Ontario Grapples with Growing Trial Backlog Amid COVID-19

As the country gradually rolls back COVID-19 lockdown measures, court systems across Canada are considering how to safely reopen their doors. In Ontario, where courts already faced a significant backlog, there have been no jury trials and limited judge-only trials since a state of emergency was declared in March. As a result, numerous personal injury lawyers and their clients are facing delays on the road to compensation.

The province is considering a number of options to alleviate the backlog, including the suspension or elimination of jury trials for certain civil proceedings. In early June, Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey sought input from legal stakeholders on this matter.

“The needs of the justice sector have changed during this outbreak, and the demands on the system will continue to evolve as we begin to see the province reopening in stages,” the Attorney General wrote in a letter to stakeholders. “To address these changes, we will continue to act on the guidance of public health experts, and we will continue to work together to develop new ways of conducting matters.”

Assembling a jury is one of the most time-consuming aspects of any civil trial. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will make the process even more difficult. Proponents of eliminating or suspending jury trials say it would allow Ontario to work through its backlog more quickly and provide greater access to justice for a larger number of claimants.

The proposal has support among some personal injury lawyers. One Windsor-based law firm issued a statement reading:

“Although we truly value our clients’ right to have a jury of peers decide their case, the realities of COVID-19 mean that our clients will suffer many more years of delay to get their cases to court. COVID-19 has closed our courts to jury trials. Eliminating juries will avoid more delay because we can immediately try cases ‘online/remotely’ before a single judge.”

In his letter, the Attorney General proposed keeping juries for matters that “engage community values and person’s character, such as defamation false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.”

The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) also supports a temporary jury trial suspension. In an open letter to the Attorney General’s office, it stated that “the biggest hurdle for many of the postponed and upcoming trials will be constituting juries.”

Steve Rastin, a former president of the OTLA, spoke glowingly of Downey’s letter to Canadian Lawyer.

“I think it’s bold, I think it’s appropriate,” he said. “I think what the attorney general is doing is giving some thought to how are we going to deal with the massive backlog that’s in the system right now.”

“The attorney general is showing inspired leadership. What he’s doing is looking at a fundamental change in our system to help maybe put Ontario back together and back on track in terms of access to justice.”

Rastin’s enthusiasm isn’t shared by all. The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) stated in a submission to the Attorney General that jury trials are essential in Ontario due to the province’s unique social makeup.

“Against this social backdrop, civil juries provide a vast array of life experiences including different socioeconomic, racial, cultural and gender-based perspectives,” wrote TLA President Brett Harrison.

There is also concern that eliminating jury trials is an inappropriate solution to an issue that could be solved through modernization and investment. As one Toronto personal injury lawyer asked CTV News: “People keep talking about how it’s too slow and it’s an access to justice issue, but what about devoting the resources they should have done in the first place?”

“There should have been more resources thrown at the judicial system well before this, and I think it’s just convenient now to use the pandemic as an excuse to eliminate or get rid of juries,” they continued.  

Even Steve Rastin agrees that Ontario’s court system is falling behind on implementing new technology.

“[What] we’ve realized is that our jurisdiction has not gone nearly as far down the road to modernization as some other jurisdictions in the world,” he said. “In the United States, they’re doing virtual motions, virtual trials, virtual appeals, they have widespread access to court records electronically and things like that.”

The province has several options to address its growing trial backlog. It can eliminate civil jury trials altogether, it can reduce or suspend jury trials, it can bring in new technology to allow trials to proceed remotely, or it can choose another path. Regardless of the decision, it must be made quickly: the province’s backlog is growing every day and preventing seriously injured accident victims from accessing the compensation they need.

If you’ve 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 assess your case and lay out your options for pursuing a claim. Contact us today to learn more.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Road Safety?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, road safety experts, including personal injury lawyers, attempted to predict how shelter-at-home measures would impact motor vehicle accident rates and driver behaviour. It was assumed, for example, that wide lockdowns would limit the use of personal automobiles, and that that would in turn reduce the number of serious accidents.

Around the time that the pandemic took hold in North America, the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety compiled a list of factors that might affect road safety during and after the lockdowns. Below, we’ll look at a few key predictions and assess their accuracy.

There Will Be Fewer People on the Roads

The Global Alliance was correct in predicting that personal automobile use would decline amid the lockdowns. This effect has been noted around the world.

Unfortunately, the Alliance – and many personal injury lawyers – also guessed that fewer journeys would lead to fewer crashes. New data suggest this has not been the case. In the United States, a report from the National Safety Council (NSC) showed a 14 per cent year-over-year increase in fatality rates per distance driven in March. While overall traffic deaths – a figure that includes fatalities among drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists – were down 8 per cent, the overall number of miles driven was down 18 per cent, meaning road users are actually more likely to be killed than during the same period last year.

The numbers are equally discouraging in Ontario, where the OPP reported 71 deaths on patrolled roads as of May 4, up from 61 deaths during the same period in 2019. In both the United States and Ontario, speed appears to be a key factor.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said NSC President Lorraine M Martin, according to the BBC. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely.”

“If we don’t do it for ourselves,” she added, “we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”

Of the 71 deaths in Ontario, 17 were linked to speeding.

“We aren’t invincible,” said Lewis Smith, Canada Safety Council’s coordinator of communications, to Global News. “Speed may seem like a good idea because the roads are open, and you think you’re not putting anyone at risk, but the truth is risk can come in a hurry. Speed incenses the likelihood of something happening you don’t have time to react too.”

Even before it became apparent that lighter traffic would not lead to fewer deaths, safety experts were concerned about cars eventually returning to the roads.

“Some radio programs and news reels are showing empty streets and realizing that it’s true that there are no road crashes because of this, but what will happen when we all go out again?” asked Viviam Perrone of Argentina’s Asociación Civil Madres del Dolor in a Global Alliance article. “… we should learn to live with our foot off the accelerator when we return to the streets.”

Fewer People Will Use Public Transit

It was expected at the onset of the pandemic that mass transit ridership would plummet – this has played out as expected. It is unlikely that riders will return to public transit in the near future.

From a road safety perspective, this is a problem. Traveling via mass transit is in general much safer than travelling in a personal automobile. If fewer people choose to take mass transit in the near future, that will mean more automobiles on the road and, in all likelihood, more accidents.

If cities want to avoid a major spike in traffic accidents as their lockdowns are lifted, they must encourage commuters to travel on foot or by bicycle as much as possible. They must also develop strategies for effectively sanitizing public transit vehicles and restoring public trust.

Road Safety Strategies Will be Put on Hold

The City of Toronto is already familiar with the challenges of implementing a comprehensive road safety strategy; even before the pandemic, it struggled to make progress with its Vision Zero approach. As public resources are reallocated to deal with COVID-19, personal injury lawyers fear that road safety measures will tumble down the list of priorities. There is also concern that public messaging and awareness campaigns around road safety will be drowned out by the deserved focus on the virus.

“In general, it would seem that most of the public will be distracted, from road safety messages and that perhaps some of what we road safety advocates might usually be doing might need to wait until COVID comes under control,” said University of Washington Global Health professor Carlie Mock in the Global Alliance article.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident amid COVID-19, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of personal injury lawyers is continuing to accept new clients throughout the lockdown. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns.

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People with Disabilities, Including Spinal and Brain Injury Victims, are at Elevated Risk from COVID-19

Everyone has been affected by the spread of COVID-19, but the most serious impacts have been felt by marginalized and at-risk populations: the elderly, homeless people, people with pre-existing medical conditions, people with addictions, racial and social minorities, and survivors of serious injuries. Among personal injury lawyers, there is significant concern that current and former clients do not have access to the necessary supports. Long-term care facilities, which sometimes house brain and spinal injury survivors, are hotbeds for the virus, and injury victims living at home may find themselves suddenly isolated.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the unique challenges faced by survivors of serious injuries amid this unprecedented global health emergency.

Long-Term Care Fears

Canada has been relatively effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the general population. Long-term care homes have been less successful: roughly half of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in these facilities.

The situation is so bleak that family members are removing loved ones, even when the chances of readmission are slim. Unfortunately, this approach highlights another concern for personal injury lawyers: how will injury survivors living at home access medical care under social distancing guidelines? Speaking to CTV News Toronto, an Ontario woman who removed her husband from long-term care articulated the issue:

“My concerns are – he no longer has a doctor,” said Barbara Heuman. “His doctor took care of him for three-and-a-half years while he was at Dufferin Oaks, but I was told they are no longer able to care of him. So when they sent me home from Dufferin Oaks yesterday, I got one week’s medication, that’s it.”

Lack of Access to Medical Care

For many seriously injured accident victims, recovery is a lifelong pursuit that requires consistent medical care and attention. Spinal and brain injury victims often undergo years of rehabilitation, chiropractic therapy, and physiotherapy, often in clinical settings.

Access to these services may be limited for months or years. Medical professionals in Canada are all-hands-on-deck in the fight against COVID-19 – those who are unable to help on the front lines are avoiding hospitals and emergency wards as much as possible. For injury victims, a sudden and indefinite pause in treatment can be damaging to the recovery process.

Brain injury survivors may also lose access to social services such as occupational therapy and attendant care.

Mental Health Concerns

In a March 31 article for the Prince George Citizen, Diane Nakamura, a brain injury survivor, described some of the day-to-day symptoms that many survivors experience.

“Suffering from anxiety and depression,” she wrote. “Not having enough energy in a day to complete necessary tasks. Inability to cook because of poor memory and sequencing issues. Dealing with financial stress because of lost employment. Not understanding important letters or phone calls due to cognitive deficits. Experiencing conflict with family members and friends who don’t understand the limitations survivors have. Possessing low self-esteem and confidence because of the significant life changes after brain injury. Not feeling normal or accepted by their personal network and the community.”

Many of these issues, Nakamura wrote, have been aggravated by the strict social distancing measures necessary to limit the virus’s spread. Brain injury survivors have less access to mental health resources than they did at the beginning of the year, and fewer opportunities to connect with friends and family in-person.

Lack of Financial or Government Support

Some injury victims coping with this new reality feel left behind. Activists say governments have failed to consider injury survivors in their COVID-19 responses. The little support that has been offered is considered woefully insufficient.

“As families who are supporting our sons and daughters with disabilities, who live with us in the community – we feel forgotten. We’re not even on the radar,” said Robin Acton, whose daughter has Down syndrome, to CBC News Edmonton in April.

“We as a family are incredibly fearful of what happens if our daughter gets sick and has to go to the hospital,” she added. “She’s going to need me or her dad there to help her understand and interpret what’s going on. She would be absolutely terrified.”

In Ontario, the provincial government has made additional resources available to people with disability through the Ontario Disability Support Program. However, community representatives say the additional benefits – up to $100 for individuals and up to $200 for families – are simply not enough.

“We are part of a community that is often just an afterthought,” said Nadine Law, co-founder of Sudbury not-for-profit Access2all, to Sudbury.com. “My clients and I are not being recognized or taken care of. It wasn’t until this pandemic that I realized my voice had to get a little bit louder.”

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Crises tend to highlight the gap between the haves and have-nots in our society, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As personal injury lawyers dealing with seriously injured accident victims, Will Davidson LLP is committed to providing legal support for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable populations. If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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COVID-19 and Nursing Home Negligence

Long-term care facilities are ground zero in the fight against COVID-19 in Canada. Unfortunately, some facilities are losing the battle. As of mid-April, nearly half of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term care residences. That figure has caused concern among healthcare experts, patients’ rights advocates, and nursing home negligence lawyers.

In Quebec, where more than 30 seniors perished between mid-March and mid-April in a facility near Montreal, Premier Francois Legault said the deaths may have been caused by “gross negligence.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also commented, saying: “We recognize the terrible and tragic stories that have come out of seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities across the country. We know we need to do more.”

The first serious outbreak occurred at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver in March. Seventy-eight COVID-19 cases were confirmed, and 20 people died. At least 21 people have died in a residence in Laval, Quebec. And in Ontario, 29 people have died at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, 33 have died at Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, and 23 have died at Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said: “These heart-breaking events underscored the need for stringent infection prevention and control measures and led to the development of infection prevention and control guidance for long-term care homes.”

The provincial governments in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia have taken over operation of certain homes. Ontario hasn’t gone that far, despite pleas from the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents more 60,000 frontline healthcare workers. The union has criticized several facilities in Ontario where severe outbreaks have taken hold.

“They did not put into action what needed to be done,” said president Sharleen Stewart, according to the CBC. “This was pure negligence.”

In other words, despite the unprecedented spread of COVID-19 in Canada, and despite the fact that seniors are particularly susceptible to the disease, it is believed that certain COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes could have been avoided. Liability may extend beyond the facilities’ employees.

In Quebec, where nursing home negligence lawyers are already considering at least one class action claim, a medical malpractice lawyer told Global News that “it seems there has been serious neglect on the part of the residence, but also on the part of the CIUSSS, who was supposed to support the residence.”

In other words, these deaths may have been avoided but for the structural, systemic issues within Canada’s long-term care systems, many of which are underfunded and understaffed. The federal and provincial governments have issued a variety of new guidelines since March – new cleaning procedures, mandatory medical screenings, mealtime social distancing, etc. – but critics say they are too little, too late.

“This wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of seniors’ advocacy organization CanAge, to the CBC. “We saw it coming it Italy. We saw it coming in Spain, let alone what was happening in Asia. And we knew that people in long-term care facilities would be left without the care they need.”

“This is not new,” added Toronto geriatrician Dr. Nathan Stall, a fellow at the Women’s College Research Institute. “It’s just taken a global pandemic to unearth the problems that affect almost every aspect of the sector.”

Some industry veterans are finding reasons for optimism amid the catastrophe.

“I think there will be change out of it because it is hitting so many people right across the province as well as the country,” said Tom Carrothers, a long-time volunteer with Family Council Network 4 Advocacy, also to the CBC. “I can guarantee you that groups like ours will be sure to keep it moving.”

However, there will be many more months of pain and distress before progress is made. On April 20, the Province of Ontario released new modelling suggesting the spread of COVID-19 had peaked in the general population but was continuing to accelerate in long-term care facilities. As healthcare workers fight to bring the disease under control, nursing home negligence lawyers will consider whether legal action is appropriate. Will Davidson LLP is currently investigating COVID-19-related deaths at Lundy Manor Retirement Residence in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Learn more about that case here: https://www.willdavidson.ca/lundy-manor-covid-19/.

If a member of your family has been injured or become ill as a result of negligence at a long-term care facility, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of nursing home negligence lawyers will review your case and explain your legal options.

Will Davidson LLP’s lawyers remain hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are we working diligently to advance existing claims, but we are also accepting new clients who have been injured during these unprecedented times. If you’ve been injured in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is proud to offer services on a contingency basis, meaning we won’t be paid until your case has been successfully resolved. 

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Is Canada Falling Behind on Road Safety?

Serious car accidents continue to occur in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), despite restrictive physical distancing measures in place to arrest the spread of COVID-19. On March 30, one person was killed in a single vehicle accident at Toronto’s Exhibition Place; on April 3, another fatality occurred in a three-car crash near Islington and Steeles Avenues; and on April 4, a cyclist was struck and injured in the city’s Rexdale neighbourhood. For car accident lawyers, these events are a reminder that road safety reforms are urgently needed in Ontario, and that injury victims will continue to require legal assistance, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Before COVID-19 came to dominate headlines around the world (rightfully so), road safety issues were a major concern in several Canadian jurisdictions. Forty-two pedestrians were killed on the streets of Toronto in 2019, the same number as the previous year and the most since 50 people were killed in 2002. Fifteen motorists, six motorcyclists, and a cyclist were also killed.

In Ottawa, the deaths of three cyclists in 2019 attracted significant media attention and added urgency to the city’s new road safety plan. The picture is even grimmer in several remote and rural communities: drivers in Northern Ontario are nearly twice as likely to be killed in an accident as their neighbours in the south. In Yukon, the 2017 traffic fatality rate was 18.2 per 100,000, more than three times the then national rate of 5.0 per 100,000.

The news isn’t all bad, of course. Fatal traffic accidents have slowly declined over the past decades in Canada, as have rates of drunk driving. But road safety experts, including car accident lawyers, are concerned that the country is falling behind.

In 2019, the City of Oslo, Norway’s capital, recorded zero traffic deaths. It reached this milestone by enacting a series of sweeping infrastructure and policy changes, including reducing speed limits and improving demarcation between cycling and driving lanes. The policies are largely in line with Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ philosophy, which aims to eliminate deaths and serious injuries by making safety central to infrastructure and transportation decisions.

Vision Zero has been adopted, often to great effect, by cities around the world, including some much closer to home, such as New York. In Canada, Vision Zero was first adopted by Edmonton, in 2015, and later by Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Hamilton, among others. Halifax and Ottawa have road safety strategies that embrace parts of Vision Zero without explicitly targeting zero deaths.

Unfortunately, many Canadian cities have struggled to reduce traffic deaths, and have particularly struggled to protect vulnerable road users. Critics believe a paradigm shift is necessary for these goals to be accomplished: decision makers must prioritize safety over efficiency and convenience.

In an expansive article for the Ottawa Citizen, Elizabeth Payne, the recipient of a traffic safety fellowship with the International Centre for Journalists, spoke with Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney about the city’s road safety shortcomings. While McKenney supports the many of the measures included in the city’s new road safety strategy, she believes it is inherently flawed by its failure to target zero deaths.

“The plan is a better plan than we have ever had in this city,” McKenney said. “But the key piece missing is Vision Zero. Without that, we are accepting that road deaths are normalized, that they’re OK. Without establishing a goal of zero, it means that we don’t acknowledge that every single death on our roadway is preventable. And every single death is preventable.”

As car accident lawyers, our team encounters seriously injured accident victims on a daily or weekly basis. We are acutely aware of the devastating, lifelong impacts that a serious motor vehicle accident injury can have. For us, the central tenets of the Vision Zero strategy – lower speed limits, improved safety infrastructure, respect for all road users – are common sense. But for people who have never been affected by a serious motor vehicle accident, these measures can appear costly, inefficient, and unwarranted. As a result, road safety improvements are often pushed to the political backburner, which leads to frustration among advocates.

“One of the things that frustrates me is that it doesn’t get the priority it needs,” road safety expert Neil Arason told Payne. “Every year, a couple of thousand people are killed on our roads and 10,000 to 15,000 people are seriously injured. We just accept it.”

“It’s not hard to see these traffic deaths are easily preventable. That is what is so frustrating,” added Graham Larkin, executive director of Vision Zero Canada. “Is [Vision Zero] doable in Canada? Yes, it is doable anywhere. The same principles apply. You often hear excuses made. We build excuses like the Dutch build infrastructure. They will just go ahead and fix things whereas we will tend too often to say, ‘Well, you know it can’t happen here.’”

There is no telling how long the COVID-19 pandemic will linger in Canada. Restrictions on movements could be eased as early as late spring, or could last into 2021. During this time, it is essential that Canadian road safety activists and their political allies continue to emphasize the importance of their mission. Fatal and serious traffic accidents continue to occur every day, even amid this largescale lockdown. The people injured in those accidents are as important today as they were before the pandemic.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team is accepting new clients during the COVID-19 lockdown and would be happy to discuss your case.

When are Hosts Responsible for Guests’ Injuries?

A personal injury lawsuit in British Columbia’s Supreme Court could inform Canada’s evolving social host liability rules. The case, in which Calder McCormick is seeking damages for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident following a 2012 house party, went to trial in mid-February. Personal injury lawyers are eagerly anticipating the decision.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability applies when the host of a social gathering owes a duty of care to an injury victim. It is generally considered in cases involving alcohol.

Determining social host liability requires answering numerous questions. If, for example, a host provides alcohol to his or her guests and one of those guests becomes impaired, is the host responsible for the safety of that guest when they leave the premises? Is the host responsible for the safety of people the guest might come in contact with? Does liability still exist if the guest consumes his or her own alcohol? How does the equation change when the guest is underage?

Relevant Cases

Some of these questions have been answered in resolved cases that personal injury lawyers are well aware of, including Childs v Desormeaux and Wardak v Froom.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 2006 ruling in Childs v Desormeaux informs much of what is known about social host liability. In that case, the plaintiff, Childs, was injured in a drunk driving accident caused by the defendant, who had recently left a private New Year’s celebration. The courts were asked to determine whether the hosts of the celebration were liable or partly liable for Childs’ injuries.

All three courts found that the hosts were not liable as they had not served alcohol to Desormeaux (the event was BYOB – Bring Your Own Booze) and had monitored his drinking to the same extent as other guests. The hosts also asked Desormeaux whether he was alright before he left and did not realize the extent of his inebriation. In other words, the hosts were not reasonably able to foresee that Desormeaux would cause an accident resulting in injuries to himself or others. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled that the proximity between the hosts and the plaintiff was insufficient.

“Hosting a party at which alcohol is served does not, without more, establish the degree of proximity required to give rise to a duty of care on the hosts to third party highway users who may be injured by an intoxicated guest,” the ruling reads.

In Wardak v Froom, a case from 2017, Ontario Superior Court Justice Wendy Matheson interpreted “without more” to mean that a duty of care could arise. In that case, the plaintiff, Dean Wardak, suffered catastrophic injuries in a single-car accident after attending the 19th birthday party of his neighbour, Graeme Froom. Froom’s parents hosted the gathering. They did not serve alcohol but understood that guests were drinking. During the evening, Wardak became intoxicated, left the Frooms’ residence, walked home, got into his car, and drove into a fire hydrant. Evidence suggests the hosts knew Wardak was intoxicated when he left. He is now quadriplegic.

Justice Matheson ruled in the plaintiff’s favour. Although she did not find that Wardak’s injuries were reasonably foreseeable, she determined that the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant was one of paternalistic supervision. The fact that the plaintiff was underage and showed signs of intoxication also played into the decision, as did the fact that he was an invited guest, unlike the plaintiff in Childs v Desormeaux

The Case in British Columbia

The case in British Columbia also involves underage drinking at a supervised party. In September 2012, young people, including 18-year-old Ryan Plambeck and 17-year-old Calder McCormick, gathered at the home of Stephen and Lidia Pearson on Salt Spring Island. The couple were parents to teenage children.

After spending time at the party, the boys ventured across the street to a neighbour’s lot. There, they found an unlocked, uninsured for-sale automobile with the keys inside. They took the car. Plambeck drove with McCormick in the passenger seat. Before long, they lost control of the car and crashed off the road. Plambeck died and McCormick suffered catastrophic, life-changing injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury.

In 2014, McCormick filed a lawsuit against the Pearsons and several other parties. The lawsuit alleged that the Pearsons breached their duty of care to their underage guests by allowing them to drink on their property and failing to stop them from leaving while impaired.

“Basically, [they] did nothing to stop him from ending up on the road,” one of McCormick’s personal injury lawyers told CBC News British Columbia.

The Pearsons have denied all allegations. However, the case against them appears to resemble Wardak v Froom more than Childs v Desormeaux, in that it involves an underage plaintiff who consumed alcohol on their premises. The BC Supreme Court’s decision could influence how and when hosts invite guests – particularly underage guests – to consume alcohol on their property.

Contact Will Davidson LLP to Learn More

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced Oakville personal injury lawyers. Our team has expertise in a wide variety of personal injury claims, including matters involving social host liability. Reach out today to learn more.

How Daylight Saving Time Contributes to Car Accidents

Daylight saving time, the practice of advancing clocks during spring and summer to create longer evenings, has existed in Canada for more than a century. At the time it was adopted, the goal of the program was to save energy: the longer the sun stayed up, the thinking went, the less time people would spend indoors under artificial lighting.

Today, daylight saving time is deeply unpopular. Not only does it deprive Canadians of an hour of precious sleep, but it increases the risk of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks, workplace injuries, and more. Many car accident lawyers experience an increase in queries in the week following the time change.

In January, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder published a study in Current Biology on the effect of daylight saving time on road safety. It analyzed more than 730,000 accidents between 1996 and 2017 and found a six per cent spike in fatal car accidents in the week following the annual ‘spring forward.’ The spike accounted for 28 deaths per year, on average.

“Our study provides additional, rigorous evidence that the switch to daylight saving time in spring leads to negative health and safety impacts,” said senior author Celine Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology. “These effects on fatal traffic accidents are real, and these deaths can be prevented.”

Most strikingly, the researchers found that the one-week spike in fatal accidents shifted alongside a major change to daylight saving time in 2007. Prior to that year, the ‘spring forward’ occurred in early April; since then, it occurs in mid- to early-March.

“Prior to 2007, we saw the risk increase in April, and when daylight saving time moved to March, so did the increase,” said Vetter. “That gave us even more confidence that the risk increase we observe is indeed attributable to the daylight saving time switch and not something else.”

The study also shows that drivers in the western-most regions of each time zone were more likely to be affected by the change, with fatal accidents in those regions increasing by eight per cent rather than six.

The spike is caused by both environmental factors – collisions are more likely to occur in the dark – and physiological ones. As road safety experts and car accident lawyers understand, fatigue can have a significant impact on a driver’s decision-making and judgement. It can also make them less attentive to the road.

The return to standard time, or ‘fall back,’ which occurs in October or November, also presents safety risks. According to Driving.ca, personal injury accidents involving vulnerable road users increase drastically between 5pm and 8pm in the week following the time change. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) said that between 2013 and 2018, an average of 430 pedestrians were injured in the month prior to the time change and an average of 537 were injured afterward. The risk is similar in Ontario: the Ministry of Transportation reported a 19 per cent increase in injuries between 5pm and 8pm in the week following the ‘fall back.’

“This remains very similar with our 2010 to 2015 statistics, and doesn’t really seem to have changed over the years,” SAAQ spokesperson Sophie Roy told Driving.

Fatigue isn’t a factor in the accidents following the return to standard time – after all, drivers should have had an extra hour of sleep. But the suddenly dark evenings are ripe for accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, particularly because they coincide with the homeward commute.

Many car accident lawyers, road safety activists, and even average Canadians would happily abolish daylight saving time. The energy-saving rationale that originally inspired the practice makes less sense today than it did 100 years ago – most Canadian households have heating and air-conditioning systems that run more-or-less year-round. And English road safety charity Brake estimated that ditching daylight saving time could prevent 80 deaths and 200 serious injuries per year in that country.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and provide guidance and advice throughout the legal process and during your recovery.

At Will Davidson LLP, we endeavour to understand the many physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany a serious personal injury. We have worked with thousands of accident victims during our more than 90 years of practice. In that time, we have seen clients struggle with significant financial issues that strain relationships and put wellbeing in jeopardy.

For that reason, our team is proud to offer legal services on a contingency basis. Under a contingency payment structure, our team will not charge hourly fees; instead, we will accept a pre-determined percentage of your settlement at the time that it arrives. This arrangement allows clients to maintain financial flexibility during the early days of their recovery and ensures that they are never charged for services that don’t achieve desired results.

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Time Limits in Personal Injury Law

One of the first pieces of advice that a personal injury lawyer offers potential clients is to act quickly. This isn’t done to pressure clients into legal action – it’s done because personal injury lawsuits in Ontario are subject to time limits, sometimes referred to as statutes of limitations, under the province’s Limitations Act. In the following article, we’ll explain how time limits affect personal injury claims, why they are in place, and their variations and exceptions.

Time Limits in Personal Injury Law

Ontario’s Limitations Act states that ‘Unless this Act provides otherwise, a proceeding shall not be commenced in respect of a claim after the second anniversary of the day on which the claim was discovered.’

In other words, people who have been injured by the error or negligence of another person generally have two years from the time of the accident to file a claim against an insurer or the at-fault party. This rule applies to anyone that suffers immediate serious injuries, such as spinal injuries, brain injuries, paralysis, etc.

In cases where the injury is discovered later than the date of the accident, the two-year limitation period starts from the moment of discovery. When the injury initially appears to be minor but deteriorates to the point where a lawsuit is warranted, the limitation period starts at the moment it becomes clear that legal action is necessary.

Why Are Time Limits in Place?

Ontario’s two-year limitation period is predominantly in place to protect defendants. Almost every personal injury lawyer agrees that limitation periods are necessary – claims filed decades after an accident would be plagued by insufficient evidence, unreliable testimony, and other challenges.

Some lawyers believe two years is insufficient, however. The number was chosen because it was presumed to give plaintiffs and defendants enough time to hire representation, and provide lawyers with leeway to perform research, gather evidence, file paperwork, and generally build a case. However, personal injury lawsuits can be extremely complex and time-consuming. Two years sounds like a long time, but it isn’t always enough.

Variations and Exceptions

The standard two-year limitation for filing a claim isn’t the only time limit affecting Ontario injury victims. For example, victims in motor vehicle accidents must notify their accident benefits insurer within seven days that an accident as occurred; they then have just 30 days to submit an accident benefits application.

For more information about accident benefits representation, click here.

Motor vehicle accident victims also have just 120 days (three months) to notify the at-fault party or insurance provider that they intend to file a lawsuit. Doing so does not require you to pursue a claim.

Unique time limits also exist for claims against local and municipal governments. Claims against government agencies include those involving poorly maintained streets and sidewalks, icy or snowy surfaces on city property, injuries involving public transit or city maintenance vehicles, etc. In these cases, plaintiffs are required to provide written notice within 10 days of the accident. The notice must include the date, time and location of the accident, and other details.

Regarding the standard two-year limitation period, two important groups are largely exempted: minors, whose two-year limitation period begins when they turn 18, and individuals who are mentally incapable of initiating a claim.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

For more information about limitation periods in personal injury law, filing a personal injury claim, filing a claim for accident benefits, or any subject related to personal injury law, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Will Davidson LLP’s personal injury team has represented seriously injured accident victims in Ontario for over 90 years. Our expertise ranges from motor vehicle accidents to medical malpractice claims to slip and fall injuries.

Will Davidson LLP is proud to offer legal representation on a contingency basis, meaning you will not be charged hourly fees for our services. Instead, our team will accept a pre-approved percentage of your settlement at the time that it is delivered. This arrangement is beneficial for two reasons: first, it ties our payment to the success of your case; we don’t get paid unless you receive compensation. Second, it allows financial flexibility during your recovery. Serious personal injuries can have lifechanging consequences. You may no longer be able to work and may need long-term medical care, rehabilitation, and home care. You may even need to explore home renovations or long-term care options. By foregoing upfront payment, we hope to reduce financial pressure and make it possible to access the resources you and your family need.

Call today to discuss your legal options and review the viability of your claim. Our team will provide the compassionate, committed support you need during this difficult period of your life.

Quick Road Safety Fixes for Ontario Cities

Many of the road safety concerns that worried Ontario’s car accident lawyers in 2010 remain relevant at the dawn of the new decade. Speeding, dangerous driving, and impaired driving continue to contribute to serious injuries and fatalities across the province, while new concerns such as legalized marijuana and widespread distracted driving are causing additional challenges.

The safety of vulnerable road users is also an enduring issue. In fact, it may be the single most pressing road safety issue in Ontario’s cities and towns. According to data from the Toronto Police Service (TPS), 20 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed in Toronto in 2010. By 2013, those numbers had doubled. In five of the six years since, at least 40 vulnerable road users were killed in Canada’s largest city.

Toronto has a plan: Vision Zero, which has been in place since 2016 (during which time fatalities have not decreased) and which we have already discussed in this blog. But many Vision Zero action items are high level changes that seek to fundamentally reshape Toronto’s massive transportation infrastructure and reverse driver behaviours and attitudes learned over decades. Vision Zero has the ingredients to eliminate traffic deaths in Toronto, but not in the next ten years.

With that in mind, the Globe and Mail recently assembled a list of 10 road safety ideas that experts believe can be done quickly with a little help from city hall. While most Ontario car accident lawyers support Vision Zero and its ambitious safety initiatives, few would argue against these quick, outside-the-box fixes.

Here are a few of the ideas from the list:

  • Identify and memorialize victims

Toronto police do not generally name traffic accident victims in order to protect the privacy of the victims’ families. However, publicly identifying victims, with their families’ consent, could reverse the idea that traffic deaths are a fact of life of urban residents.

“If we see fatalities as statistics, which is the result of not releasing names, it’s easier to maintain that stance,” said Michael Black, who is on advocacy group Walk Toronto’s steering committee, to the Globe. “If you release the names, I think people will be more apt to say: Should part of walking be running the risk of being killed?”

The Globe’s list of ideas also includes memorializing victims with a permanent monument.

  • Improve truck safety

Large commercial vehicles account for a disproportionate number of serious injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads. While Toronto can’t unilaterally change safety standards for trucks in general, it can improve the safety of its own fleet. In Montreal, the city equipped municipal trucks with sideguards to prevent injuries to vulnerable road users; the Globe suggests Toronto do the same.

  • Traffic enforcement

Early last decade, a dedicated Toronto police traffic unit patrolled busy corridors and enforced safety laws. The unit was disbanded in 2012 and the number of traffic tickets handed out in the city hit an all-time low in 2018. The Globe’s experts believe more enforcement could help pull fatalities back to pre-2012 levels. 

“Obviously, the more enforcement, the more people are going to get caught, the more they think they’re going to get caught and they change their behaviour,” said Walk Toronto’s Brown.

In this instance, road safety advocates may get their wish. Late last year, Toronto police announced plans to reintroduce a dedicated traffic squad in 2020.

  • Easier access to traffic calming measures

Concerned residents have to jump through a lot of hoops to get traffic calming measures installed on their streets in Toronto. According to the Globe, if a group of people living on a street wants speed bumps installed, the city will send voting ballots to everyone on the block – a majority of the ballots must be returned for the motion to advance, and 60 per cent of respondents must approve in order to proceed.

A simpler process could save lives – or the city could simply change its residential street parking policies. The Globe suggests allowing both-side parking on certain streets, which is itself a traffic calming action.

For a full list of suggestions, check out the Globe’s article here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-10-quick-ideas-that-could-reduce-pedestrian-deaths-in-toronto/

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or elsewhere in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades. We will happily review your case, outline your legal options, and suggest next steps. If you choose to retain our services, our team will provide tough representation, open communication, and compassionate guidance and advice as you navigate the road to recovery.

Protecting Senior Road Users

On a Saturday in late November, Toronto police hosted a seniors-focused pedestrian safety event at Woodside Square mall in Scarborough. The session included safety tips from officers and free reflective armbands to improve visibility. It occurred just a day after two seniors were seriously injured in separate accidents elsewhere in the city.

Seniors’ safety is a major concern for Toronto’s lawmakers, road safety advocates, and personal injury lawyers. According to the city’s official Vision Zero plan, roughly 870 seniors were killed or seriously injured in accidents between 2005 and 2016. In 2019, approximately 80 per cent of pedestrian fatalities involved people 55 or older; about half were seniors. As Toronto’s population ages – roughly one in five Torontonians will be older than 55 by 2040 – this already serious issue could become a crisis.

Toronto isn’t the only region facing this challenge. Transport Canada data shows that an average of 447 senior-aged drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists died each year between 2000 and 2015 on Canadian roads. The next most vulnerable group, 25- to 34-year-olds, averaged 379 deaths per year. The data also shows that senior drivers, specifically, were the most likely to be killed since 2010; they were third, fourth, and fifth most likely from 2000 to 2007.

According to CBC News, the increase in traffic deaths involving seniors and older adults is “a troubling trend found in cities around the world,” a trend that lawmakers are struggling to address. Toronto police’s information session at Woodside Square, for example, attracted widespread ire from safety advocates and some personal injury lawyers.

“They’re out there doing something that the evidence shows us does not work and is in fact a form of victim blaming,” said Jessica Spieker of advocacy group Friends and Families for Safe Streets to CBC Toronto. “There is clear statistical evidence that driver behaviour is largely at fault along with infrastructure design. So there are the things we need to aggressively target.”

In fact, infrastructure design and actions to reduce speeding and other dangerous behaviours are central to Toronto’s Vision Zero plan. The city has invested in red light cameras, road redesigns, speed limit reductions, and is planning to introduce automated speed enforcement cameras in the near future. It also plans to improve “senior safety zones” around the city with enhanced markings and signage, longer pedestrian crossing times, and additional road design changes.

Unfortunately, the initiatives have not yet reduced collisions, serious injuries, or fatalities, and law enforcement may be getting desperate. In November, police Chief Mark Saunders announced a new eight-person traffic enforcement unit tasked with reducing dangerous driving and protecting pedestrians at high-risk locations. The Woodside Square safety session, on the other hand, appeared to shift focus from dangerous driving to dangerous walking.

“Instead of keeping on reminding drivers, we also want to help the pedestrians to raise their awareness and provide them with a simple tool that can help them,” Const. David Huang told the CBC. “If we can even reduce pedestrian collisions by one then I think it’s all worth our time.”

Mayor John Tory’s office also offered support for the initiative through a statement that read: “everyone must do their part to stop these preventable deaths and injuries, but that the primary onus rests with drivers in powerful steel vehicles.”

The Mayor’s statement mirrors what most Toronto citizens – including many personal injury lawyers – believe about road safety in their city. Reckless cyclists and pedestrians do sometimes cause serious traffic accidents, but distracted, impaired, or irresponsible drivers are more often to blame. When a vulnerable road user makes a mistake, they put themselves in danger; when a motorist makes a mistake, they endanger everyone on the road.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or anywhere else in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers has helped thousands of Ontarians access fair and reasonable compensation for the injuries they have incurred. We will evaluate your claim, explain your options and the legal process, and provide guidance and support as you navigate the difficult road to recovery.

With decades of experience in Canadian personal injury and insurance defence law, Will Davidson LLP has the experience and expertise to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the damages you have experienced. We also understand the unique mental, physical, and financial hardships that accompany a serious personal injury or long-term disability. For that reason, we are proud to work on a contingency basis, meaning you will never be asked to pay hourly or upfront legal fees. Instead, we will accept as payment a percentage of your negotiated settlement. This arrangement provides clients with the freedom and flexibility necessary to fund their recovery during the lengthy litigation process.

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