Safety advocates call for harsher dangerous driving penalties

In July, 21-year-old Mitchell Irwin was handed a four-year prison sentence and concurrent six-year driving ban for killing 26-year-old cyclist Adam Excell in a 2015 hit-and-run. Excell’s family believes the sentence is too lenient, and has found support among road safety advocates and car accident lawyers.

“It doesn’t seem like justice was served today,” Excell’s cousin Ashley Ferguson told the Toronto Star following the sentencing. “If you take someone’s life while driving, I don’t think you should be able to drive. You shouldn’t have that privilege.”

Irwin’s punishment, in other words, does not fit the crime he committed. However, in her decision Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestall noted that this seemingly lenient sentence would have been considered harsh in the recent past. In this case, the defence and prosecution agreed upon the four-year sentence ‘given that Irwin pleaded guilty, showed remorse and is a young man with no criminal record,’ according to The Star.

Road safety advocates and car accident lawyers are increasingly frustrated with lax sentencing for dangerous drivers. In Toronto, upwards of 10,000 pedestrians and 5,000 cyclists were killed or seriously injured by motorists between 2008 and 2012, and many hundreds more have been killed or injured since.

“Every single death on our roads is preventable,” Cycle Toronto’s Jared Kolb told The Star. “There is an immense amount of power that comes with driving a motor vehicle … (Drivers) need to slow down, need to put their phones down, need to pay attention and drive sober. It is a huge responsibility and a privilege to be driving.”

Some advocates and car accident lawyers believe the justice system’s implicit “car bias” has done as much harm to vulnerable road users as individual dangerous drivers, and are pushing for significantly harsher penalties. Today, drivers can face up to 10 years in prison for dangerous driving causing injury, but the courts rarely hand down maximum sentences. Friends and Families for Safe Streets, an organization formed by the loved ones of victims of traffic accidents, wants motorists who recklessly kill someone to face lengthy driving bans and fines of up to $50,000. The group also wants court appearances to be mandatory for dangerous drivers, in part so they are forced to listen to victim impact statements.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca is reportedly exploring options to improve road safety in the province, including stiffer penalties. In an email to the Star, his spokesperson Alana Kiteley wrote: “It is critical that we ensure that any changes made will have a real impact on the safety for our vulnerable road users and that any action taken, including penalties, will act as a true deterrent to dangerous driving behaviours.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation and learn how we can help.

For amusement park thrill-seekers, injuries are an unfortunate possibility

As a fixture in regional fairs and large events like the Canadian National Exhibition, Ferris wheels, rollercoasters, and other amusement park rides are a common scene across Canada and the United States during the summer months. These rides are, in general, a perfectly safe source of old-fashioned fun, but a small malfunction or instance of negligence can render them extremely dangerous. In fact, personal injury lawyers are hired each year to represent victims of amusement park ride accidents.

On July 16, a ride called the Fire Ball broke apart while in operation at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. Seven people were injured in the accident, and one teen boy lost his life. Organizers insisted that the ride had passed all required inspections.

The Fire Ball incident is not isolated: four people were killed in an accident at Australia’s Dreamworld amusement park in October 2016; last August, one boy was killed and three girls were injured in separate events in Kansas and Tennessee which occurred on the same day.

Even Canada is not immune: in 1986, a roller coaster crash at the West Edmonton Mall resulted in three deaths, and in 1998 a 21-year-old died when he was flung from a ‘reverse bungee’ ride at the Central Canadian Exhibition in Ottawa.

Experienced personal injury lawyers will tell you that amusement park accidents can be extremely serious. In 2013, for instance, 16-year-old Adam Martens suffered severe spinal injuries and was left quadriplegic after an accident at the Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg. What recourse do injury victims have in these situations? Martens sued the Ex and North American Midway Entertainment for damages.

Amusement park injury lawsuits

Amusement park injury lawsuits generally focus on either negligence or product liability. Negligence in this scenario can take many forms, including failing to post clear and visible warning signs; posting signs that don’t adequately describe the risks posed by the ride; failing to properly instruct riders; failing to train ride operators; failing to regularly inspect the ride; and improperly operating the ride.

In cases where the ride owners or operators have done nothing wrong, the manufacturer of the ride may be at fault. For instance, if a roller coaster’s safety bar becomes unsecured and a rider falls from their seat, the manufacturer of the ride – or the of safety bar – could be liable for the victim’s injuries.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury at an amusement park, contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help. Our team has represented injured Ontarians in a wide variety of personal injury cases and would be happy to help you understand your rights and pursue compensation.

What is being done to address the pervasiveness of concussion in sport?

It’s no secret that concussions are pervasive in contact sports like football and hockey, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests the problem may be even more widespread than previously feared.

The study, which has caused alarm among brain injury lawyers, was conducted by researchers at Boston University. It discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head, in 99 per cent of dead NFL players’ brains. Symptoms of the disorder include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and impulse control, aggression, anxiety, depression, and in some cases suicidal behaviour.

Critically, the study’s authors emphasized that football players are not the only group at risk of developing CTE.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and one of the study’s co-authors told CNN. “We urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

Concussion prevention in Canada

Stakeholders across Canada – including concerned brain injury lawyers – are continually discussing methods of limiting concussions in young athletes. Parents in British Columbia, for instance, are debating a campaign to ban bodychecking in bantam hockey (ages 13-14), according to the CBC.

Researchers for the University of Calgary estimated that 86 per cent of minor hockey injuries, including concussions, are caused by bodychecking, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended raising the age of bodychecking explicitly to avoid concussions in younger players.

Public education

While preventative measures like raising the bodychecking age could marginally reduce concussion risk, organizations like Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to preventing injuries, are taking a broader approach. On July 28, 2017, the group released Canada-wide guidelines targeted to physicians, parents, coaches, teachers, and athletes to help diagnose, manage, and treat concussions. Like the proposed body-checking ban, keeping kids safe is a key aim.

The new Canadian Guidelines on Concussion in Sport, which you can find right here, includes an accessible definition of the injury; addresses common misconceptions around concussions; provides advice on what to do when a concussion occurs; and warns that wearing protective equipment is not a failsafe preventive measure. The guide was written to apply to all levels of athletes across the country.

“What we wanted was for the recommendations to be the same for a child playing Timbit hockey in Newfoundland to a national team soccer player in Vancouver,” Dr. Michael Ellis, co-chair of Parachute Canada’s advisory committee, told the Globe and Mail. “In this way, all Canadian sports stakeholders are on the same page about what their specific roles and responsibilities are in keeping our nation’s athletes safe.”

Contact the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP

If you have suffered a concussion or other serious head injury while participating in an organized sport, you should contact an injury lawyer right away to assess your legal situation. At Will Davidson LLP, our team of experienced brain injury lawyers can offer guidance and advice on how best to pursue compensation for the damages you have incurred.

Drowning fatalities on the rise in Ontario

In early July, media across Ontario reported the tragic story of Jeremiah Perry, a 15-year-old student at North York’s C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute who drowned during a class trip to Algonquin Park. Jeremiah was swimming with classmates in Big Trout Lake when he disappeared; his body was recovered the following day.

Unfortunately, Jeremiah’s story is not unique in Ontario: he is one of more than 50 drowning related fatalities that have occurred in the province this year, according to statistics from the Lifesaving Society. Six fewer drownings were reported at the same time last year, prompting concern from safety advocates and personal injury lawyers.

“A drowning can happen in seconds, and it’s silent,” warned Lifesaving Society public education director Barbara Byers in an interview with the CBC. “Someone screaming for help as they slip beneath the water is ‘very Hollywood’ … The transition from someone happily swimming and enjoying the water to drowning is so subtle.

Byers says that the majority of drowning deaths in Ontario happen when people go swimming and that they are often the result of a lack of self-awareness on the swimmer’s part. Inexperienced swimmers should be careful not to test their boundaries, particularly in open water, and to avoid swimming solo at all costs. They should also avoid panicking if they get into trouble.

“Panicking takes a lot of energy,” she explained, “If you’re nervous about where you are, just calm down and the best thing to do is float on you back. As long as you get your airway out of the water, just float on your back, calm down, get recharged and then start swimming back to safety.”

Alcohol impairment is another dangerous risk factor, as personal injury lawyers understand from their work with car accident victims. Individuals’ ability to make quick decisions and use good judgment are affected while under the influence of alcohol, and weak swimmers may be tempted to push their limits.

Alcohol consumption while boating has also contributed to Ontario’s unusually high number of drowning fatalities in 2017, as has neglecting to wear a life jacket, a practice that approximately 80 per cent of drowning fatalities have in common.

On July 9, Hamilton police officers rescued four boaters from Hamilton Harbour after their boat took on water. Each of the rescued individuals wore a life jacket, a decision that was lauded by police and personal injury lawyers.

Whether you are boating or going for a swim at the beach, it’s important to understand that Ontario’s bodies of water are unpredictable and that most people are unprepared for traumatic events in the water. By taking small precautions like avoiding alcohol and swimming in pairs, you can significantly reduce your chance of being injured.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of a swimming or boating accident, feel free to contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. Our team has experience in all areas of personal injury law and would be pleased to advise you on your path forward.

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