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 “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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Ontario is a Global Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Concussions are a serious problem in Ontario. Between 2008 and 2016, more than a million Ontarians were diagnosed with this common form of traumatic brain injury. Children and youth make up 40 per cent of all concussion patients in the province (totalling roughly 60,000 doctor visits per year), with children under five the most likely to be affected.

The ubiquity of these injuries has put brain injury lawyers on notice. Research suggests that even mild traumatic brain injuries can have major long-term health impacts. This is especially true when they occur in children and youths: kids with brain injuries do less well in school, are more likely to receive disability benefits as adults, and are more likely to be hospitalized with psychiatric illnesses, according to the Guardian.

Ontario is a World Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Over the past several years, Ontario has established itself as a national and even global leader in concussion research and prevention. In 2018, the provincial government passed Rowan’s Law, legislation named in memory high school rugby player Rowan Stringer who died after suffering multiple concussions in quick succession. The law lays out regulations for youth sports leagues and educational institutions, and provides guidelines to help coaches and teachers recognize and prevent head injuries.

More recently, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation published a new ‘living guideline’ to help reduce childhood and youth concussions. Aimed primarily at doctors but featuring sections for coaches and parents, the Living Guideline for Diagnosing and Managing Pediatric Concussion was created over three years by a group of more than 50 physicians, nurses, diagnosticians, and rehab specialists. The resource can be accessed online by users around the world.

“We want to harmonize the messages so it doesn’t matter where you are injured, people will be getting the same messages,” said Judy Gargaro, acquired brain injury program director at the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, to the Ottawa Citizen.

The foundation’s previous guideline, published in 2014, attracted users from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand. What sets the new version apart is its dynamism – contributors will review new concussion research and make revisions and updates at least once a month. The recent surge in interest in concussions – from brain injury lawyers, the general population, and medical professionals alike – makes this a necessary feature.

“People are much more aware of concussion,” said Dr. Roger Zemek of the CHEO Research Institute to the Citizen. “My own work has shown that visits have increased four-fold in emergency rooms and family physicians offices over 10 years.”

As the healthcare industry has come to recognize the scope of the concussion problem, treatment best practices have evolved quickly. Until recently, for example, young people who suffered concussions were generally instructed to disconnect from screens, school, social activities, and sports until their symptoms cleared up. The new guideline recommends 24 to 48 hours of rest followed by a gradual reintroduction of physical activities.

“We need to consider that locking people away from their lives and all the things that make them smile may be causing some secondary harm,” said Dr. Nick Reed, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and one of the co-project leads, to the Globe and Mail.

How Can a Brain Injury Lawyer Help?

In a perfect world, Ontario’s aggressive approach to tackling concussions will reduce their prevalence and act as a blueprint for the rest of Canada. For now, though, concussions remain a major concern for brain injury lawyers, particularly as they relate to young people. If your child has suffered a brain injury in an accident, a brain injury lawyer may be able to help your family access compensation for the damages you have suffered. Not every accident causing a concussion will be grounds to launch a personal injury claim – reach out today to discuss your options.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

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 team of experienced brain injury lawyers has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades. We will happily review the specifics of your case to determine whether a personal injury claim makes sense.

Will Davidson LLP provides legal services on a contingency basis, which means you will never be asked to pay fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. In other words, rather than charging hourly fees, our team will accept a percentage of your final settlement as payment – if you do not receive a settlement, we do not get paid.

Contingency fees, along with free consultations, are part of our commitment to access to justice for all Ontarians. During our decades in practice, we have come to understand that serious personal injuries present numerous complex challenges. A long-term recovery effort takes more than a physical toll; it may also affect your mental health, family dynamics, and personal finances. Contact us today to learn more.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada

Brain Injury Awareness Month, which occurs every June in Canada, is an important event for the country’s brain injury lawyers, safety activists, and public health and safety officials. It is an opportunity to draw attention to the prevalence of brain injuries in Canada and to the serious health challenges they cause.

More than 20,000 people per year are hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries and concussions in Canada. In 2016-17 alone, hospital emergency departments diagnosed around 46,000 concussions in children and youth. Yet, despite these lofty numbers, most brain injuries are preventable. During Brain Injury Awareness Month, stakeholders aim to educate Canadians on how to avoid brain injuries in themselves and others. In 2015, for example, then-Health Minister Rona Ambrose advised Canadians to take these precautionary measures in a release:

  • Operate motor vehicles safely and without the distraction of mobile devices
  • Wear proper headgear for sports like hockey, football and biking
  • Take action to prevent falls among older adult in their homes and communities
  • Ensure playing areas are clear of hazards, and
  • Follow proper safety procedures when taking part in organized sports and other activities.

Another important aspect of Brain Injury Awareness Month is supporting organizations that research brain injuries and provide services to survivors. Some of these organizations include:

  • Parachute Canada, an organization which works to reduce preventable injuries and collaborated with the federal government on the Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport
  • The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA), which provides and disseminates information and educational tools relating to all aspects of acquired brain injury
  • The Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST), a non-profit organization supporting acquired brain injury survivors in Canada’s largest city, and
  • The Canadian Traumatic Brain Injury Research Consortium, which receives funding through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and recently embarked on a project to identify biomarkers to improve assessment of concussions in children.

As Ontario’s brain injury lawyers know, a serious brain injury can occur to anyone at any time. Traumatic brain injuries are often addressed in personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents, slip-and-falls, cycling accidents, boating accidents, and more.

If you or a member of your family have experienced a head injury as a result of an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of brain injury lawyers can help. Our group will provide the advice, guidance, and representation you need to secure compensation to fund your recovery.

Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley

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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Study establishes link between brain injuries and dementia


Every brain injury lawyer is aware of the diverse and long-lasting affects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but a study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry this April has revealed a stronger-than-ever link between TBIs and dementia. The findings could affect the amount of compensation available in future brain injury cases.

The exhaustive study examined nearly three million people in Denmark over a 36-year period. It found that individuals who suffered traumatic brain injuries had a 24 per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia than individuals who had never suffered such an injury.

The correlation was particularly strong among people who suffered TBIs in their 20s. These individuals were 63 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia by their 50s than individuals who did not suffer a TBI in their 20s.

The study also showed that a greater number of brain injuries means a greater risk of dementia.

“There was a clear pattern between the number of brain injuries a person has and their risk of dementia as well as the severity of the brain injury and their subsequent risk of dementia,” said study co-author Jesse Fann, according to Global News. Fann is a professor in the University of Washington School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences.

While the study’s findings are grim from the perspective of a brain injury lawyer or victim, experts on the subject believe it could inspire positive change in society. The clear link between brain injury and dementia may prompt governments to establish helmet and road safety laws and increase awareness of compounding risk factors like alcoholism, tobacco use, and obesity. It may also pave the way for more research.

“This is a solid research study with an impressively large cohort,” Dr. Tom Schweizr, director of St. Michael’s Hospital’s Neuroscience Research Program told Global News in an email. “This study provides compelling evidence of a link between TBI and dementia, that goes beyond typical studies focusing on professional athletes on contact sports (e.g., football), to include a broader representation of the general public.”

Individuals who have suffered a serious head injury should contact a brain injury lawyer as soon as possible. The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP can explain your legal options and help you access compensation to finance your recovery. Contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville offices today at 1-866-503-8757 to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.


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Brain injury is a Canada-wide issue

Brain injuries are an exceptionally common and unusually diverse affliction. As brain injury lawyers know, they can happen to any person of any age at any time, and vary widely in severity. The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) estimates that nearly 500,000 people in this province are currently living with a brain injury, and 18,000 new cases are added to that total every year.

A recent article from CBC News Nova Scotia highlighted both the prevalence and variety of brain injuries in Canada. It focused on Paul Marvin, who suffered successive concussions in 2010 and 2011, and was diagnosed with an acquired brain injury several years later. His biggest struggle today is with gaps in his memory.

“After the fourth time going to the bottom floor, it was so frustrating that I couldn’t remember what I was doing there,” Marvin told the CBC. “You just sort of stand there in a fog going, ‘What am I doing here?’ It was so frustrating I broke down and cried.”

Paul is one of roughly 100,000 Nova Scotians living with a brain injury, an affliction that has consumed his wife’s life as well as his own. Paige McFarlane left her job with the federal Department of Defence in order to assist her husband in day-to-day tasks. Injury victims’ family members are often forced to make significant personal sacrifices in support of their loved ones, a fact that brain injury lawyers are keenly aware of.

“I have to cue Paul, gosh, probably like three or four times an hour,” she said. “I cue him on different things depending on what’s going on throughout the day. ‘Hey honey, you’ve gotta get ready. We’ve got to get to that appointment.’ And then I have to remind him again, like, ‘Hey, c’mon downstairs and get your shoes on,’ because he has no sense of time. It’s exhausting to keep almost dragging somebody along.”

In the past, Nova Scotian politicians signaled that they understood the scope and gravity of brain injury in their province, and as recently as 2014 the provincial government had discussed the creation of a provincial brain injury strategy.

“We know we need to do more to support those with an acquired brain injury and their families,” former health minister Leo Glavine told Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly at that time. “This strategy will serve as an important road map to determine what needs to be addressed and what the outcomes we expect to see are and how we get there.”

However, plans to create a strategy to aid brain injury victims in Nova Scotia have fallen by the wayside, and the system remains roughly the same today as it was in 2014.

Brain injuries are a daily reality for families in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and around the country. If you or a loved one has suffered a blow to the head, contact Will Davidson LLP’s brain injury lawyers today to learn how our team can help you access compensation.


Image Credit: U.S. Army graphic

What is being done to address the pervasiveness of concussion in sport?

It’s no secret that concussions are pervasive in contact sports like football and hockey, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests the problem may be even more widespread than previously feared.

The study, which has caused alarm among brain injury lawyers, was conducted by researchers at Boston University. It discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head, in 99 per cent of dead NFL players’ brains. Symptoms of the disorder include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and impulse control, aggression, anxiety, depression, and in some cases suicidal behaviour.

Critically, the study’s authors emphasized that football players are not the only group at risk of developing CTE.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and one of the study’s co-authors told CNN. “We urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

Concussion prevention in Canada

Stakeholders across Canada – including concerned brain injury lawyers – are continually discussing methods of limiting concussions in young athletes. Parents in British Columbia, for instance, are debating a campaign to ban bodychecking in bantam hockey (ages 13-14), according to the CBC.

Researchers for the University of Calgary estimated that 86 per cent of minor hockey injuries, including concussions, are caused by bodychecking, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended raising the age of bodychecking explicitly to avoid concussions in younger players.

Public education

While preventative measures like raising the bodychecking age could marginally reduce concussion risk, organizations like Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to preventing injuries, are taking a broader approach. On July 28, 2017, the group released Canada-wide guidelines targeted to physicians, parents, coaches, teachers, and athletes to help diagnose, manage, and treat concussions. Like the proposed body-checking ban, keeping kids safe is a key aim.

The new Canadian Guidelines on Concussion in Sport, which you can find right here, includes an accessible definition of the injury; addresses common misconceptions around concussions; provides advice on what to do when a concussion occurs; and warns that wearing protective equipment is not a failsafe preventive measure. The guide was written to apply to all levels of athletes across the country.

“What we wanted was for the recommendations to be the same for a child playing Timbit hockey in Newfoundland to a national team soccer player in Vancouver,” Dr. Michael Ellis, co-chair of Parachute Canada’s advisory committee, told the Globe and Mail. “In this way, all Canadian sports stakeholders are on the same page about what their specific roles and responsibilities are in keeping our nation’s athletes safe.”

Contact the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP

If you have suffered a concussion or other serious head injury while participating in an organized sport, you should contact an injury lawyer right away to assess your legal situation. At Will Davidson LLP, our team of experienced brain injury lawyers can offer guidance and advice on how best to pursue compensation for the damages you have incurred.

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