Low-income kids at higher risk of being hit by cars in Ontario

A new study conducted by researchers at Sick Kids Hospital, York University, and ICES (formerly Clinical Evaluative Sciences) shows that Ontario children living in low-income areas are more likely to be struck by vehicles than children in high-income areas, a fact that may not surprise personal injury lawyers. The researchers examined emergency room data from 2008 to 2015 from hospitals across the province.

“Simply put, poorer children are at increased risk of getting hit by cars,” lead study author Dr. Linda Rothman told CTV News. “Child pedestrian injury is a public health and equality issue.”

The study uncovered some positive findings, as well: emergency room visits by children struck by vehicles fell 18 per cent during the study period, including 22 per cent for kids living in high-income areas and 14 per cent for kids living in low-income areas. Unfortunately, that translates to high-income children visiting emergency rooms at a 48 per cent lower rate.

“Although progress has been made in reducing preventable pedestrian motor vehicle collisions, more work remains to be done,” Dr. Rothman said. “Our streets should be safe for all children to walk to school, to the playground or to the park.”

The researchers attributed the stark gap in collision rates in part to infrastructure differences.

“Recent research has found differences in road safety features in high-income versus low-income areas,” the report reads. “A request-based process in many cities in relation to installing traffic safety features such as speed humps may favour communities with higher income levels.”

The solution? Close the infrastructure gap by installing traffic signals, road narrowing protocols, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures in low income districts.

The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP believe in equal access to justice for all Ontarians, which is why we provide our services on a contingency basis, meaning clients aren’t asked to pay legal fees until their case has been successfully resolved and compensation awarded. We also provide free, no-obligation consultations to accident victims in need. When you’re injured, you and your family should have access to fair and reasonable compensation, regardless of your income level.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a consultation with our experienced team of personal injury lawyers. We will provide the advice and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your legal options and your recovery process.

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Weather Causes Lawsuit Landslide in Windsor

An “unprecedented” number of damages claims were filed against the City of Windsor last year, with most of the increase attributable to pothole claims and slip and fall injuries. The city awarded very few payouts, however; lawsuits against municipalities are often uphill battles for plaintiffs, as any slip and fall lawyer can attest.

“When we’re assessing a claim and whether or not to pay it, we look at: were we acting reasonably, did we do everything we could have done in the circumstances,” deputy city solicitor Dana Paladino told the Windsor Star in April. Plaintiffs in these cases must prove that the municipality was negligent in its duties, a difficult claim to substantiate.

The City of Windsor received 185 claims for damages relating to potholes in 2018, up from 51 the year before. It also received 37 slip and fall claims, up from 22. The slip and fall claims were of more concern to the city: pothole damages usually range from $500 to $1,000; slip and fall damages are generally much higher.

Indeed, of the $2.5-million that the city paid to claimants last year, 37 per cent went to slip and fall victims and 29 per cent went to trip and fall victims. Just five per cent addressed property damages.

What caused the sudden surge of lawsuits? The city blames the weather.

“We’re unfortunate in that we’re probably in the worse weather zone in North America for freeze/thaw cycles,” city engineer Mark Winterton told the Star. “That’s a recipe for a pothole, numerous freeze/thaw cycles.”

Wild temperature fluctuation in February and March also caused sidewalks to become extremely slippery, which led to the uptick in slip and fall claims.

Even with extreme weather causing hazardous conditions, every slip and fall lawyer recognizes the challenges of lawsuits against municipalities. Ontario’s cities and towns are hard-pressed to maintain roads and sidewalks during the winter. High-density and high traffic neighbourhoods must be prioritized, which leads to safety risks in other areas. If a person is injured due to a slippery sidewalk in a low-priority zone, they have little legal recourse.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville Lawyers to speak with an experienced slip and fall lawyer today. Our team can assess the viability of your claim and lay out your legal options. Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Ontario Aims to Restore $2M Accident Benefits Limit

Personal injury lawyers across Ontario cried foul in 2016 when accident benefits available to catastrophically injured patients were slashed from $2-million to $1-million. The latest provincial budget, released April 11, pledges a “return to the default benefit limit of $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident.” Stakeholders have embraced the announcement, but maintain concerns regarding accident victims’ future wellbeing.

“I think the $2 million restoration would be applauded by most people who practice in personal injury law,” Federation of Ontario Law Associations chairman Mike Winward told Law Times. “Just about anybody who has had a catastrophic case since the limit went down would tell you it’s not sufficient. The $2 million impacts, in the most positive way, the people who have the most serious injuries in car accidents. It impacts them tremendously. The impact to the lawyers is, it certainly allows us to serve our clients better because we have far more funding to get the services and goods that they need.”

For individuals with serious, life-changing brain or spinal cord injuries, the $1-million accident benefits limit that has prevailed since June 2016 often proved woefully insufficient. When an injury victim requires home renovations, attendant care, prolonged medical therapy, and other services, $1-million can be exhausted quickly.

However, personal injury lawyers will have to learn more about the Progressive Conservative government’s policies before fully celebrating the new budget. For example, will the province restore the pre-2016 definition of a catastrophic injury, which was dramatically narrowed under the previous government? And will the $2-million in benefits once again be delivered in separate, $1-million parcels?

The provincial budget also announced a review of contingency fees, stating that the government will “work with the Law Society of Ontario to make contingency fee agreements more transparent for injured claimants who choose to hire a lawyer.”

Increased transparency is in every client and personal injury lawyer’s best interest; however, contingency fees are crucial to ensuring access to justice for Ontarians, and law firms will want assurance that they can continue to offer these agreements.

If you or a member of your family has been catastrophically injured in an accident, the Ontario Government’s recent budget should be met with relief. The restoration of the $2-million default benefits limit could mean the difference between a full, successful recovery and one which is stunted by insufficient funding.

For more information about how Will Davidson LLP can help, contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers will help you understand your legal options and provide guidance as you pursue compensation.

Driverless Cars Will Keep Passengers Safe, but Could Hurt the Insurance Industry

The presence of driverless cars on Canadian roads is a foregone conclusion, but the laws that will regulate them and the impact their presence will have on the insurance and personal injury industries are less understood.

To car accident lawyers, autonomous vehicles hold tremendous promise for improving road safety. The vast majority of serious motor vehicle injuries are caused by human error, which will gradually be reduced as automation increases. Today, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation reports roughly 40,000 accidents per year. The arrival of autonomous vehicles should reduce that number drastically.

“As time goes on and we get up toward 100-per-cent uptake on autonomous vehicles, nobody’s going to be paying attention because there won’t be many claims if the roads become as safe as people think they will,” said one former Ontario Trial Lawyers Association president to Law Times’ Michael McKiernan.

Though accidents caused by human error are a grave safety concern, there are concrete legal mechanisms in place to help victims access compensation. The path to securing damages will be much less clear as driverless cars become more ubiquitous. Some car accident lawyers worry that drawn-out and expensive liability disputes will prevail if clear, sophisticated legislation is not in place.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) sought to address this problem in a recently-released report on the driverless future. It suggests a ‘fresh approach for autonomous vehicles, including policies that cover both driver negligence and any technology at work in the car,’ writes McKiernan.

Many car accident lawyers agree that auto manufacturers must assume some liability. Placing responsibility in their hands will ensure that rigorous safety standards in the production and testing processes are implemented and upheld.

It is also in the best interests of the insurance industry to push for clear rules and guidelines. As one personal injury lawyer told McKiernan, the insurance business may have difficulty grappling with the expected reduction in accidents.

“When you look at the property and casualty business, somewhere around 40 per cent comes from auto insurance,” the lawyer said. “Fewer collisions means you’re dealing with fewer claims for personal injury and defending fewer property damage claims. Logically that should mean it is cheaper to insure a vehicle, and premiums will have to go down.”

Fewer accidents and lower premiums? The rise of autonomous vehicles could be a boon for Ontario’s drivers and the personal injury lawyers that represent them. But without clear legislation in place, injury victims will remain at risk of falling through the cracks.

If you or a member of your family is interested in pursuing an accident claim relating to a motor vehicle collision, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of car accident lawyers can help.

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