Should Roll Bars be Mandatory on ATVs?

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are a prevalent issue across Canada. Each year, dozens of riders die and thousands are hospitalized (more than 2,800 in 2017) in single- and multi-vehicle crashes. Despite how common these accidents have become, little is being done to improve safety on Canadian trails, much to the frustration of Ontario ATV accident lawyers.

One common sense move would be to mandate roll bars, sometimes known as crush-protection or operator-protection devices, in new vehicles. Australia is considering doing so, which has prompted manufacturers Honda and Yamaha to threaten withdrawal from the country. The effectiveness of roll bars has not been proven, the manufacturers say, and may even make accidents worse.

But other experts, including some ATV accident lawyers, disagree. ATVs’ high centre of gravity and narrow wheelbase make them inherently unstable, and their weight – between 200 and 400 kilograms – puts riders at risk of broken necks or being pinned beneath their vehicle.

“All of a sudden, you’re in a situation that you can’t correct,” said Don Voaklander, director of the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre, to CBC British Columbia. “That’s when you want a crush-protective structure to prevent that machine from rolling on you.”

David Sullivan, an Australian now living in British Columbia, manufactures roll bars for ATVs. He agrees that they save lives.

“This is absolutely a no-brainer,” he told the CBC. “It will prevent families from experiencing grief.”

However, many ATV riders and riders’ associations don’t want to be forced to drive ATVs with roll bars. They believe, correctly, that most ATV injuries and deaths are caused by human error.

“If a person rides within the limits of the machine, you shouldn’t have a problem,” said Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C. president Ralph Matthews. He believes roll bars should be “a personal choice.”

Dangerous behaviour like drinking and driving, speeding, and reckless driving cause the vast majority of serious ATV accidents. While roll bars won’t stop riders from engaging in these behaviours, they might protect them from death or serious injury when accidents occur. With riders unlikely to embrace roll bars willingly, it may be up to lawmakers and manufacturers to insist on them.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an off-roading accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville office to arrange a free consultation. Our team of experienced ATV accident lawyers can assess the viability of your claim and help you understand your legal options.

Impaired Boating Case Shows Dangers of Drinking and Canoeing

Canadians understand that impaired driving is dangerous and unethical, but too few realize that impaired boating can have equally dire consequences. Every summer in Ontario, boating accident lawyers receive dozens of calls about serious injuries from impaired boating accidents. In rare cases, these accidents can even result in deaths.

A recent Ontario criminal case illustrates just how dangerous impaired boating can be, even in man-powered vessels like canoes. The case also established guidelines for criminal impaired boating cases involving those vessels.

In April 2017, the defendant, David Sillars, took his girlfriend’s eight-year-old son, Thomas Rancourt, out on the Muskoka River in a canoe. A breathalyzer taken hours later showed that Sillars had been drinking, and a blood test showed traces of THC. The canoe tipped during the excursion; Sillars struggled to dry ground, but Thomas was swept away by the fast spring current and died. 

Sillars was charged with four offences under Canada’s impaired driving laws. Last month, he was convicted of all four. He is likely to spend between two and 10 years in prison. The case established that impaired driving laws extend not only to power boats but to rowboats, kayaks, dinghies, canoes, and other man-powered watercrafts.

“In the eyes of the law, then, being drunk while paddling an inflatable dinghy is the same as being drunk while driving a pickup truck,” wrote the National Post’s Brian Platt in his report on the case. “Smoking a joint and paddling a canoe is equal to smoking a joint and driving a car.”

Some Canadians, perhaps even some boating accident lawyers, will take issue with impaired driving laws extending to canoes. Drinking and paddling, they might argue, does not pose the same risk to the community as drinking and driving. However, the Sillars case shows that impairment on the water can have devastating, life-altering consequences.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Thomas Rancourt’s grandmother, Donna Posnikoff, following the verdict. “I wish I was going home and celebrating Thomas finishing Grade 4 today. But I’m not. I’m going home, thinking that people cared about Thomas, and his life mattered. It’s just been such a sad, hard two-and-a-half-years,”

“Alcohol and water don’t mix,” added Thomas’s father, Jamie Rancourt, according to the Post. “I’m hoping people are going to smarten up.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a boating accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced boating accident lawyers can help you understand your legal options and make informed decisions as you pursue compensation.

Social Media and Personal Injury Claims

Social media was once dominated by teens and college students. Not anymore: today, Canadians of all ages and backgrounds, from Newfoundland to British Columbia to Nunavut, tend to post, like, and comment on a daily basis. Nearly three quarters of Canadians (74 per cent) spend at least 3-4 hours online per day, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), and more than 60 per cent engage on social media. The social internet’s growing role in our lives has implications for everyone, including personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs seeking compensation.

How can Social Media Hurt My Personal Injury Claim?

Plaintiffs seek compensation in personal injury lawsuits when their life has been significantly disrupted. Serious physical injuries – brain injuries, spinal injuries, chronic pain, etc. – are common in these claims. In order to prove that their client has been injured, personal injury lawyers turn to testimony from expert medical witnesses, friends, family members, and other sources.

The compensation that a plaintiff receives depends on the extent of their injuries. Larger settlements are reserved for injury victims whose lives have been most seriously altered, including individuals who are no longer able to earn a living, or who will require constant medical care. Less serious injuries tend to result in lower compensation.

When a social media post contradicts a plaintiff’s claims, the judge, mediator, or arbitrator may choose to reduce compensation. Defence lawyers often scour plaintiffs’ social media posts in search of evidence to refute their claims. For example: if a plaintiff alleges that her injuries prevent her from socializing, but a Facebook post emerges showing her at a restaurant or bar with friends, the validity of her claim will be thrown into question.

How to Prevent Social Media Hurting My Claim

The best way to avoid hurting your personal injury claim through social media is to stay away from the platforms altogether. Delete your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts for the duration of your case.

This is a drastic step, of course, especially considering that many personal injury lawsuits drag on for years. The more reasonable solution is to set all your accounts to private mode and consider very carefully what content you share. Discuss with your personal injury lawyer what sort of posts are safe and which could put you in trouble.

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If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of Oakville personal injury lawyers to learn how we can help.

How Safe are Higher Speed Limits?

In May, Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek announced plans to review speed limits on provincial highways. Later in the month, the Conservative Government previewed plans to test a 110 km/h limit on three sections of 400-series highways. The announcements provoked mixed reactions from stakeholders, some who believe higher speed limits make perfect sense and others, including car accident lawyers, who fear they will lead to increased injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads.

Proponents of the plan often look to the United States for examples of successfully implemented higher speed limits. In 1995, Congress repealed a federal law capping speed limits at 65 mph (105 km/h) nationwide, allowing the states to set their own maximum speed limits.

Today, maximum speed limits vary widely state-to-state. According to the Globe and Mail, 22 have maximum speed limits of 70 mph (112 km/h); 12 have maximum limits of 75 mph (121 km/h); and seven – Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming – have maximum limits of 80 mph (129 km/h). In Texas, there is even a 41-mile stretch of highway with a mind-bending 85 mph (137 km/h) limit.

Like their southern cousins, Canadian provinces are able to set their own maximum speed limits. Ontario would join Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia by raising its maximum limit to 110 km/h. Only British Columbia’s is higher at 120 km/h on select roads.

Of course, the question for car accident lawyers is not whether Ontario should be able to raise its maximum speed limits, but whether it would be safe to do so. Evidence from the United States suggests not.

Chief researcher for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) Chuck Farmer has studied the effects of higher speed limits on road safety extensively. Per the Globe, he believes increased speed limits have caused roughly 37,000 deaths in the United States since 1993. By looking at annual traffic fatalities per mile travelled in states that increased speed limits and factoring out other road safety factors like seatbelt usage, Farmer was able to calculate an 8 per cent increase in fatality rate for every 5 mph added to the speed limit on Interstates and freeways.

Less nuanced numbers provided by the World Health Organization offer similar conclusions. The United States experienced 11.6 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2016; Canada experienced just 5.8. In 2017, 1,841 people died on Canadian roads; 37,133 died in the United States. Closer to home, British Columbia was forced to roll back its 120 km/h speed limits on several routes when accidents more than doubled.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers can provide guidance as you consider a personal injury claim.

Image credit: Bobby H./Wikimedia Commons

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