Ontario is a Global Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Concussions are a serious problem in Ontario. Between 2008 and 2016, more than a million Ontarians were diagnosed with this common form of traumatic brain injury. Children and youth make up 40 per cent of all concussion patients in the province (totalling roughly 60,000 doctor visits per year), with children under five the most likely to be affected.

The ubiquity of these injuries has put brain injury lawyers on notice. Research suggests that even mild traumatic brain injuries can have major long-term health impacts. This is especially true when they occur in children and youths: kids with brain injuries do less well in school, are more likely to receive disability benefits as adults, and are more likely to be hospitalized with psychiatric illnesses, according to the Guardian.

Ontario is a World Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Over the past several years, Ontario has established itself as a national and even global leader in concussion research and prevention. In 2018, the provincial government passed Rowan’s Law, legislation named in memory high school rugby player Rowan Stringer who died after suffering multiple concussions in quick succession. The law lays out regulations for youth sports leagues and educational institutions, and provides guidelines to help coaches and teachers recognize and prevent head injuries.

More recently, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation published a new ‘living guideline’ to help reduce childhood and youth concussions. Aimed primarily at doctors but featuring sections for coaches and parents, the Living Guideline for Diagnosing and Managing Pediatric Concussion was created over three years by a group of more than 50 physicians, nurses, diagnosticians, and rehab specialists. The resource can be accessed online by users around the world.

“We want to harmonize the messages so it doesn’t matter where you are injured, people will be getting the same messages,” said Judy Gargaro, acquired brain injury program director at the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, to the Ottawa Citizen.

The foundation’s previous guideline, published in 2014, attracted users from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand. What sets the new version apart is its dynamism – contributors will review new concussion research and make revisions and updates at least once a month. The recent surge in interest in concussions – from brain injury lawyers, the general population, and medical professionals alike – makes this a necessary feature.

“People are much more aware of concussion,” said Dr. Roger Zemek of the CHEO Research Institute to the Citizen. “My own work has shown that visits have increased four-fold in emergency rooms and family physicians offices over 10 years.”

As the healthcare industry has come to recognize the scope of the concussion problem, treatment best practices have evolved quickly. Until recently, for example, young people who suffered concussions were generally instructed to disconnect from screens, school, social activities, and sports until their symptoms cleared up. The new guideline recommends 24 to 48 hours of rest followed by a gradual reintroduction of physical activities.


“We need to consider that locking people away from their lives and all the things that make them smile may be causing some secondary harm,” said Dr. Nick Reed, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and one of the co-project leads, to the Globe and Mail.

How Can a Brain Injury Lawyer Help?

In a perfect world, Ontario’s aggressive approach to tackling concussions will reduce their prevalence and act as a blueprint for the rest of Canada. For now, though, concussions remain a major concern for brain injury lawyers, particularly as they relate to young people. If your child has suffered a brain injury in an accident, a brain injury lawyer may be able to help your family access compensation for the damages you have suffered. Not every accident causing a concussion will be grounds to launch a personal injury claim – reach out today to discuss your options.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced brain injury lawyers has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades. We will happily review the specifics of your case to determine whether a personal injury claim makes sense.

Will Davidson LLP provides legal services on a contingency basis, which means you will never be asked to pay fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. In other words, rather than charging hourly fees, our team will accept a percentage of your final settlement as payment – if you do not receive a settlement, we do not get paid.

Contingency fees, along with free consultations, are part of our commitment to access to justice for all Ontarians. During our decades in practice, we have come to understand that serious personal injuries present numerous complex challenges. A long-term recovery effort takes more than a physical toll; it may also affect your mental health, family dynamics, and personal finances. Contact us today to learn more.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler

Court Decision Puts Ontario Accident Victims in a Tough Spot

When the Government of Ontario enacted sweeping changes to the province’s auto insurance system in 2016, it did so with the aim of reducing premiums by streamlining and simplifying the claims and pushing through broad benefits cuts. According to most Ontario car accident lawyers, the changes to benefits and shifting injury definitions in Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act, have had a negative impact on injury victims while also failing to significantly reduce premiums.

Another stipulation of Bill 15 was that responsibility for resolving accident benefits disputes between injury victims and insurers moved from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), a regulatory agency of the Ministry of Finance, to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). The change was met with skepticism by Ontario car accident lawyers, who noted that the LAT had no history of managing conflicts between insurance companies and vulnerable insureds.

The shift from the FSCO to the LAT has not been catastrophic for accident victims, but a ruling by the Superior Court of Ontario, recently upheld by the provincial Court of Appeal, may spell trouble. The case, Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, involved an allegation of bad faith against the insurer. The ruling confirmed the LAT’s jurisdiction over most bad faith cases, which limits potential awards for plaintiffs.

The Case

Fifteen-year-old Morgan Stegenga was seriously injured in a car accident in 2011. In addition to broken ribs, she suffered a head injury that affected her cognitive ability and caused personality, behavioural, and psychological changes, according to Canadian Underwriter.

Morgan’s family applied for accident benefits in 2012. Their insurer, Economical Mutual Insurance Company, failed to advise them that Morgan’s injuries may qualify as catastrophically impairment. It also failed, according to Law Times, to ‘investigate Stegenga’s condition, have her medically assessed, assign a case manager for her care and rehabilitation or respond to their requests for authorization of a neurologic psychoeducational assessment.’ The Stegenga family opted to sue, alleging that the insurer had breached its duty of good faith.

The Decisions

Ontario’s Insurance Act states that the LAT is responsible for “the resolution of disputes in respect of an insured person’s entitlement to statutory accident benefits or in respect of the amount of statutory accident benefits to which an insured person is entitled.” Superior Court Justice James Ramsay decided that Stegenga’s claim fell into this category and dismissed it.

In its appeal, the Stegenga family argued that the insurer’s duty to act in good faith was separate from its duty to provide benefits and could thus be addressed in court. Court of Appeal Justice Benjamin Zarnett disagreed and upheld the Superior Court’s decision. He cited lawmakers’ intent in his explanation.

“The legislature made a choice as to what disputes would be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the LAT, and what remedial powers the LAT would have. That was a policy choice it was entitled to make,” Justice Zarnett wrote. “The Insurance Act and its regulations form a comprehensive scheme for the regulation of insurers and insurance. The legislature must be taken to have armed the LAT with the remedial powers it considered appropriate to deal with improper insurer behaviour, knowing those remedial powers were different from the court’s.”

The Implications

The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company will prevent accident victims from seeking damages outside the LAT from insurers acting in bad faith.

“This was an attempt by the personal injury plaintiff’s lawyers to try to preserve that bad faith cause of action and pursue it in court,” one lawyer told Law Times. “This just firmly shuts the door on the potential to recover for bad faith in a standalone action.”

It also limits the amount of compensation available to plaintiffs. In cases of bad faith, the LAT can make a special award of up to 50 per cent of the benefits that the injury is owed and can order the insurer to pay a higher interest rate, per Canadian Underwriter. But this is “much lower than the potential risk for a bad faith claim,” the lawyer who spoke to Law Times said.

Will the reduced maximum penalty for bad faith actions embolden insurance companies to act unethically? That is certainly a concern for many Ontario car accident lawyers. However, it is still far too early to know how the Stegenga v. Economical decision will affect insurer behaviour moving forward.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are considering claiming accident benefits, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of Ontario car accident lawyers can help. We will be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and offer advice on how best to proceed. Contact us today for more information.

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