’ ability to access compensation. In particular, the decision to abandon the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) in favour of imaging technology has drawn the ire of motor vehicle accident lawyers and their clients.

How redefining catastrophic impairment harms victims

An October 2016 report from the CBC illustrates why motor vehicle accident lawyers continue to be distressed by the province’s changes.

“Adam Bari, 34, was mistakenly pronounced dead by police when his motorcycle was T-boned on a rural road in Delhi, southwest of Hamilton, on June 1,” the report reads. “Investigators concluded he was not at fault in the crash.”

Bari suffered major injuries, including brain trauma. He scored a three on the GSC upon arrival in hospital, and an eight later on. Prior to June 1, any score under nine automatically qualified the victim as catastrophically impaired.

Because Bari’s injury occurred on June 1, however, this definition did not apply, and he was deemed not to have suffered catastrophic impairment. As a result, he and his family were able to collect just $86,000 in accident benefits. Had the crash occurred a day earlier, he would have been eligible for benefits of up to $2-million.

The Ontario Government instituted its changes to the SABS in an attempt to reduce auto insurance rates. Unfortunately, the move has done more to disadvantage injury victims – particularly those suffering from catastrophic impairment.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a serious automobile accident, contact the motor vehicle accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our dedicated, experienced team can help you access compensation.

Does your insurance policy cover you for accidents outside Ontario?

Summer vacation road trips are a great way to bond as a family and experience the size and diversity of North America. With just a few weeks left before the end of the school year, it’s time to start planning your route and deciding what to see and where to stay. Before you embark on your trip, you should take the time to consider what sort of coverage your auto insurance policy provides in different North American jurisdictions – if necessary, an auto insurance lawyer can help you understand your policy and suggest purchasing additional coverage.

The Standard Ontario Motor Vehicle Policy contains safeguards for car accidents outside of Ontario, including no-fault benefits for insured Ontarian motorists. These include benefits for income replacement benefits, attendant care benefits, lost education benefits, and death and funeral benefits. They may also cover visitors’ expenses, reimbursement for damaged medical devices, glasses and clothing, and in some cases benefits for housekeeping and home maintenance. An auto insurance lawyer can explain the scope of these benefits more fully.

If you plan on heading to the United States this summer, it’s important to understand that motor vehicle insurance policies are quite different south of the border. For instance, motorists in Ontario are required to carry at least $200,000 in liability coverage; most states have no minimum, and as such many motorists have limited coverage. This can cause significant issues for uninsured accident victims.

Many Ontario auto insurance policies include “Uninsured Automobile Coverage,” which can be useful when driving in the United States. The stipulation ensures that Ontario drivers are protected up to the limits of their policy’s liability coverage when involved in a collision with an uninsured driver. If you’re concerned that your needs may not be met, consider purchasing additional, enhanced accident benefits coverage prior to your trip.

Finally, the Family Protection Endorsement extends insurance coverage to some Ontario motorists’ family members if they are involved in an accident outside of Ontario. Once again, an auto insurance lawyer may suggest purchasing additional benefits if a family member is traveling to the States.

While insurance coverage rules vary by jurisdiction, most Ontario auto insurance policies do a good job of protecting Ontarians driving outside the province. If you’re planning an outside-Ontario trip, make sure to review your policy and, if necessary, talk to an auto insurance lawyer to ensure peace of mind on the road.

The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP have been protecting Ontarians for decades. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the team at Will Davidson today to book a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

Image credit: Clotee Pridgen Allochuku/Wikimedia Commons

Elevator injuries on the rise in Ontario

From mild scrapes and cuts to serious injuries, the prospect of being hurt in an elevator is a fact of life for the tens of thousands of southern Ontarians that use elevators on a regular basis. Almost half of all the elevators in Canada are located in Ontario, and for that reason more serious elevator injuries and deaths occur here than in any other province.

To be clear, serious elevator injuries are exceedingly rare: you are roughly 800 times more likely to be killed in a car accident and 35 times more likely to be killed in a plane crash than you are to be killed in an elevator. However, data obtained recently by The Canadian Press showed that six people died in elevator mishaps in Ontario between 2011 and 2016, and 69 suffered permanent injuries. These statistics were compiled by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), which regulates elevators in Ontario.

Elevator accidents are few and far between in the province, but are becoming more common. Annual elevator injuries increased by 14 per cent over the six-year period covered by the TSSA data, and serious injuries increased by 8 per cent.

What is causing these injuries? And can an Oakville accident lawyer help you access compensation when you are injured?

According to the TSSA’s annual report, user behaviour was to blame for about 75 per cent of elevator accidents.

“The most prevalent occurrences are related to doors, either by impact when entering or exiting the elevator or while trying to prevent elevator doors from closing,” the report reads, according to the Globe and Mail. “Factors such as distracted users are identified as primary causes for such occurrences.”

In cases where the user is not to blame, an Oakville accident lawyer would look at a variety of causes that could potentially lead to a lawsuit. An improperly designed, installed, maintained, and supervised elevator may be at risk of stopping suddenly, falling or dropping without warning, or malfunctioning in other ways that could put passengers at risk.

When an elevator malfunctions and causes an injury, your Oakville accident lawyer will assess who is responsible for the damages. The owner of the building is sometimes to blame, particularly when they ignore their responsibility to have the machine inspected annually by the TSSA. In other cases, the elevator’s designer, manufacturer, installer, or maintenance provider could be held liable.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an elevator, contact a Will Davidson LLP Oakville accident lawyer today to find out if you’re eligible to receive compensation. Elevator injuries are rare in Ontario, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be compensated for a reduction in your quality of life. Call Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville offices today to set up a no-obligation consultation.

Are you covered by overland flood insurance?

In late April and early May, Quebec and southern Ontario were hit by a sustained period of heavy rain and wet weather. The system caused a handful of deaths, widespread flooding, and forced hundreds from their homes in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and everywhere in between.

This type of event is becoming increasingly common in Canada. Insurance dispute lawyers remember the flash-floods caused by heavy rainfall wreaked havoc in Toronto in 2013, the same year that much of Calgary was submerged by overflowing rivers.

“We’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flooding because climate change is going to make the problem much worse in the future,” University of Waterloo assistant professor Jason Thistlethwaite told the Toronto Sun.

With the possibility of frequent flooding looming large in the foreseeable future, Canadian homeowners and their insurance dispute lawyers should be sure to take a close, careful look at their home insurance policies. According to Craig Stewart, vice-president of federal affairs at the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), only 10 to 15 per cent of Canadian homeowners are insured for the sort of damage inflicted by the recent floods.

Many standard home insurance policies cover damages caused by broken water mains and other appliances, but not overland flooding from melting snow, heavy rain, or inundated rivers and lakes. Indeed, most insurance providers didn’t offer an optional overland flooding provision until after the 2013 floods in Toronto and Calgary.

“That was primarily because we did not have flood risk maps developed for the whole country,” Stewart told the Sun. “The insurance industry needs to be able to quantify the risks so they can assess which premiums to charge which people. Up until then there was simply no risk mapping done to be able to support such policies.”

Overland flooding provisions have been available since 2015, but the majority of homeowners remain unaware of them. Thistlethwaite surveyed 2,300 Canadians living in high flood risk regions, and found that around 70 per cent were not notified of the new option by either their insurance provider or the government.

Unfortunately, thanks to the changing realities of the Canadian climate, the option for homeowners to purchase overland flooding protection may be short-lived. If flooding becomes an annual event across the country, insurers will be hesitant to offer protection. Consult with insurance dispute lawyers today to determine how best to protect yourself from these events.

“Normally insurance is designed to cover you for unforeseen, unplanned circumstances,” IBC’s Pierre Babinsky told CTV News. “If you are flooded every year and it becomes a certainty, that’s not the objective of insurance. If you’re living right near the water, the insurer may deem your risk too high.”

If you are having difficulty filing a property damage claim as a result of flooding, contact the insurance dispute lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today for assistance. Our team can help you navigate the complicated home insurance system and receive compensation for your damages.

 

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