How Do Trial Delays Hurt Personal Injury Victims?

In October 2019, Waldock v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, which was initially a dispute between plaintiff Thomas Waldock and his insurance provider over the severity of his injuries, was resolved by an Ontario divisional court panel. Through appeals and reviews, the case was heard by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), the Director’s Delegate, and the Superior Court. It took more than 10 years from the time of his accident in March 2008 for Waldock and his personal injury lawyer to be awarded compensation – unless, of course, State Farm decides to appeal the divisional court ruling.

Unfortunately, years- and even decade-long personal injury and insurance dispute cases are no longer unusual in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, as a recent Canadian Lawyer article makes clear. In Waldock v. State Farm, the insurance provider’s decision to file numerous motions and appeals caused the bulk of the delay, but defendants aren’t always to blame.

What Causes Trial Delays?

According to the plaintiff and defence side lawyers interviewed for the Canadian Lawyer article, are a range of structural issues cause trial delays in Canada. In Alberta, parties must complete expert reports, certify that they’ve attempted alternative dispute resolution processes, and demonstrate that they’ve completed questioning before a trial date can even be scheduled.

“You’ve got about two years – on a large case – of taking all those preliminary steps and getting everything in order,” one insurance defence lawyer in Alberta told Canadian Lawyer. “And then [there’s] another two-year wait for the date itself.”

“Judges want to know you’ve done all your work and you’re very serious and you’ve been forced to think through all the issues before using judicial resources, because those are really short in Alberta,” the lawyer added.

Mandatory mediation is also an issue in Ontario, according to one personal injury lawyer. Prior to recent changes, parties in personal injury cases or insurance disputes could schedule a trial date as long as a mediation date was also set. Now, the mediation must be complete before a trial date is approved.

“That delays the whole process by a number of years. … I’m finding that very, very frustrating,” the personal injury lawyer told Canadian Lawyer. “It’s just adding another year to the process.”

In contrast, British Columbia has no restrictions on trial scheduling, meaning fewer trial delays.

“You can get a trial date right away if you want,” a personal injury defence lawyer practicing in B.C. told Canadian Lawyer. “I really haven’t had any issues with trial delays. I think we have overall a very reasonable system. Two years is a pretty reasonable time frame for trials, and we seem to get those dates relatively easily.”

Further delaying matters is the fact that criminal and family law cases take precedence over personal injury claims and insurance disputes.

The parties’ actions can also have an effect, as in Waldock v. State Farm. One civil litigator who spoke with Canadian Lawyer said civil disputes now involve more numerous and extensive reports; plaintiffs will often submit economic loss, future care, and vocational reports, while the defence side prioritizes lengthy examinations for discovery, medical examinations, and other processes.

Who is Affected by Trial Delays?

Personal injury lawyers tend to blame powerful defendants like insurance providers and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) for trial delays. They claim that organizations with deep pockets prefer to ‘wait out’ plaintiffs with limited resources, forcing them to accept less compensation than they deserve. But most insurance providers prefer swift resolutions to legal disputes – years of litigation involving lawyers and expert witnesses is extremely costly.

Plaintiff side lawyers are also hurt by years of slow-moving litigation. When a case drags on for months or years longer than expected, clients have a tendency to second-guess their lawyer’s expertise.

“That might seem reasonable to a lawyer that’s practiced in the area of 10,20, 30 years,” one personal injury lawyer told Canadian Lawyer. “But it’s a long time for my clients that don’t understand the process. And a lot of times they’re concerned that the lawyers are dragging their heels.”

Plaintiffs are acutely affected by trial delays. Recovery from a serious personal injury can be costly, especially if the victim is unable to work. Between rehabilitation, medication, home and attendant care, home renovations, and other expenses, many injury victims struggle to keep their heads above water financially. Every trial delay, every appeal and motion, puts fair and reasonable compensation further out of reach.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in an accident or are engaged in a dispute with your insurer, contact Will Davidson LLP to speak with an Ontario personal injury lawyer. Our experienced team will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and describe what to expect from a civil claim. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Commercial Vehicles Involved in Numerous Fatal Accidents in Toronto

As Ontario car accident lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP keeps a close eye on road safety issues around the province, particularly in Toronto, where fatal collisions among vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) have increased alongside the city’s population. A recent accident near the intersection of Yonge St and Eglinton Ave in Midtown epitomized the issue while simultaneously shedding light on a serious but neglected problem.

According to the Toronto Star, 54-year-old Evangeline Lauroza was struck and killed by a cement truck at Yonge and Erskine Ave, three blocks north of Eglington, on September 10. Toronto’s Midtown has been a hotbed of construction for several years. There are numerous high-rise buildings under development and crews are working on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, a multi-billion-dollar public transit project. The result is chaos at street level: roads are narrowed, exits are blocked, and commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists are forced to share space with large industrial vehicles.

As of the Star’s September 12 article, nine of the 26 pedestrian fatalities in Toronto were caused by collisions involving large trucks. The article also cites analysis by University of Windsor researcher Beth-Anne Schuelke-Leech, who found that 10.6 per cent of pedestrian fatalities between 2007 and 2017 involved large trucks, despite these accidents accounting for just 4.8 per cent of collisions overall. Additionally, the research showed that 37.6 per cent of serious collisions involving trucks during that time period were fatal, compared to just 15.9 per cent involving other vehicles.

“Trucks are undeniably more dangerous to (pedestrians and cyclists) in a collision when compared to other vehicle types,” Schuelke-Leech told the Star.

Ontario car accident lawyers are familiar with the dangers posed by large vehicles, both in downtown settings and on highways. The question is: what can be done to reduce truck accidents and the fatalities associated with them.

What is Being Done to Address Truck Accidents in Toronto?

In 2017, the Government of Ontario announced that drivers must undergo more than 100 hours of safety training before being eligible for a commercial truck license. Since then, the government has also introduced a strict no tolerance policy regarding drug- and alcohol-impaired truck-driving.

The City of Toronto has been less proactive. Its ambitious – and so-far ineffective – Vision Zero road safety strategy does not specifically address risks posed by large commercial vehicles. However, the city does have certain restrictions in place.

“Heavy vehicles are prohibited on certain streets and at certain times – on some streets only during overnight and on some streets at all times,” City of Toronto spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad told the Star.

“Commercial vehicles are large, heavy, full of sight line challenges,” he added. “Any time these vehicles are operated in areas used by vulnerable road users there is a risk to safety.”

However, these rules include exemptions: if there is no other way for a commercial vehicle to access a work site, they may use roads on which they would otherwise by prohibited.

City councilors in downtown wards have called for action to reduce accidents involving large commercial vehicles. Several have asked for a hiatus on development approvals in Midtown until more effective safety measures can be established. One downtown councilor also requested that smaller vehicles be used as garbage trucks, fire trucks, and ambulances, a strategy that has already been adopted in nearby Hamilton.

What to Do if You’ve Been in a Truck Accident

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a large commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury or insurance claim. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be quite complex, not only because they result in devastating injuries but because questions around liability may arise.

For example, some commercial vehicle accidents are caused by faulty equipment or improperly secured payloads. Is the driver of the vehicle solely responsible in these cases? Is the company or organization that owns the vehicle liable? Should the manufacturer share the blame? Accidents involving city-owned vehicles can be similarly complex.

What is clear is that if you’ve been seriously injured in a truck accident through not fault of your own, you deserve compensation for the damages you have suffered. Serious personal injuries can lead to lengthy recoveries and long-term disabilities; a personal injury claim can help address financial challenges and ensure access to necessary medical and rehabilitative care.

For more information about pursuing a personal injury claim, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers will review your case and provide advice as you consider your options.

Will Davidson LLP provides personal injury representation on a contingency basis, which means we do not charge legal fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. When your compensation is secured, our team will accept a percentage of your total compensation as payment.

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