I hit an animal with my car – do I have legal options?

 

It’s deer season in Ontario!

Ontario’s roughly 400,000 deer are at their most active in November and December, when a combination of breeding, feeding, and hunting pressures spur the population into motion. The animals’ activity often affects road safety: in late October, Ontario Provincial Police warned motorists to beware of deer after more than 20 collisions were reported in the southwestern counties of Lambton and Grey. Though no injuries occurred, collisions with animals can have serious consequences. Contact an Ontario car accident lawyer if you’ve suffered injuries in a car-animal collision.

“They range everywhere from minor damage to vehicles to fatal injuries to occupants of vehicles,” said OPP Western Region Sgt. Dave Rektor. “It’s a very serious message because there’s a huge deer population in and around the London area and other parts of west region and motorists need to know we share the road.”

The OPP published some safety tips to help motorists avoid collisions with deer.

  • Stay alert: Scan the road ahead of you from shoulder to shoulder and be aware that deer rarely travel alone. This applies especially around dusk and dawn, when deer are most active. At night, the OPP recommends slowing down to allow more time to react to animals on the road.
  • Stay in your lane: If you see a deer on the road, don’t try to swerve around it; rather, firmly apply your brakes and let the deer avoid you. Swerving can cause collisions with other vehicles, or you may not be able to regain control of your car.
  • Don’t assume you’re safe if your vehicle is equipped with preventative gadgets like a deer whistle, a deer fence, or reflectors. Only steady, cautious driving will help you avoid injury
  • Remember your basic safety rules: Never drive while impaired, always wear your seatbelt, and obey posted speed limits.

Of course, even the most careful drivers are sometimes unable to avoid a crash. If you strike a deer or another animal on the road, you should contact an experienced Ontario car accident lawyer for advice.

If you collide with a deer your legal options are limited – deer are wild animals and no person is responsible for them. However, collisions with domesticated animals – dogs, horses, cows, etc… – are different. If you or a passenger in your car suffers injuries in a collision with one of these animals, we may be able to help you access compensation – animal owners have a duty to ensure their pets or livestock do not cause harm to others.

If you have been involved in a collision with a domesticated animal, call an Ontario car accident lawyer at Will Davidson LLP today to find out how we can help.

 

Image credit: Ryan Hodnett/Wikimedia Commons

Winterize your pool to avoid injuries

 

After a long, warm autumn the cold weather has arrived to stay in southern Ontario, which means the time has come to winterize your pool. Backyard pools pose a variety of safety risks during the winter months, so taking the time to carefully inspect your property and establish proper safeguards will reduce your risk of accidents and hopefully eliminate any need for an Ontario personal injury lawyer.

Here are some things to consider when winterizing your pool this year.

Children

Pools are dangerous to young children during the winter and summer months. It’s important to educate your kids about the dangers pools can present: make sure they understand and adhere to general pool safety rules and ensure they are confident and capable swimmers.

Toys and accessories

At the end of the swimming season, be sure to carefully remove clutter from the poolside and place all toys and accessories in your garage or shed. Obstacles around your pool present a tripping hazard, particularly as the days become shorter and darker.

If a person suffers an injury by tripping over an item left around your pool, they may have reason to contact an Ontario personal injury lawyer. Make sure your yard is clean, clear, and safe.

Winterization

Freezing can do extensive damage to your pool. Before sub-zero temperatures reach your city, you should drain some of the water from your pool, put away your diving board or slide, and drain your filter, pump, and chemical-feeding equipment.

Once your pool is ready for winter, make sure to cordon it off to prevent pets, children, or visitors from straying too close. Remember: just because your pool isn’t full doesn’t mean that it’s safe.

Cover

A strong, sturdy winter cover is an essential piece of safety equipment, particularly for in-ground pools. Make sure your cover conceals the entire pool and ensure that it is properly secured; you don’t want it to become dislodged during a winter storm.

Each year, make sure to inspect your cover for tears or holes. These can be caused by falling tree branches, heavy snow buildups, or even jagged pieces of ice.

Contact an Ontario personal injury lawyer

If you suffer an injury relating to a residential pool, consider contacting an Ontario personal injury lawyer for advice. The seasoned professionals at Will Davidson LLP have been serving clients in Oakville and the wider GTA for years, and have experience in a wide range of personal injury and accident cases. Call us today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

Can the Province of Ontario do more to prevent dangerous driving?

A recent survey conducted by Leger Research on behalf of insurer belairdirect found that the vast, vast majority of Canadians (95 per cent) believe they are good drivers, a conclusion that might surprise Ontario personal injury lawyers. Most of the survey’s 1,551 respondents were also able to identify risky driving behaviour, including driving under the influence, distracted driving, and fatigued driving.

Paradoxically, a staggering 93 per cent of the same respondents admitted to bad driving habits including distracted driving, eating while driving, talking on a cellphone while driving, and applying makeup while driving, according to the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Clark. An additional 31 per cent admitted to running red lights, and 29 per cent to disobeying road signs.

“Show me someone who thinks they’re a good driver and I’ll show you someone who’s never seen a professional take a car around the track,” Clark writes. “If we’re being honest, most of us are pretty good drivers at best and the thing that keeps us that way is a realistic appraisal of our skills.”

When even self-described “good drivers” engage in risky behaviour, what can be done to improve road safety? Ontario personal injury lawyers understand that distracted driving activities like the ones belairdirect’s respondents admitted to cause more accidents in the province today than drunk driving.

Indeed, Queen’s Park already imposes stiff penalties on distracted drivers. A convicted individual will have their license suspended and face a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee for a total of $490, if settled out of court. If a court appearance is necessary, the fine can be as much as $1,000.

Drivers will also have three demerit points applied to their records, which allows insurance brokers to apply further monetary punishment. Some drivers could see their rates double until the points are cleared, and even those with infraction-free records are likely to experience a bump of a couple hundred dollars.

“People just don’t think about the insurance aspects of bad driving,” InsuranceHotline.com’s Anne Marie Thomas told the Globe and Mail.

While lawmakers and insurers adopt monetary penalties to prevent distracted driving, the belairdirect study reveals the possibility of a different approach: paying off drivers. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to quit at least one bad habit in exchange for a cash incentive.

While the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP don’t condone payments to dangerous drivers, the survey makes clear that distracted driving remains a serious issue in Canada, even among those who consider themselves safe, capable drivers. If the government’s existing punishments fail to improve road safety, perhaps more creative solutions are necessary.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. We can help you access compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Chad Warren

Court of Appeal decisions clarify prejudgment interest rate rules

In 2014, the Ontario Government passed Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, an amendment to the Insurance Act that came into effect the following year. One of the measures contained in the act reduced the default prejudgment interest rate for pain and suffering damages awarded in automotive injury lawsuits from five per cent to the bank rate at the time the proceeding started. The change sparked debate among defendant and plaintiff side car accident lawyers.

Confusion centred on the question of whether the interest rate reduction could be applied retroactively or whether it was intended for new lawsuits only. This September, the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decisions on El-Khodr v. Lackle and Cobb v. Long Estate – heard simultaneously – clarified Bill 15’s intention in this matter.

“The Ontario Court of Appeal has clarified that 2015 amendments to the Insurance Act could apply to actions that were brought forward before changes came into force,” wrote Law Times’ Alex Robinson in an October 2 article.

Defence lawyers were pleased by the ruling. One lawyer who represented the defense in El-Khodr told Robinson that “this decision will now discourage plaintiffs’ counsel from delaying the commencement of actions and will accelerate the litigation process, all to the benefit of the injured plaintiff.”

Plaintiff side car accident lawyers are less pleased with the decision, in particular because it discourages victims from settling their accident benefits claims prior to resolving civil actions.

“I think it really is making practicing lawyers in this field take a hard look at their cases before they know they can take on a case anymore in these motor vehicle crash cases,” one plaintiff lawyer in Cobb told Robinson.

“If you apply [the prejudgment insurance rate] retroactively, then, effectively, the reduction in premiums is coming at the expense of accident victims that were injured in motor vehicle accidents that occurred entirely prior to the date of the amendment,” added a plaintiff lawyer in El-Khodr. “So that’s a little disappointing.”

While the Court of Appeal’s decision has left car accident lawyers frustrated, the fight for accident victims’ rights may not be over: Robinson writes that the plaintiffs in both El-Khodr and Cobb are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an automobile accident, consider contacting the experienced personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville offices. Our team has years of experience helping Ontarians access compensation for their injuries.

Ontario personal injury lawyers worry Law Society policy is step towards non-lawyer ownership

In September 2012, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) formed its Alternative Business Structures (ABS) Working Group to explore alternative options to permitted law and paralegal firm structures. In general, ABS’s – which are legal in England, Wales and Australia, but not Canada – allow individuals without legal licenses to own organizations that provide legal services.

Alternative Business Structures are a controversial topic among Ontario personal injury lawyers. Their proponents argue that they could lead to innovation and wider access to legal services, while their detractors believe they increase the risk of conflicts of interest and compromised confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege agreements.

In September 2017, the LSUC’s Board of Directors approved, in principle, “a policy to permit lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services through civil society organizations (CSOs), such as charities and not-for-profit organizations,” according to the Law Society Gazette. The society stated that the policy aims to improve “access to justice for individuals who may have legal issues but who have traditionally faced barriers to receiving legal advice from a lawyer.”

The move was met with criticism by some Ontario personal injury lawyers.

“It’s just simply the first step and, two years down the road, we’re going to have full non-lawyer ownership of law firms,” one injury lawyer told Law Times’ Alex Robinson. “That’s where this is headed.”

The Working Group originally intended to table the policy in June, but delayed the decision after backlash from prominent provincial legal groups, including the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA), felt unable to provide sufficient input.

Despite the criticism, the Working Group insisted that the measure would help marginalized individuals access legal aid.

“What I would say to those who take the position that one shouldn’t do a good thing because it might lead to a bad thing is that they should analyze each proposal on its own merits,” Working Group chairman Malcolm Mercer told Robinson. “It would be a shame if the profession, if it was concerned about non-lawyer ownership, would not permit charities and not-for-profits to serve needs that we all know exist.”

Whether the LSUC’s new policy eventually leads to the formation of Australian-style, publicly traded law firms remains to be seen. For now, the LSUC appears to be taking the feedback from Ontario personal injury lawyers to heart and proceeding with cautious, marginal steps along the road to ABS’s.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help you on your road to recovery.

Brain injury is a Canada-wide issue

Brain injuries are an exceptionally common and unusually diverse affliction. As brain injury lawyers know, they can happen to any person of any age at any time, and vary widely in severity. The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) estimates that nearly 500,000 people in this province are currently living with a brain injury, and 18,000 new cases are added to that total every year.

A recent article from CBC News Nova Scotia highlighted both the prevalence and variety of brain injuries in Canada. It focused on Paul Marvin, who suffered successive concussions in 2010 and 2011, and was diagnosed with an acquired brain injury several years later. His biggest struggle today is with gaps in his memory.

“After the fourth time going to the bottom floor, it was so frustrating that I couldn’t remember what I was doing there,” Marvin told the CBC. “You just sort of stand there in a fog going, ‘What am I doing here?’ It was so frustrating I broke down and cried.”

Paul is one of roughly 100,000 Nova Scotians living with a brain injury, an affliction that has consumed his wife’s life as well as his own. Paige McFarlane left her job with the federal Department of Defence in order to assist her husband in day-to-day tasks. Injury victims’ family members are often forced to make significant personal sacrifices in support of their loved ones, a fact that brain injury lawyers are keenly aware of.

“I have to cue Paul, gosh, probably like three or four times an hour,” she said. “I cue him on different things depending on what’s going on throughout the day. ‘Hey honey, you’ve gotta get ready. We’ve got to get to that appointment.’ And then I have to remind him again, like, ‘Hey, c’mon downstairs and get your shoes on,’ because he has no sense of time. It’s exhausting to keep almost dragging somebody along.”

In the past, Nova Scotian politicians signaled that they understood the scope and gravity of brain injury in their province, and as recently as 2014 the provincial government had discussed the creation of a provincial brain injury strategy.

“We know we need to do more to support those with an acquired brain injury and their families,” former health minister Leo Glavine told Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly at that time. “This strategy will serve as an important road map to determine what needs to be addressed and what the outcomes we expect to see are and how we get there.”

However, plans to create a strategy to aid brain injury victims in Nova Scotia have fallen by the wayside, and the system remains roughly the same today as it was in 2014.

Brain injuries are a daily reality for families in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and around the country. If you or a loved one has suffered a blow to the head, contact Will Davidson LLP’s brain injury lawyers today to learn how our team can help you access compensation.

 

Image Credit: U.S. Army graphic

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