Are Canada’s Drunk Driving Rules Strict Enough?

As car accident lawyers, the Will Davidson LLP legal team receives inquiries from clients who have been injured in a car accident and are seeking legal advice. Through drunk driving has declined in Canada (in the mid-1990s, well over 1,000 Canadians per year were killed in impaired driving accidents; by the mid-2010s, the number was less than 500) it remains far too common.

The dangers of drunk driving are clear: alcohol intoxication slows reaction time, reduces coordination, makes it difficult to concentrate, impairs vision, and inhibits judgement, all of which contribute to unsafe driving. For years, the federal and provincial governments, in partnership with advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, have sought to spread this message through aggressive public education campaigns. Schoolchildren are taught that drunk driving is unacceptable from a young age; MADD commercials run regularly during high-viewership television events.

In late 2018, new federal laws came into effect with the aim of further discouraging drunk driving. Previously, first-time offenders faced a minimum fine of $1,000; second-time offenders faced a minimum penalty of 30 days in prison; and repeat offenders faced a minimum of 120 days in prison.

Under the new laws, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of between 80 and 119 mg per mL face a minimum fine of $1,000; first-time offenders with a BAC between 120 and 159 mg face a minimum fine of $1,500; and first-time offenders with a BAC over 160 mg face a minimum fine of $2,500. First-time offenders who refuse to be tested face a minimum fine of $2,000.

The penalty for second- and third-time offenders remains a minimum of 30 and 120 days in jail, respectively. Impaired drivers who cause an accident causing no bodily harm face up to 10 years in prison. Those who cause an accident causing bodily harm face up to 14 years, and those who cause an accident resulting in death can face life in prison.

The new penalties were generally accepted by road safety advocates and car accident lawyers. However, some still question whether they are sufficient. A recent Toronto Stararticle suggests that some drunk drivers in Ontario are treated too leniently.

On June 21, 2020, 27-year-old Darya Selinevich of Richmond Hill was arrested while driving dangerously on Highway 400 south of Barrie. According to an agreed statement of facts, as reported by the Star, Selinevich was “swerving from side to side” in heavy traffic and repeatedly almost struck the median. A breathalyzer showed she had a BAC of over 160 mg. A dozen empty beer containers were reportedly found in her vehicle.

Shockingly, this was Selinevich’s third arrest for impaired driving. In 2015, she received a one-year ban for speeding with a BAC of twice the legal limit. Just a month later, she struck and killed a cyclist on Finch Ave West, fled the scene, and led police on a chase through a residential neighbourhood. She had been drinking heavily and was travelling at twice the speed limit when the collision occurred, according to the Star.

Selinevich received a seven-year sentence for her role in the death, which was reduced to 4 ½ years for time served. She was granted day parole in early 2018, and later granted full parole on the condition that she did not drink and did not drive.

Following her most recent arrest, Selinevich pleaded guilty to impaired driving and driving while suspended. The Crown is seeking a prison sentence of two years less a day; her defence is seeking a sentence of no more than 15 months. For many observers, including some car accident lawyers, both proposals are too low. Selinevich has a history of impaired driving and apparently learned nothing from her role in a man’s death. Previous jail time and existing driving bans did nothing to discourage her from getting back behind the wheel while intoxicated.

As MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie told the Star: “Families who have been impacted by impaired driving will think this is outrageous.”

As car accident lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP can help victims of drunk driving find closure where the criminal justice system cannot. Our team has helped numerous accident victims access compensation to mitigate the costs of recovery.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Although our team has experience with claims involving impaired driving, we also provide representation in accident benefits claims, insurance disputes, and more.

Reach out today to learn more about our services and experience. Will Davidson LLP offers representation on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t be charge up-front or hourly legal fees. Instead, our team will accept a pre-arranged percentage of the final legal settlement as payment. This approach is used by most personal injury law firms in Ontario to ensure access to justice for all Ontarians.

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Court of Appeal Upholds Decision in Will Davidson LLP Birthing Injury Case

Last month, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a 2019 jury decision in favour of Bernice Booth, Michael Woods, and their daughter Kelsey in a suit against obstetrician Dr. Allan Jackiewicz. The family alleged that a birthing injury caused by Dr. Jackiewicz’s negligence resulted in serious brain damage at birth, which caused Kelsey to experience catastrophic cerebral palsy. They were represented by Will Davidson LLP personal injury lawyer Paul Cahill.

Medical malpractice lawsuits in Ontario are notoriously challenging for plaintiffs; this case took nearly a decade to resolve and resulted in an award of more than $11-million for Kelsey and her family.

“It was an emotional verdict. Two of the jurors were in tears when the verdict was read. Everyone was emotional,” Cahill told the St. Catharines Standard following the initial jury decision in 2019. “You can imagine a lifetime of caring for a disabled child and finally getting the recognition that it was the fault of someone else. It was a very powerful moment.”

The jury heard expert testimony from both sides of the dispute. Jackiewicz’s legal team argued that the evidence provided no proof of substandard care or lack of due diligence. He denied all wrongdoing.

What Happened?

Kelsey was born in July 1991. In May of that year, Booth underwent an ultrasound that determined she was pregnant with twins. No abnormalities were detected. In the following weeks, Booth experienced growing discomfort and began to quickly gain weight. She visited Dr. Jackiewicz in early July. Following an exam, the doctor instructed her to return home, lie on her side and watch TV; he believed it would be more than a month before she entered labour.

Just days later, on July 7, Booth entered labour and Kelsey was born with serious developmental impairments. Her twin sister, Karli, experienced significant hearing loss; she was also named in the claim.

Booth was diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a condition where one of the twins in the womb receives reduced blood flow. The plaintiff’s expert witness testified that with a timely diagnosis and proper treatment, Booth’s labour could have been delayed and the pregnancy would have resulted in a “normal outcome.”

How Were Kelsey and her Family’s Lives Affected?

Kelsey’s life has been severely impacted by her condition. As Cahill told the Standard, “Kelsey is a quadriplegic. She is completely dependent on her parents for care. She can’t walk. She can’t do anything for herself. They have to bathe her and change her diapers”

“When we first brought the children home it was utter chaos,” added Booth. “There was still a lot of medical care. They were on oxygen, so we had these two babies with little oxygen tanks. Just taking them to the doctor’s office was an ordeal. They hadn’t learned to feed properly. They didn’t have it in them yet. I had to take a tube and put it right down their throat into their stomach and fill up the syringe They ate that way for a couple of months.”

“I was sort of a caregiver-nurse, which sometimes interfered with me being a mum,” she continued. “There was the constant worry about them getting enough oxygen. It was quite a struggle.”

The Appeals Process

Because Dr. Jackiewicz appealed the lower court’s decision, Kelsey’s parents did not receive any of the compensation they were awarded.

“Bernice and Kelsey haven’t received any money yet,” personal injury lawyer Paul Cahill told the Standard in an interview last month. “The doctor can still try to seek leave from the Supreme Court of Canada for another appeal, so this isn’t necessarily over. It’s more like Round 2 of a pretty tough fight, but when you read the appeal decision it doesn’t really appear Dr. Jackiewicz had the strongest position.”

Indeed, the Court of Appeal wrote in its decision that it was “not persuaded that there was any material misdirection or non-direction by the trial judge that warrants appellate intervention.”

Despite the threat of another appeal from the defendant, Kelsey’s family was reportedly pleased with the appellate court’s decision in the birthing injury case.

“I would say the family is overjoyed with the result from the court and the decision to dismiss the physician’s appeal,” said Cahill. “They are very much looking forward to focusing on using the funds they will hopefully now receive to make Kelsey’s life better.”

Contact a Will Davidson LLP Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been affected by a birthing injury as a result of medical negligence, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our team has a wealth of experience in every area of personal injury law, including serious medical and birthing errors.

Will Davidson LLP offers its services on a contingency basis, meaning our clients are not asked to pay hourly, up-front legal fees. Instead, our team will accept a percentage of the final settlement as payment. This approach allows us to offer access to justice for all Ontarians.

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