Winter’s over; slip and fall season is not

With winter now over, it’s tempting to assume that slip and fall injuries will decrease across Canada. But as every slip and fall lawyer knows, new risk factors emerge with every season.

The tiny State of Vermont, home to just over 620,000 people, recorded 5,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths due to falls in 2018. The state’s harsh winters contributed to part of that total, but health officials say most falls occur during the spring.

“People don’t necessarily fall in the wintertime,” said Tanya Wells, injury prevention chief at the Vermont Department of Health, to WCAX. “What happens is they stay inside all winter, they get weak, they don’t get the vitamin D from the sun and they come out in the spring and summer and have a fall.”

Other springtime risk factors include unpredictable weather such as heavy rain; dangerous road and sidewalk conditions caused by winter weather and temperature fluctuations; and debris on road surfaces caused by a combination of the two. All of these factors are also common in Ontario.

Another reason for Vermont’s elevated slip and fall numbers is the age of the population. Vermont is a popular retirement destination, and seniors are at increased risk of both falling and sustaining serious injuries from falls. Ontario’s population is also aging, as every slip and fall lawyer knows, and may be fearful of suffering a slip and fall injury.

Worried about a fall? Here’s what to do.

As Wells noted to WCAX, “people who are afraid to fall are actually at a higher risk to fall.”

If you feel at risk of suffering a slip and fall injury, it may be useful to take some precautionary measures. First, arrange a visit to your doctor. They can help assess your fall risk and suggest exercises, procedures, or medications to improve your safety.

Next, develop a plan to follow in case of a fall. Ask neighbours, family or friends to check in if they haven’t heard from you in a while, and make sure you have a way to get in touch with someone if a fall should occur.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you don’t feel confident about descending a flight of stairs in public, ask for a hand from a bystander. If you’re not sure you can walk to the grocery store or post office, ask for a drive from a friend.

Contact Will Davidson LLP if you’re injured in a fall.

If you suffer an injury in a fall, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced slip and fall lawyer. Our team will determine the viability of your claim and assemble a plan to help you access compensation.

Ontario Government announces higher legal fees

On April 1, the Government of Ontario enacted changes to court fees and fee waiver eligibility under the Administration of Justice Act. The changes, which have already been criticized by some personal injury lawyers, are intended to bring the province closer to “full cost recovery,” the Ministry of the Attorney General told the CBC.

Legal fees in Ontario had remained stagnant in the 15 years prior to the changes. The new rates will reflect the cost of doing business today; according to the Ministry’s statement to the CBC, the provincial government recovered less than a third of its costs prior to April 1 update.

Unfortunately, many in the legal community believe the rate changes will disproportionately affect people whose ability to pay legal fees was already tenuous. Individuals who choose to represent themselves in court will be particularly stretched. One civil litigator in Ottawa told the CBC that the move “seems to be keeping people out of the courthouse.”

At Will Davidson LLP, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers believes passionately that every Ontarian deserves full access to justice. We offer free, no-obligation consultations and work on contingency to support this aim.

Legal professionals have also expressed confusion regarding the structure of the fee increases. Among the almost 80 changes enacted, increases range from a few dollars to double the pre-April 1 cost.

For example, the cost of filing a lawsuit rose just seven dollars, but advancing lawsuits through the civil court system will now be significantly more expensive. In the small claims court, the price of applying to appear before a judge has doubled, to $180; the price of setting a trial date in civil cases has also doubled, to $810; and the price of scheduling a hearing in family court is now $420. These elevated expenses may prevent some lawyers from working on a contingency basis, and may push others to delay setting trail dates.

“In Ottawa, we often don’t get a date for two or three years,” one Ottawa personal injury lawyer told the CBC. “The processes of moving toward trial is painfully slow. So getting something down for trial as soon as possible is very important because if you don’t, you may be making an injured person wait many years.”

One change that will benefit plaintiffs, however, is being made to fee waiver eligibility. Prior to this April, plaintiffs had to make less $24,000 per year to qualify for a waiver; today, plaintiffs making less than $30,000 will qualify.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how we can help. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will provide advice and guidance as you initiate your claim.

PTSD, chronic pain, and the hidden impacts of serious injuries

Picture a spinal injury victim. Who do you see? A person in a wheel chair? A person who can no longer use their hands or who has difficulty walking? If so, you’re not incorrect: paralysis is one possible spinal injury outcome. But many spinal injury victims experience subtler, wider-reaching impacts, as spinal injury lawyers understand.

A March 2019 BBC article chronicling a woman’s recovery from a spinal injury illustrates the many ways that a serious injury can affect a person’s life. The injury victim, University of Bristol PhD student Bethany Hickton, suffered a compressed spine and three broken vertebrae when she fell on a wet staircase.

“I slipped and fell,” Hickton explained. “I missed a few steps and landed on the bottom of a flight of marble steps on my coccyx. As soon as I hit the floor I knew something was wrong.”

Hickton’s initial care was straightforward and effective. She was issued a back brace, prescribed pain medication, and discharged from hospital within days. Despite experiencing various physical limitations, Hickton progressed well through the first stage of her recovery.

Unfortunately, as spinal injury lawyers well know, the most challenging aspects of a victim’s recovery may not emerge until months after the accident. As the initial shock of the injury wears off, victims must come to terms with a troubling new reality, which can affect mental health. PTSD, for example, can be delayed until one to six months after the traumatic event.

“People often go into a phase of what they have to do to get better and it’s not until you reflect on how near a miss it was that it may start to lead to mental health problems,” Royal College of Psychiatrists PTSD specialist Neil Greenberg told the BBC.

For Hickton, this phase began when she went off her medication and began experiencing significant pain. She had trouble sleeping, was unable to travel, had difficulty focusing and self-motivating, and began to experience panic attacks.

“Everything stopped,” she said, “and that was really what shocked me.”

Mental health challenges are sometimes overlooked when injury victims are compensated for damages. It’s easy to sympathize with a spinal injury victim in a wheelchair; chronic pain and PTSD are far more difficult to grasp for people who have not experienced them.

Hickton eventually sought help from a counsellor and was prescribed anti-depressant medication. She also uses exercise as a form of therapy, and even discovered an unlikely love of weightlifting. It may be years before she fully recovers, but she has been able to return to her studies and is working to confront lingering fears associated with her injury.

At Will Davidson LLP, we understand that serious personal injuries can have long-lasting physical, mental, and financial impacts. If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of spinal injury lawyers can help.

Image credit: The People Speak!/Flickr

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