Toronto is Making Roads Safer Through Infrastructure Changes

In 2016, the City of Toronto launched its Vision Zero Road Safety Plan with the ambitious goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries. The plan was welcomed by car accident lawyers and road safety activists who had seen different versions of the Vision Zero strategy successfully implemented in cities around the world.

Part of the reason that Vision Zero has been so successful is its focus on infrastructure. The framework aims to slow vehicles down through a variety of rules-of-the-road changes and physical traffic calming measures. It also prioritizes modes of active transportation. like walking and cycling, that lead to fewer serious injuries.

Toronto’s Vision Zero strategy has been less successful than other cities’ – traffic fatalities had not significantly decreased by the time the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020. However, the city has recently undertaken several modest infrastructure projects that could meaningfully impact road safety. They have even earned praise from a handful of car accident lawyers and road safety activists, both groups that are notoriously difficult to satisfy.

In July 2021, the city installed rubber speed bumps in the intersections of Sheppard Ave and Kennedy Rd and Finch Ave and Sandhurst Cir. The bumps force drivers to take slower and sharper left turns into crosswalks, which makes pedestrians and cyclists more visible. Left turn collisions with vulnerable road users are a prominent cause of injury and death, the city said in a release.

New York City has been running a similar pilot project since 2016. According to CBC News Toronto, pedestrian injuries fell 20 per cent at New York intersections with speed bumps, and the average turn speed fell by an average of 52.6 per cent.

“There’s plenty of times where I have wished that there were measures to keep drivers turning slower and better able to see me,” Kevin Rupasinghe of the road safety group Cycle Toronto told the CBC. “And I’m really confident that we’ll see those results with this type of measure – it just had to be rolled out a lot more intersections.”

Speed bumps were scheduled to be installed at six additional high-risk intersections by the end of August.

Sticking with intersections, Toronto confirmed plans this summer to accelerate another infrastructure project aimed at protecting pedestrians in crosswalks. Several years ago, the city began installing traffic signals that give pedestrians a five second ‘head start’ over vehicles. The aim, once again, is to increase the visibility of vulnerable road users. More than 500 signals have already been installed, with another 389 scheduled for installation by the end of 2021, according to CBC News Toronto.

Not enough data has been collected to measure the impact of head start signals in Toronto, but city traffic management director Roger Browne told the CBC that research from the National Association of City Transportation Officials suggests they can reduce pedestrian collisions by up to 60 per cent.

This project also received praise from safety advocates.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’s simple,” said Jess Spieker of Friends and Families for Safe Streets to the CBC. “Nobody seems to be upset about it. Unlike some road safety measures, it seems to be instantly accepted.”

Last month, the city was scheduled to wrap up improvements to bike lanes on Bloor St East between Sherbourne St and Castle Frank Rd. The work would widen the lanes and add concrete barriers between cyclists and vehicles on the busy stretch of road.

There is ample research from around the world that suggests bike-friendly cities are safer for vulnerable road users. It’s not only cyclists that benefit from bike lanes: pedestrians are much less likely to be seriously injured in collisions with bicycles, and narrower roads force vehicles to move more slowly, which makes them inherently less dangerous. In fact, most of the infrastructure and rules-of-the-road changes that car accident lawyers and road safety experts would like Toronto to consider are focused on vehicle speed. There have been calls to implement a blanket 30 km/h speed limit on non-highway streets in the city, as well as suggestions to narrow certain high-speed routes, as has been done in New York and Montreal.

As car accident lawyers know, pedestrians and cyclists are exponentially more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a collision with a vehicle traveling at 50 km/h than a vehicle traveling at 30 km/h. Widening bike lanes, adding traffic calming infrastructure, and emphasizing pedestrians’ right-of-way at intersections are all effective ways to slow drivers down, but more will have to be done if the city plans to accomplish its goal of eliminating traffic deaths altogether.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or elsewhere in southern or central Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers will review your case, explain your legal options, and provide the guidance and support you need on your road to recovery.

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What is Being Done to Address Distracted Driving in Ontario?

Personal injury lawyers, especially those that represent car accident victims, are always attuned to risk factors that cause serious injuries and fatalities on Canadian roads. In the past 10-15 years, distracted driving has become a growing point of focus.

Even though distraction has always been a road safety concern – before cellphones, drivers could be distracted by analog factors like passenger behaviour or trying to read a map – in the past decade it has become one of the ‘Big Four’ risk factors on Ontario’s roads, alongside drug and alcohol impairment, speeding, and reckless or aggressive driving. According to a Traffic Injury Research Foundation report from 2019, distracted driving fatalities have actually surpassed impaired driving fatalities in parts of the country. And, according to the Canada Safety Council, ‘distraction was a contributing factor in 21% of collisions resulting in death and 27% of collisions resulting in serious injury’ in 2016.

That’s because it has never been easier to become distracted behind the wheel. Our vehicles have become tech-filled playgrounds equipped with sophisticated alarms and monitors, entertainment consoles, climate controls, and navigation systems. As auto manufacturers are unlikely to reduce the number of features and gadgets in their vehicles, and as drivers can’t be trusted to leave their phones in the backseat or the glove box, safety experts, including personal injury lawyers, are looking for different methods of reducing distracted driving.

One of those methods has been to implement tough distracted driving penalties. Ontario doesn’t have the best record when it comes to establishing effective road safety measures, but its rules on distracted driving are among the strictest in the country.

In our province, first-time distracted drivers face a fine of more than $600, plus three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. Second-time offenders can receive fines of up to $2,000, plus six demerit points and a seven-day suspension, and third-time offenders face fines of up to $3,000, plus six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension – not to mention the unforgiving insurance impacts.

Other tough-on-distracted-driving provinces include Saskatchewan, where third-time offenders face fines of up to $2,100, plus four demerit points and a seven-day vehicle seizure; Quebec, where anyone caught distracted driving more than twice faces a fine of up to $600, plus five demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension; and Manitoba, where all distracted drivers receive $672 fines and various demerit points and licence suspensions depending on the number of times they’ve offended.

In Nunavut, on the other hand, there are no official penalties for distracted driving. Other provinces and territories with relatively lenient rules included the Northwest Territories, where distracted driving is punishable by a $322 fine and three demerit points; New Brunswick, where distracted drivers face fines of $172.50, plus three demerit points; and Alberta, where offenders face fines of $300, plus three demerit points. The remaining provinces and territories sit between these six on the spectrum.

In addition to boasting Canada’s harshest distracted driving penalties, Ontario’s police force, the OPP, performs week-long crack downs, generally around return-to-school dates in January, September, and after the spring break. The province also invests in public education campaigns, including a highly-publicized TV and streaming commercial aimed at young drivers, who are far more likely to drive while distracted

The one-minute video, launched in 2016, showed a young driver checking his cell phone while in an intersection. His car is struck by an oncoming vehicle, and the viewer is then transported to a hospital room where he is confined to a wheelchair.

“It is important to spread the message that using your phone while driving is not OK, and investing in powerful ads and a strong marketing campaign will help us do that,” said Bob Nichols, senior media officer for the Ministry of Transportation, to the CBC when the ad was released.

“It sends a profound message that when you’re in a vehicle, just put the phone away, put the handheld device away and just focus on the task at hand,” added then-Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

At Will Davidson LLP, our team of personal injury lawyers has decades of experience helping seriously injured car accident victims access compensation for the damages they have incurred. During that time, we have come to understand the life-changing consequences that can accompany a devastating motor vehicle accident. As such, we are vocal supporters of any measure to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads, including programs to limit distracted driving.

If you or a member of your family has been hurt in an accident, contact us today to learn how we can help.

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Ontario Launches MOMS Act. Will Road Safety Improve?

On July 1, the Province of Ontario rolled out the first stage of a sweeping, multifaceted road safety plan called the Moving Ontarians More Safely (MOMS) Act. The legislation, originally introduced at Queen’s Park on April 26 and passed in late May, targets several high-profile areas of road safety concern. It has received approval from multiple safety advocacy organizations, including personal injury and car accident lawyers, although some groups say it doesn’t go far enough to protect road users.

The legislation’s primary focus is aggressive driving behaviours like stunt driving and street racing. However, there are also measures in place to protect transit riders, cyclists and e-bike riders, and road workers, as well as new truck safety standards and new regulations for the province’s towing industry.

“Both as Minister of Transportation and a parent to driving-aged teens, I am extremely concerned by the rising numbers of young drivers in Ontario caught stunt driving, street racing and driving aggressively,” said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney in a provincial release. “By increasing driver’s licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment periods, the MOMS Act sends a clear message to drivers – driving is a privilege and those who threaten the safety of others have no place on our roads.”

Car accident lawyers will surely agree with the Minister that new rules for aggressive drivers are necessary. While collisions fell last year during the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, the fatality rate increased, due in part to dangerous driving on empty roads. The new act will impose the following measures:

  • Increase roadside licence suspensions for drivers caught street racing or stunt driving from seven days to 30 days
  • Increase roadside vehicle impoundment period from seven days to 14 days
  • Introduce escalating post-conviction licence suspensions:
    • First conviction: one- to three-year suspension
    • Second conviction: three- to 10-year suspension
    • Third conviction: lifetime suspension that may be reduced at later date
    • Fourth conviction: lifetime licence suspension
  • Introduce lower speed threshold for stunt driving charges: from 50 km/h above speed limit on roads with speed limits under 80 km/h to 40 km/h above speed limit on roads with speed limits under 80 km/h
  • Introduce default speed limits of 80 km/h on highways not within a local municipality or built-up area

Protecting Vulnerable Road Users

The MOMS Act also seeks to better-protect vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle and e-bike riders, and transit users.

For transit users, the legislation introduces a new enforcement framework that will allow automated cameras to be installed on streetcars. The goal is capture photo evidence of drivers passing on the right – which is illegal – or on the left while the doors are open to pick up or drop off passengers.

It will also change the way ‘dooring’ incidents – when a parked driver opens their door and strikes a cyclist – are tracked. Under the new rules, individuals involved in dooring accidents are required to submit a police report; if charges are appropriate, they will also have to be filed.

For motorcycle and e-bike users, there will be a new definition of “power-assisted bicycles” under the Highway Traffic Act and new standards for three varieties of e-bikes: bicycle-style, mopeds, and motorcycle-style.

Protecting Road Workers, Trucking Standards, and Towing Industry Oversight

The MOMS Act’s remaining points of focus are road workers, the trucking industry, and the towing industry.

The Act will give Ministry of Transportation enforcement officers the power to close a road in emergencies. It will also permit the use of “Automated Flagger Assistance Devices” to reduce the need for road workers to direct traffic. Finally, it will allow highway construction vehicles to back up on divided highways when the action can be taken safely.

The trucking industry will be under new standards when the MOMS Act is fully implemented. New tools will be introduced to prevent drivers from breaking hours-of-service rules, and there will also be clearer dimensional limits for trailers.

The towing industry will soon be regulated by the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act, which will require tow operators, two truck drivers, and vehicle storage operators to be certified and meet certain requirements and standards. The new act will set customer protection and roadside behaviour standards, establish non-compliance penalties, and establish a Director of Towing and Vehicle and Storage Standards to provide oversight.

Safety Hopes

While road safety legislation always leaves room for improvement, many of the new rules introduced in the MOMS Act have the potential to improve safety and reduce injuries and fatalities on Ontario’s roads. It will be interesting to see whether accident and fatality rates fall in the coming months as some of these changes take effect.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team will be happy to review your claim, explain your legal options, and provide the representation and support you need on your road to recovery.

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Civil vs. Criminal Bartender Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving rates have plummeted for decades in Canada, but impairment continues to be a major risk factor on our roads, as car accident lawyers know. Considering the time, money, and effort stakeholders have put into anti-drunk driving campaigns, when impaired driving accidents dooccur there tends to be significant public outcry. Community members want to know who is responsible.

The question of responsibility for drunk driving accidents doesn’t always come with easy answers. Yes, the individual who chose to get behind the wheel bears significant liability – but did they act alone? Were they overserved at a friend or relative’s house? Did they visit a bar or restaurant before driving? What happens if the driver is under the legal drinking age?

Some of these questions were asked following a single-vehicle impaired driving accident in 2017 near Ottawa that left two teenagers dead and another two seriously injured. All four had been drinking at Shooters’ Bar and Grill in Calabogie, Ontario, before the crash.

In 2018, 62-year-old Ann Senack, who served the boys at the establishment, was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The trial began this spring.

According to legal experts who spoke to Canadian Underwriterin 2019, criminal charges against bartenders related to drunk driving accidents are notoriously hard to prove.

“To extend criminal liability in these circumstances is very, very uncommon,” said Michael Lacy, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “If someone were held criminally culpable in these circumstances, I’d say that would be a precedent-setting decision.”

Another criminal lawyer told the publication that prosecutors would have to prove that there was a “marked and substantial” departure from the standard of care that servers owe patrons.

‘Prosecutors would have to show a bartender knew the person they were serving was clearly underage, and knew the person was driving home and was impaired to such a degree that it would be a danger to them and to others,’ Canadian Underwriter reported. ‘The Crown would also have to show a direct link between the alcohol served to the person and the injuries caused.’

Sure enough, Crown attorney Jefferson Richardson announced last month that charges against Senack would be stayed after cell phone records showed that the driver of the vehicle was using his phone at the time of the accident. Instead of facing jailtime, the server agreed to a 10-year peace bond and will pay $10,000 and perform 300 hours of community work, according to CBC News Ottawa.

However, the CBC also reported that several civil cases against Senack are pending – and the threshold for proving civil negligence is much lower than in criminal cases.

In order to establish negligence in a civil case, plaintiff-side lawyers most only prove that it is more likely than not that the bartender breached their standard of care.

“Those two things – one being the higher standard for criminal negligence, and the higher burden of proof in a criminal case – means that the viability of this type of prosecution is often minimal, which is why most of these cases are dealt with in the civil courts,” the criminal defence lawyer told Canadian Underwriter.

How Can Will Davidson’s Car Accident Lawyers Help?

In Ontario, there are several ways to pursue compensation for car accident injuries. The first and simplest is via accident benefits through your insurance provider. When a driver is involved in an accident in our province, their auto insurance entitles them to predetermined benefits based on the severity of their injuries. These benefits are often sufficient to cover any expenses and damages that arise from your accident.

In some cases, though, accident benefits may not be enough to address the serious injuries you have sustained. If you were not at-fault for your accident, or if liability can reasonably be shared by another party, you may be able to pursue a civil claim for damages with the help of our car accident lawyers. Impaired driving injuries precipitated by negligent bar or restaurant service is an example of a situation where a civil claim might be appropriate.

If you or a member of your family have been involved in a motor vehicle accident involving an at-fault party, consider contacting Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of car accident lawyers. We will be happy to assess your claim and explain your legal options.

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Personal Injury Lawyers Endorse Measured Embrace of New Technology

In December, Ontario’s Attorney General, Doug Downey, addressed the Empire Club of Canada via video stream. The medium fit Mr. Downey’s message: that, after years of paralysis in the face of the gargantuan task, Ontario’s justice system was finally prepared to embrace the type of modernization that victims’ rights advocates, legal associations, personal injury lawyers, and many more had been calling for for years.

“The pandemic showed us in stark terms how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” Downey said. “New thinking and quick action put us on a path that can actually achieve what Ontarians have been crying out for for decades.”

Among the common-sense changes that Downey cited were the introduction of remote attendance at proceedings, the allowance of digital signatures, the electronic issuance and sharing of court documents, and the provision of service by email without consent or court order, according to Global News.

“These changes actually made our system stronger by making it more accessible to Ontarians and more resilient to whichever challenges the future might bring,” Downey said.

Now, nearly six months after the Attorney General’s speech and with the pandemic still raging in the province, it has become increasingly apparent that there is no turning back from the above and similar changes. Already overloaded before the pandemic struck last March, Ontario’s criminal and civil justice systems must now confront an unprecedented backlog of cases. New technology and protocols are essential to addressing that challenge.

Perhaps more importantly, these innovations have the capacity to reduce costs, generate efficiencies, and improve access to justice for a broad spectrum of Ontarians in the long term.

In February, federal Justice Minister David Lametti introduced legislation to make permanent certain pandemic-time justice system solutions. Although the legislation applied solely to the criminal courts, the rational applies equally to the civil system.

“Canadians expect that their courts will deal with criminal matters in a timely fashion so that the rights of the accused are respected and victims see justice being done,” Lametti said, in a statement. “The legislative changes introduced will address challenges faced by Canada’s criminal justice system by allowing it to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Under the proposed legislation, audio and video appearances would be permitted at preliminary inquiries, trials, and pleas and sentencing hearings, according to the National Post. The bill would also allow for jury selection by video in certain circumstances.

The changes would “help reduce the risks of further delays during the pandemic, provide for increased efficiency in the long term, and support access to justice,” Lametti said.

Support for innovation in the criminal and civil justice systems is almost unanimous. In February, the Canadian Bar Association released a report calling on legal professionals, including personal injury lawyers, to keep and build on innovations adopted during the first year of COVID. The same month, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner told the Bar Association’s annual meeting: “This is a reckoning it is possible to modernize our justice system. And it would be irresponsible to not seize this opportunity.”

Of course, it would be equally irresponsible to embrace new technologies and forward-thinking protocols without considering the challenges they invite. In its report, the Bar Association warned that certain types of proceedings, especially those involving numerous witnesses and extensive expert testimony, would be simply too complex to carry out remotely.

Another commonly voiced concern involves access to justice. While remote access would make participating in legal proceedings easier for many Ontarians, a fully-remote system would preclude those without internet access, with limited access, or without access to internet accessible devices.

Remote proceedings also take place in less controlled environments than in-person proceedings. In the courtroom, the judge and jury don’t have to contend with shaky internet connections, faulty hardware, or other issues. As one lawyer put it in an article for Canadian Lawyer, ‘you can prepare a witness for a hearing or trial, but you cannot plan for a participant having construction at their home, or the impact of a poor internet connection on someone’s testimony.’

And then there are the omnipresent concerns over data security and privacy. While online communications and proceedings can be more efficient, they can also be more vulnerable to security breaches, particularly during the early stages of adoption.

None of these concerns should derail the push for technological innovation in Ontario’s court systems. It is only by adopting new technologies and embracing protocols like remote proceedings that the province will be able to address the massive backlog of cases that the pandemic caused. As personal injury lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP only hopes that necessary precautions will be taken to ensure that access to justice is applied universally.

Will Davidson LLP has provided legal representation to injured Ontarians for decades. If you or a member of your family has been injured, contact us today to learn how we can help.

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Mass Tort vs Class Action Lawsuits

A recent article in Canadian Lawyer magazine asked whether Canadian personal injury law firms should maintain ‘the traditional class action approach in Canada or … move towards more of an American model.’ At a time when our law firm is pursuing multiple class action lawsuits against long-term care owners, operators, and facilities that have been negligent amid COVID-19, this question appears particularly pertinent. In this article, we will review the differences between class action and mass tort lawsuits, the benefits of each, and the how the Canadian and American systems differ.

What are Class Action Lawsuits?

A class action lawsuit is one in which one or more plaintiffs – referred to as the class representative or representatives – bring a claim against a defendant in hopes of representing other plaintiffs who suffered similar damages at the hands of the same defendant.

This process is designed to create a level playing field between plaintiffs and large companies or corporations. It also lets individuals who may not be able to afford a lawyer pursue compensation, and creates a more streamlined process than if each individual plaintiff were to file their claims individually.

There are downsides to class action lawsuits, however. For example, proposed class actions must reach certain requirements in order to be certified by the courts. The commonality requirement, for example, mandates that the plaintiffs’ damages must be similar, so if a large group of prospective plaintiffs suffered a variety of injuries at the hands of a common defendant, they may not be able to pursue a class action claim. Recently, changes to Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act brought in the predominance and superiority requirements, as well; more on that a little later.

Once the requirements are met and the proceeding is certified, individual plaintiffs are lumped into a monolithic ‘class,’ meaning the compensation they receive will be divided equally, not according to who was most injured.

What are Mass Tort Lawsuits?

Like class actions, mass tort lawsuits involve numerous plaintiffs taking legal action against a single defendant, generally a large company or organization. In mass torts, however, plaintiffs are treated as a group of individuals rather than as a class. Each individual must prove certain facts about their claim, and the compensation they receive will be based on the damages they incurred. 

The main downside to mass torts is that they are extremely complex. Whereas class action lawsuits seek compensation for identical or similar damages, resolving a mass tort lawsuit requires assigning compensation to each plaintiff depending on the severity of their injuries. Resolving a mass tort can take longer than resolving a class action, but the reward for the most seriously injured plaintiffs may be worth the wait.

Changes to the Class Proceedings Act

As mentioned above, Ontario recently added two new requirements – predominance and superiority – that proposed class actions must meet in order to be certified.

According to Law Times, the predominance requirement states that plaintiffs ‘will have to show that questions of fact or law common to the class predominate over questions affecting individual class members,’ and the superiority requirement means ‘plaintiffs must show that a class proceeding is superior to all other reasonably available options for solving the dispute.’

Both new requirements make it more difficult for a class action to be certified, which prompted the question posed in the Canadian Lawyer article.

Traditional Class Actions vs US-Style Mass Torts

While class actions have traditionally been the preferred vehicle for launching mass claims in Canada, Americans have more often relied on mass torts. According to Canadian Lawyer, this is due in part to the fact that American consumers are essentially not allowed to pursue claims against medical device makers or drug companies via class actions.

With the recent addition of the predominance and superiority requirements, however, some lawyers believe mass torts may gain prominence.

“It will be interesting to see what comes of that change and whether or not the class action will remain the preferred proceeding in Canada over some kind of mass tort proceeding,” one lawyer told Canadian Lawyer.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

The lawyers at Will Davidson LLP have represented clients in class action and mass tort proceedings for decades. The recent lawsuits we initiated against long-term care providers are excellent examples of large groups of plaintiffs coming together to pursue compensation for common complaints – most notably egregious negligence in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about our long-term care class action lawsuits, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

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Will Ontario’s Civil Justice System Provide Better Service in the Wake of COVID-19?

Just as it touched every facet of our society, COVID-19 had devastating impacts on Ontario’s civil justice system, impacts which will be felt years into the future. However, the issues affecting the system during and in the wake of the pandemic are not new – even before the March 2020 lockdowns took effect, Ontario’s courts were dealing with a massive backlog of cases causing months- or years-long delays.  Now, there is hope among some personal injury lawyers that the courts will be forced to take drastic – or at least innovative – steps to address these challenges.

Last month, Law Times reported on Louis v Poitras. The case not only illustrates personal injury lawyers’ pre-2020 frustrations with the civil justice system, but may also predict a path forward.

Firma and Marcdere Louis were injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ottawa in 2013. They filed a claim against Jacques Poitras and two other defendants, but it would be years before a trial date was set. It was eventually confirmed for April 20, 2020, almost seven years after the accident. Then, COVID hit, and the trial date was lost. If ‘justice delayed is justice denied,’ – one of the legal industry’s favourite adages – then it’s very difficult to argue that the Louis’s received adequate access to justice.

In some ways, the impact of COVID-19 on Louis v Poitras serves as a reflection of the virus’s impact on society at large. Accident victims, especially seriously injured accident victims, are among the most vulnerable members of our society, and COVID has saved its most devastating impacts for the populations least able to weather them.

There is a silver lining to the Louis v Poitras story. According to Law Times, the Ontario Court of Appeal took unusual steps to ensure that the case would be heard, despite the lost trial date. After the court appearance was cancelled, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers asked that a jury notice, issued years earlier by the defendants, be cancelled. A jury notice is essentially a formal request that a case be heard by a jury rather than by a judge alone.

At the time of the plaintiff’s motion, jury trials were not being scheduled in Ontario. Judge only trials, though, were available within six months. The judge accepted the plaintiff’s motion, a decision that was successfully appealed in the divisional court before being reinstated in the Court of Appeal. The case was scheduled to proceed in three-week tranches beginning last month. Speaking to Law Times, one lawyer called the decision a “seismic shift” that signals to the lower courts in Ontario that “efficiency in delivering justice is the priority.”

When COVID-19 hit Ontario, the already overloaded court system was forced to confront two new challenges. The first was that existing delays would be exasperated by the necessary shutdown. The second is a massive wave of fresh litigation deriving from the pandemic, including class action lawsuits against allegedly negligent long-term care homes and long-term disability claims from COVID long-haulers, among others.

In order to confront these challenges, the courts will have to embrace the sort of creative, efficiency-minded thinking to which conservative organizations are typically averse. Reducing the number of jury trials and converting scheduled jury trials to judge only, where appropriate, is a good start.


The courts must also embrace new technologies that allow for more remote and online proceedings. This shift has already occurred at most law firms, including at Will Davidson LLP. Our personal injury lawyers now conduct a great deal of their business remotely, with no effect on productivity or efficacy.

It’s easy when discussing the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to overlook the very real and devastating impact it has had on thousands of families across Canada. People have lost their lives and lost loved ones – that reality should not be forgotten. Many thousands more have seen their livelihoods destroyed with little help from any level of government.

When discussing topics like COVID-inflicted court delays, it’s important to remember who the civil justice system was set up to serve: the public. Whenever decisions are being made about how to address the challenges facing the courts, the end-user must remain top-of-mind. 

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 experienced team of Oakville personal injury lawyers will review your case and explain your legal options.

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Social Host Liability in the Pandemic Era

Public health regulations designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 meant that Ontarians hosted far fewer social gatherings in 2020 than in years past. Even during the holidays, when more people saw friends and family than health officials would have liked, gatherings were fewer and smaller than is customary.

For personal injury lawyers handling social host liability cases, this safely antisocial behaviour meant less work than in previous years. However, social host liability suits are far from a thing of the past – some lawyers believe that claims may arise from the few Super Bowl LV gatherings that did occur, and others expect a surge in cases when (and if) the pandemic subsides.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability refers to the legal responsibility held by hosts of private social gatherings to ensure their guests do not experience harm after leaving the premises. This is a nuanced and evolving area of personal injury law; our understanding of it stems from a handful of precedent-setting cases:

Childs v Desormeaux

The question at the centre of this 2006 case was whether Julie Zimmerman and Dwight Courrier, the hosts of a New Year’s potluck, were responsible for injuries incurred by Desmond Desormeaux after he left the party. On the night of his accident, Desormeaux attended the gathering and drank roughly 12 beers in over two and a half hours. The hosts did not monitor his intake any more closely than other guests. Desormeaux eventually left the party and was involved in a two-vehicle crash on the way home. One passenger in the other vehicle, Zoe Childs, was paralyzed and another, Derek Dupre, was killed.

The Supreme Court of Canada found that Zimmerman and Courrier did not owe Childs a duty of care because their relationship with Desormeaux was not ‘proximate’ enough. In other words, the couple did not serve Desormeaux alcohol and did not realize the extent of his intoxication.

Wardak v Froom

Wardak v Froom, a 2017 case, arose from a 19th birthday party the defendants hosted for their son at their home. The plaintiff was an 18-year-old neighbour who brought his own alcohol to the event and became intoxicated. After leaving the party on foot, he got in his car and was involved in a serious single-vehicle accident.

Unlike in Childs v Desormeaux, the defendants were found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. This was due to the fact that the injuries occurred to a guest, not a third party, and due to the ‘paternalistic relationship’ between the host and the plaintiff.

McCormick v Plambeck

In this recently decided case from British Columbia, the plaintiff was injured in a single vehicle crash after leaving a party hosted by the parents of a friend. The plaintiff, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was intoxicated; the driver, who was killed, was not.

The court ultimately ruled that the hosts were not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Not only had the hosts taken steps to prevent impaired driving – demanding that guests place their keys in a bowl; offering rides home to those who were too intoxicated to drive – but they were not even aware that the plaintiff and the driver had access to a vehicle. In fact, the pair stole the vehicle from a nearby lot after leaving the party.

The Future of Social Host Liability

A recent Law Times article posited that personal injury lawyers may see a sudden increase in social host liability claims if and when public health regulations are lifted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many festive occasions usually marked by parties or get-togethers, and by the time things return to normal people could be making up for missing multiple St. Patrick’s Days, May 24s, birthdays and the like – and may be tempted to party even harder than usual,” it read. “In light of this likelihood, it’s pertinent to be up to date on the present state of social host liability.”

More urgently, some lawyers interviewed by CTV’s Your Morning suggested that social host liability cases could arise from holiday gatherings in December; although there is no precedent, hosts may theoretically be liable for spreading COVID-19.

Establishing liability in such a case would be difficult. A plaintiff would likely have to prove that the host knew they were putting guests at risk of exposure. If such a case were successful, though, it is unlikely that homeowners’ insurance would cover the costs – many policies have exemptions for communicable diseases and for acts outside public health regulations.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you have questions about social host liability, or if you or a member of your family have been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will provide all the answers you need.

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Are Municipalities Liable for Tobogganing Injuries?

winter of 2021 will be like no other in Ontario. Many of our favourite gathering places, including ski hills and local hockey rinks, have been indefinitely shuttered to combat the spread of COVID-19. Gathering indoors with family and friends has also been banned. As a result, Ontarians are turning to alternative activities: skating at outdoor rinks; cross country skiing and snowshoeing; and tobogganing.

As personal injury lawyers well know, tobogganing is the most dangerous of these activities. According to Parachute, a national Canadian charity dedicated to injury prevention, tobogganing has the fourth highest rate of injury of all activities in Canada, behind only ATVing, snowmobiling, and driving. The charity has cited research showing that 37.7 of every 100,000 tobogganers are catastrophically injured, with 50 per cent of victims suffering head injuries and 22.5 per cent suffering injuries to the spine.

There have been at least two serious sledding accidents in southern Ontario in the past 30 days. The first occurred in Bradford West Gwillimbury on December 26. A woman sledding on ‘Deadman’s Hill,’ a popular tobogganing location in the region, lost control of her vessel and smashed into a hydro pole. She suffered broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, and a collapsed lung, and was eventually transferred to the trauma unit at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.

The second occurred on New Year’s Day in Barrie. A boy sledding at Sunnidale Park was knocked unconscious in a crash. A witness told CTV News Barrie that most children on the slope, including the accident victim, were not wearing helmets.

Personal injury lawyers in Ontario, like the rest of the province’s citizens, are bracing for an unusual winter season. An influx of tobogganing injury inquiries could be part of the change. But what are the legal options for tobogganing injury victims? Does it make sense to pursue compensation for the damages they have incurred?

Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act states in section 3(1) that “an occupier of premises owes a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises … are reasonably safe while on the premises.” In other words, landowners are at least somewhat responsible for the safety of visitors to their property.

However, section 4(1) of the Act states that when a person willingly assumes risks on a landowner’s property, “the occupier owes a duty to the person to not create a danger with the deliberate intent of doing harm or damage and to not act with reckless. In other words, when a tobogganer enters public land with the intent of participating in a risky activity, that tobogganer assumes most of the liability for their actions.

This stipulation makes it difficult to bring tobogganing injury claims against a municipality. In 2009, for example, a woman was seriously injured in a tobogganing accident in Seacliff Park in Leamington, Ontario. The woman filed a $1-million lawsuit against the municipality, but the court rejected her claim, writing in its decision that “while there was a duty of care, that duty was limited to not creating a danger with the deliberate intent of doing harm or damage to the person and to not act with reckless disregard. In this case, the risks were willingly assumed by the plaintiff.”

“The defendant,” the judge wrote, “says that the hill had been used for years with no complaints and no injuries and that the plaintiff was aware of the condition of the hill after many years of use. The defendant says there is no evidence that this hill was dangerous or that there was a hidden trap or obstacle that cause the plaintiff to fall of her sled.”

In some cases, however, tobogganing injury claims against a municipality are very much justified. In 2004, Hamilton Lawyer Bruno Uggenti suffered a fractured vertebra when his sled hit a hidden, snow-covered drainage ditch at the bottom of a tobogganing hill. The City of Hamilton was aware of the ditch but failed to warn potential users of the hill of its existence. An arbitrator, and later the court, ruled that while Uggenti and his family had assumed certain risks in deciding to use the hill, they had not assumed the risk of the hidden ditch. Uggenti was awarded $900,000 in damages.

“In order for someone to voluntarily assume risk,” the court found, “that person must be aware of the existence of the risk.”

If you or a member of your family has been seriously injured in a tobogganing accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will review your case, explain your legal options, and provide the support you need during the legal process.

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What To Do If Your Child Has Been Injured

This month, in Ireland, a woman brought a personal injury claim before the country’s High Court on behalf of her child, who was catastrophically injured in a motor vehicle accident in February 2016. The child was just three and a half months old at the time of the collision and suffered ‘multiple skull fractures,’ according to the Irish Times. She spent many months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities before being released. She will require significant long-term care.

In the following article, we will examine what happens when a child is injured in an accident in Ontario, what legal option the child and its parents have, and how an experienced personal injury lawyer can help.

Who Qualifies As A Minor In Ontario And What Are Their Legal Options?

Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor in Ontario. Minors who have been injured as a result of the negligence of another party are not able to personally launch an injury claim. However, they are able to seek financial compensation for their damages with the help of a “litigation guardian.”

A litigation guardian is an adult who represents a minor during personal injury litigation. Most often, this role is filled by an injured minor’s parent. In situations where neither parent is able or available to fill this role, another adult may step in. In order to be confirmed as a litigation guardian, the adult must file an affidavit stating that they consent to make decisions on the child’s behalf, that they carry no adverse interest to the child, and that they are willing to personally pay any costs awarded against them or the child.

If, during the course of the litigation, the child turns 18, they will be able to request to continue the litigation without the guidance of their litigation guardian.

Once a litigation guardian has been assigned, the child has equal rights to any other plaintiff in Ontario, with additional protections. For example, most personal injury victims have two years from the time of their accident to file a claim; for injured children, the two-year limitation period doesn’t start until the moment they turn 18.

Additionally, the Ontario courts must approve any and all settlement offers entered into on a child’s behalf; until the courts have certified that the offer is in the child’s best interest, it will not be legally binding.

Also, compensation awarded to a child in a personal injury lawsuit receives certain legal protections. Funds payable to a child are sometimes “paid into the Court” and held by the accountant of the Superior Court of Justice, to be paid out when the child turns 18. In some cases, such as when the child requires funding for ongoing rehabilitation treatment, the settlement money may be released earlier.

What Are Some Common Causes Of Childhood Injuries?

Many of the main causes of childhood injuries also affect adults. Hundreds of children are injured each year in car accidents, for example. Many are also injured in snowmobile, ATV, and boating mishaps.

Others are more child specific. Injuries incurred in organized sports leagues, for example, fall into this category, as do playground injuries, schoolyard injuries, and injuries caused by childcare negligence. When a school or other establishment agrees to assume responsibility for your child, they are expected to provide a certain standard of care. When this standard is breached through negligence or omission, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help your child recover compensation.

What Should I Do If My Child Is Injured?

If your child is injured, the first thing you should do is check on their condition and, if necessary, contact emergency responders. Your next steps will depend on the specific circumstances of the injury. If it occurred during a car accident, for example, you should seek out the insurance and contact information of all other individuals involved and get the names and numbers of all witnesses.

If your child has been injured at a community swimming pool, you should also secure contact information from as many witnesses as possible – this is a sound practice in any circumstance.

Once you have checked your child’s wellbeing and collected witness contact information, your next step might be to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer, preferably with experience helping families access compensation for children’s injuries.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If any member of your family, including your child, has been injured in an accident caused by the negligence or omission of another party, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our team will review your claim, outline your legal options, and explain as thoroughly as possible what to expect on the road to medical and legal recovery. At Will Davidson LLP, we have represented seriously injured accident victims from across Ontario for decades. Reach out today to learn how we can help.

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