Low-income kids at higher risk of being hit by cars in Ontario

A new study conducted by researchers at Sick Kids Hospital, York University, and ICES (formerly Clinical Evaluative Sciences) shows that Ontario children living in low-income areas are more likely to be struck by vehicles than children in high-income areas, a fact that may not surprise personal injury lawyers. The researchers examined emergency room data from 2008 to 2015 from hospitals across the province.

“Simply put, poorer children are at increased risk of getting hit by cars,” lead study author Dr. Linda Rothman told CTV News. “Child pedestrian injury is a public health and equality issue.”

The study uncovered some positive findings, as well: emergency room visits by children struck by vehicles fell 18 per cent during the study period, including 22 per cent for kids living in high-income areas and 14 per cent for kids living in low-income areas. Unfortunately, that translates to high-income children visiting emergency rooms at a 48 per cent lower rate.

“Although progress has been made in reducing preventable pedestrian motor vehicle collisions, more work remains to be done,” Dr. Rothman said. “Our streets should be safe for all children to walk to school, to the playground or to the park.”

The researchers attributed the stark gap in collision rates in part to infrastructure differences.

“Recent research has found differences in road safety features in high-income versus low-income areas,” the report reads. “A request-based process in many cities in relation to installing traffic safety features such as speed humps may favour communities with higher income levels.”

The solution? Close the infrastructure gap by installing traffic signals, road narrowing protocols, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures in low income districts.

The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP believe in equal access to justice for all Ontarians, which is why we provide our services on a contingency basis, meaning clients aren’t asked to pay legal fees until their case has been successfully resolved and compensation awarded. We also provide free, no-obligation consultations to accident victims in need. When you’re injured, you and your family should have access to fair and reasonable compensation, regardless of your income level.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a consultation with our experienced team of personal injury lawyers. We will provide the advice and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your legal options and your recovery process.

Image credit: Pete/Wikimedia Commons

Weather Causes Lawsuit Landslide in Windsor

An “unprecedented” number of damages claims were filed against the City of Windsor last year, with most of the increase attributable to pothole claims and slip and fall injuries. The city awarded very few payouts, however; lawsuits against municipalities are often uphill battles for plaintiffs, as any slip and fall lawyer can attest.

“When we’re assessing a claim and whether or not to pay it, we look at: were we acting reasonably, did we do everything we could have done in the circumstances,” deputy city solicitor Dana Paladino told the Windsor Star in April. Plaintiffs in these cases must prove that the municipality was negligent in its duties, a difficult claim to substantiate.

The City of Windsor received 185 claims for damages relating to potholes in 2018, up from 51 the year before. It also received 37 slip and fall claims, up from 22. The slip and fall claims were of more concern to the city: pothole damages usually range from $500 to $1,000; slip and fall damages are generally much higher.

Indeed, of the $2.5-million that the city paid to claimants last year, 37 per cent went to slip and fall victims and 29 per cent went to trip and fall victims. Just five per cent addressed property damages.

What caused the sudden surge of lawsuits? The city blames the weather.

“We’re unfortunate in that we’re probably in the worse weather zone in North America for freeze/thaw cycles,” city engineer Mark Winterton told the Star. “That’s a recipe for a pothole, numerous freeze/thaw cycles.”

Wild temperature fluctuation in February and March also caused sidewalks to become extremely slippery, which led to the uptick in slip and fall claims.

Even with extreme weather causing hazardous conditions, every slip and fall lawyer recognizes the challenges of lawsuits against municipalities. Ontario’s cities and towns are hard-pressed to maintain roads and sidewalks during the winter. High-density and high traffic neighbourhoods must be prioritized, which leads to safety risks in other areas. If a person is injured due to a slippery sidewalk in a low-priority zone, they have little legal recourse.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville Lawyers to speak with an experienced slip and fall lawyer today. Our team can assess the viability of your claim and lay out your legal options. Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.

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PTSD, chronic pain, and the hidden impacts of serious injuries

Picture a spinal injury victim. Who do you see? A person in a wheel chair? A person who can no longer use their hands or who has difficulty walking? If so, you’re not incorrect: paralysis is one possible spinal injury outcome. But many spinal injury victims experience subtler, wider-reaching impacts, as spinal injury lawyers understand.

A March 2019 BBC article chronicling a woman’s recovery from a spinal injury illustrates the many ways that a serious injury can affect a person’s life. The injury victim, University of Bristol PhD student Bethany Hickton, suffered a compressed spine and three broken vertebrae when she fell on a wet staircase.

“I slipped and fell,” Hickton explained. “I missed a few steps and landed on the bottom of a flight of marble steps on my coccyx. As soon as I hit the floor I knew something was wrong.”

Hickton’s initial care was straightforward and effective. She was issued a back brace, prescribed pain medication, and discharged from hospital within days. Despite experiencing various physical limitations, Hickton progressed well through the first stage of her recovery.

Unfortunately, as spinal injury lawyers well know, the most challenging aspects of a victim’s recovery may not emerge until months after the accident. As the initial shock of the injury wears off, victims must come to terms with a troubling new reality, which can affect mental health. PTSD, for example, can be delayed until one to six months after the traumatic event.

“People often go into a phase of what they have to do to get better and it’s not until you reflect on how near a miss it was that it may start to lead to mental health problems,” Royal College of Psychiatrists PTSD specialist Neil Greenberg told the BBC.

For Hickton, this phase began when she went off her medication and began experiencing significant pain. She had trouble sleeping, was unable to travel, had difficulty focusing and self-motivating, and began to experience panic attacks.

“Everything stopped,” she said, “and that was really what shocked me.”

Mental health challenges are sometimes overlooked when injury victims are compensated for damages. It’s easy to sympathize with a spinal injury victim in a wheelchair; chronic pain and PTSD are far more difficult to grasp for people who have not experienced them.

Hickton eventually sought help from a counsellor and was prescribed anti-depressant medication. She also uses exercise as a form of therapy, and even discovered an unlikely love of weightlifting. It may be years before she fully recovers, but she has been able to return to her studies and is working to confront lingering fears associated with her injury.

At Will Davidson LLP, we understand that serious personal injuries can have long-lasting physical, mental, and financial impacts. If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of spinal injury lawyers can help.

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Spring Safety Risks in Ontario

It’s spring in Ontario! After a long winter, it’s time to get out of the house and enjoy everything the province has to offer. As any personal injury lawyer will tell you, part of thoroughly enjoying a new season is being aware of the injury risks it presents. Spring weather may not be as dangerous as winter, but Ontarians should be careful, nonetheless.

“We’re in the middle of a transition from one season to the next,” said Kristan Hoffman, a consultant for Ontario Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), in a release last year. “We are still getting some winter hazards, starting to see some summer hazards, while managing some unique spring hazards. It’s a unique time of the year.”

Winter, spring, and summer hazards all at once? Sounds like early April. Here are a few things to keep in mind this month and for the rest of the season.

Weather

Spring is a transitional season, meaning the weather tends to oscillate between winter cold and summer warmth. The rapidly changing air temperature can cause unpredictable storm events – you might experience snow on Monday, thunderstorms on Wednesday, and clear sunny skies on Friday.

The takeaway: plan ahead. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend hiking trip or leaving for your half-hour commute to work, preparing for inclement weather reduces your risk of injury.

Water, water everywhere

Sticking with the weather theme, spring is ground zero for high-water and flooding events. There are two key contributors to this problem: melting snow and ice, and heavy rains. Drastic temperature increases cause rapid melts that swell rivers and streams. When these events are followed by thunderstorms, rivers can overflow causing significant flooding.

High-water periods can cause a variety of problems, from property damage to personal injuries. Check your weather listings and local news regularly during the spring; both should issue warnings of potential flood conditions.

Dangerous driving

Spring is a deceptively risky driving season. Sure, road conditions aren’t as bad as during the winter, but ice patches and slippery surfaces are common until late in the season, and flooding or heavy rain can be just as problematic as an Ontario blizzard.

Spring’s high-water events and freeze-thaw cycles are also tough on the roads themselves, causing potholes, cracks, and debris. Be ready for these conditions when you’re on the road.

Slip and fall

Slip and fall injuries are dangerous throughout the year, spring being no exception. As we already mentioned, ice patches and slippery surfaces aren’t exclusive to winter. Wet and muddy conditions are common in stores, public stairways and parking lots during the spring, and can cause serious injuries. Take your time and wear sensible footwear when the weather turns sour this April and May.

Contact a personal injury lawyer

If you or someone you know suffers an injury this spring, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville offices to arrange a free no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

CBC report shows poor standard of care in Ontario nursing homes

Nursing home negligence is a serious issue in Ontario, one which is unlikely to subside as the province’s population ages. Last month, CBC’s Marketplace sent an undercover journalist into a Markham, Ontario long-term care facility to record and report on the conditions there. The investigation unveiled a staff struggling to cope with its patients’ needs.

Markhaven Home for Seniors houses approximately 96 residents and is in many respects a typical Ontario long-term care facility. The CBC reports that it ranks “in the middle of the pack when it comes to the number of critical incident reports it generates for issues such as abuse, medication errors and disease outbreak.”

The facility relies heavily on volunteers, including high school students; Marketplace’s reporter gained access by volunteering there.

The reporter discovered a litany of troubling conditions: residents waiting in long lineups to use the bathroom; residents waiting to have “soiled incontinence products” removed and changed; incidents of resident-against-resident violence; emotional needs being ignored in the rush to attend to urgent physical needs.

Staff at the facility was under extraordinary strain. Single workers are on some nights left to care for up to 25 residents. Many staff are forced to skip meals and breaks as they struggle to attend to their patients.

This environment led to substandard care for many residents. The CBC spoke with Marie Harris whose 84-year-old mother, Giovanna Conforti, died at Markhaven in May 2017. On the night she died, Conforti was placed in her bed around midnight, out of reach of her call bell which was used to summon nurses when she was in distress. Conforti’s care schedule dictated that she should be checked on every four hours, but she was left alone until 7am the next day. She passed away during the night, apparently as she struggled to reach her call bell.

Harris believes the province’s staffing guidelines are partly to blame for her mother’s death

“There should be legislation that has to have more people to take care of our loved ones,” she told the CBC. “More nursing staff, more [personal support workers, or PSWs] on the floor.”

Patient advocates and personal injury lawyers specializing in nursing home negligence agree. In Alberta, provincial guidelines dictate that long-term care patients should receive 1.9 hours of one-on-one care each day. In Manitoba that number is 3.6 hours. Ontario once had an “hours of direct care” guideline but removed it in 1996. Today, the only staffing guideline for long-term care facilities is that each must have a registered nurse on duty at all hours. By this standard, staffing at the Markhaven Home for Seniors meets provincial standards.

If you or a member of your family has received sub-par care at a long-term care facility or has been the victim of nursing home negligence, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help.

 

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Should seatbelts be mandatory on school buses?

In January, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the formation of a task force to investigate the possibility of installing seatbelts on Canadian school buses. The announcement, which was cheered by safety advocates and car accident lawyers, marks a reversal of the government’s longstanding assertion that seatbelts in school buses make children less safe.

“We’re ready for this and we’re going to act as quickly as possible,” Garneau told Radio-Canada last month.

No seatbelts on school buses

The government’s anti-seatbelt policy was informed by a 1984 Transport Canada study that said seatbelts on school buses did not prevent – and may in fact cause – injuries to school children. The study was extremely influential. Its findings dictated seatbelt policies across Canada and the United States.

Why the sudden change?

More recent research produced dramatically different conclusions than the 1984 study. Today, safety experts, academics, American governmental bodies, car accident lawyers, and scientists are united in their belief that seatbelts in school buses save lives. National Safety Councils on both sides of the border have dismissed Transport Canada’s antiquated findings, as has the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board. In a 2015 speech, then-head of the US Highway Traffic Safety Administration Mark Rosekind said: “There is no question that seatbelts offer improved safety. Seatbelts [in school buses] will save the lives of children who we might otherwise lose in crashes.”

Yet it took an investigation from CBC News’s The Fifth Estate, published in October, to convince Transport Canada to change course. The investigation found that “thousands of injuries and numerous child deaths could have been prevented across Canada and in the United States in the past three decades had school buses been equipped with seatbelts.”

In December, for the first time, the ministry affirmed on its website that seatbelts “offer added protection for school-age children” when worn properly.

Next steps

The federal government can mandate that new school buses come with seatbelts, but it must work with the provinces to retrofit older buses. That’s where the task force comes in: Garneau intends to collaborate with provincial counterparts to organize and pay for upgrades.

“There are school boards that have to invest in the additional resources, so these are all things that are being looked at at the moment with the provinces,” he said.

In November, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called for mandatory school bus seatbelts in her province, and transportation ministers in Alberta and British Columbia echoed her call last month. There is optimism among safety advocates that positive change is on the way.

“I would like them to make it a priority,” said Petra McGowan, founder of Manitoba Parents for Mandatory Seatbelts, per the CBC. “It should be thoroughly uncontroversial…. There is no question that seatbelts offer improved safety.”

Contact an experienced car accident lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automotive accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of car accident lawyers can help.

 

 

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