New Ontario distracted driving laws come into effect in January

In June 2018, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that distracted driving was the leading cause of traffic accidents in the province, making it as much a threat to public safety as drunk driving, drug-impaired driving, or dangerous driving. The announcement was unlikely to surprise Ontario car accident lawyers, but it may have come as a shock to the general public.

At the time, the government’s preventative efforts focused strongly on public education. The OPP and Ministry of Transportation partnered with local stakeholders to initiate awareness campaigns.

“A lot of kids follow their parents’ footsteps, so if they see their parents texting they might think it’s OK. They see their parents smoking they might think it’s OK,” said Holly Allen, a project coordinator with Kingston: Partners for a Safe Community in an interview with Global News this summer. “Trying to educate everyone is the goal, but educating parents first and foremost.”

Durham region also initiated a public messaging campaign underlining the dangers of the ‘Big Four Killers’ on Ontario roads: distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and driving without a seatbelt.

Unfortunately, education may not be enough to prevent Ontarians from driving while distracted. In a survey conducted by Desjardins, which we discussed at length in a previous blog about distracted driving, a majority of respondents suggested that only fines and higher insurance premiums would push them to reconsider their distracted driving habits.

In 2019, they will get what they asked for. As part of changes to the provincial Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, distracted driving will be punished more harshly in come January. First time offenders will face a maximum fine of $1,000, a three-day license suspension, and three demerit points; second time offenders will face a $2,000 fine, seven-day license suspension, and six demerit points; and subsequent offences will provoke up to $3,000 in fines and a 30-day suspension. In other words, Ontario will have the harshest distracted driving penalties in the country.

“Safety is our top priority,” Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek told the CBC in an email. The legislation, he added, “allows the province to address unsafe driving behaviours including careless and impaired driving with tough new rules and penalties that will improve road safety.”

While Ontario car accident lawyers are sure to support the new measures, most will caution that neither public education nor harsher penalties will reduce distracted driving on their own. The province and its municipalities must enact comprehensive distracted driving strategies to meaningfully improve road safety in Ontario.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers today to learn how we can help.

Provinces hope to reduce truck accidents with new training rules

Every Ontario car accident lawyer knows that large vehicles are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal accidents. As Tristan Hopper reported in a 2015 article for the National Post, “for every 450 kilograms added to the weight of a car (roughly the difference between a Toyota Prius and a Ford Taurus), a vehicle becomes 40 per cent more likely to turn an otherwise survivable crash into a fatal collision.”

It stands to reason, then, that the largest vehicles on Canadian roads – semi-trucks, sometimes known as tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers – are also the most dangerous. Statistics confirm this assumption: according to CBC News, semi-trucks are involved in roughly 20 per cent of fatal accidents in Canada despite representing a small fraction of total traffic.

But it isn’t size alone that makes these vehicles dangerous; a lack of driver training is also a major risk factor. This December, Saskatchewan became just the second province to implement minimum training standards for truck drivers, an initiative that was motivated in part by the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash on Saskatchewan Highway 35 in April.

“It made it more clear that we need to get this done,” said Joe Hargrave, minister for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, according to CTV News.

“This is about the truck driving training and it was about the industry and where we should be taking the industry,” he added.

A Class 1 commercial driver’s licence in Saskatchewan will now require a minimum of 121.5 hours of training: 47 hours in the classroom, 17.5 hours in a yard, and 57 hours behind the wheel. In Ontario, the only other jurisdiction with mandatory training rules, drivers must receive 103.5 hours of instruction.

Considering semi-trucks’ size, weight, and prevalence on Canadian roads, it is surprising that mandatory training isn’t more common. Every Ontario car accident lawyer was pleased with the Province of Ontario set a precedent with its training rules in July 2017. After all, the CBC’s Marketplace mapped fatal truck crashes across Canada over the last five years, and Ontario appears to lead the nation in this grim category. In time, and with improved legislation nationwide, this trend will hopefully be reversed.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car or truck accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to speak with an experienced Ontario car accident lawyer today. Our knowledgeable team can provide guidance and support as you navigate your recovery and pursue fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries.

When are employers responsible for the actions of holiday party-goers?

Office holiday parties, in addition to being the highlight of many employees’ years, occupy a legal grey area in the Canadian civil justice system. When an attendee causes or suffers a serious injury, personal injury lawyers are challenged to discern who precisely is responsible.

If the office party is held at a staff member’s home, rules surrounding social host liability will apply. If the event occurs at a licensed establishment, we may look at commercial host liability. If the injuries relate to an improperly maintained property, the Occupiers’ Liability Act is likely to hold answers. Injuries related to authorized marijuana or alcohol consumption on a business’s premises, however, are not governed by these areas.

As we discussed in our recent blog on social host liability, the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada case Childs v. Desmoreaux states that “a social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest’s actions, unless the host’s conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk.” Commercial hosts, as all Oakville personal injury lawyers know, are bound by a long history of case law to take positive steps to prevent their patrons from drinking and driving.

Because businesses owe their employees a certain duty of care, employer host liability falls somewhere between social host liability and commercial host liability. It is most likely to be applied in situations where an employer provides marijuana or alcohol to staff, is aware of an employee’s intoxication, and fails to take sufficient steps to prevent the employee from driving.

The 2002 case Hunt v. Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc. dealt with approximately this scenario. Hunt attended and consumed alcohol at an office holiday party at her employer’s premises. Her drinking was unrestricted and unmonitored. Following the party, she drove to a pub where she continued to consume alcohol. On her drive home from the pub, Hunt crossed into oncoming traffic and was seriously injured in an accident. It was determined at trial that Hunt’s employer breached its duty of care to maintain a safe workplace.

“…the defendant Sutton, as the plaintiff’s employer, did therefore owe a duty to the plaintiff, as its employee to safeguard her from harm,” the trial judge wrote. “This duty to safeguard her from harm extended beyond the simple duty while she was on his premises. It extended to a duty to make sure that she would not enter into such a state of intoxication while on his premises and on duty so as to interfere with her ability to safely drive home afterwards.”

Hunt’s employer and the pub where she continued drinking were determined to be jointly 25 per cent responsible for Hunt’s injuries.

Another case that personal injury lawyers may know, Jacobsen v. Nike Canada Ltd., returned a similar verdict. Jacobsen was severely injured in a single-car accident after drinking beer provided by the employer. In this case, too, the plaintiff visited a bar en route home; Nike Canada was still found 75 per cent liable for the injuries.

Avoid liability, reduce injury risk

 For businesses, the most effective means of avoiding employer host liability are also common-sense measures to reduce the likelihood of drunk driving injuries. For example: cap intake at two or three drinks; hire professional bartenders to serve alcoholic beverages; provide non-alcoholic options and plenty of food; offer taxi vouchers or Uber rides; and stridently promote responsible drinking at your staff parties.

With marijuana now legal in Canada, it is likely that employer host liability cases relating to marijuana intoxication will materialize in coming years. The courts will likely refer to Childs, Hunt, and Jacobsen to determine liability and compensation in these cases, meaning employer host liability will continue to lie between social host and commercial host liability for injuries relating to marijuana intoxication.

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of impaired driving, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help.

 

Image credit: Jeremy Keith/Flickr

Occupiers’ liability during the holiday season

The holiday season is a time for social gatherings and family reunions; a time to spend time with loved ones and enjoy good food and drink. From now until the New Year, people will come together in towns and cities across Canada to celebrate their most important relationships.

Unfortunately, Ontario personal injury lawyers know that this seasonal abundance of parties often has unintended consequences, including car accidents caused by impaired driving and injuries leading to occupiers’ liability claims. We discussed social hosts’ responsibility for the actions of their inebriated guests in a blog last week; today, we’ll take a closer look at occupiers’ liability.

What is occupiers’ liability?

Occupiers’ liability is a field of law relating to the duty of care that “occupiers” owe to visitors on their “premises.” In Ontario, rules for occupiers’ liability are laid out in the Occupiers’ Liability Act, which defines an occupier as “a person in physical possession of premises… or a person who has responsibility for and control over the condition of the premises or the activities there carried on, or control over persons allowed to enter the premises.”

The term “premises,” meanwhile, refers to any lands and structures, including water; ships and vessels; trailers and portable structures designed or used for residence, business or shelter; and trains, railway cars, vehicles and aircraft that are not in operation.

What are an occupier’s duties?

Occupiers are expected under the Occupiers’ Liability Act to take reasonable steps to ensure that their property is safe for visitors and patrons. For an individual hosting a holiday party at a private residence, these steps may include clearing stairs, sidewalks, and walkways of accumulated snow and ice and applying salt or sand to slippery surfaces; ensuring outdoor areas are well-lit and clear of potentially hazardous obstructions; and calling attention to uneven walking surfaces.

Commercial property owners’ may be expected to take further steps, including training staff, implementing maintenance schedules and inspection protocols, and hiring contractors if necessary.

When can I file an occupiers’ liability claim?

Most occupiers’ liability claims derive from slip-and-fall accidents caused by icy stairs, walkways, driveways, etc.; and trip-and-fall accidents related to uneven walking surfaces, potholes, or debris left in common areas.

If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of one such incident, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, and future medical costs. Be sure to report your accident to the owner or manager of the premises immediately and fill out an accident report if possible. You should also record the names and contact information of any witnesses and take photos of the location or conditions in which your accident occurred. Finally, be sure to call an experienced Oakville personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of Oakville personal injury lawyers today if you have suffered an injury as a result of the negligence of a property owner or manager this holiday season. Our team has a wealth of experience with occupiers’ liability claims and can ensure that you are well-represented as you pursue com

 

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