Personal Injury Lawyers Endorse Measured Embrace of New Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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What To Do If Your Child Has Been Injured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are Some Common Causes Of Childhood Injuries?

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

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

What Should I Do If My Child Is Injured?

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

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

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

Contact Will Davidson LLP

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

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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.

Ontario Government announces higher legal fees

On April 1, the Government of Ontario enacted changes to court fees and fee waiver eligibility under the Administration of Justice Act. The changes, which have already been criticized by some personal injury lawyers, are intended to bring the province closer to “full cost recovery,” the Ministry of the Attorney General told the CBC.

Legal fees in Ontario had remained stagnant in the 15 years prior to the changes. The new rates will reflect the cost of doing business today; according to the Ministry’s statement to the CBC, the provincial government recovered less than a third of its costs prior to April 1 update.

Unfortunately, many in the legal community believe the rate changes will disproportionately affect people whose ability to pay legal fees was already tenuous. Individuals who choose to represent themselves in court will be particularly stretched. One civil litigator in Ottawa told the CBC that the move “seems to be keeping people out of the courthouse.”

At Will Davidson LLP, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers believes passionately that every Ontarian deserves full access to justice. We offer free, no-obligation consultations and work on contingency to support this aim.

Legal professionals have also expressed confusion regarding the structure of the fee increases. Among the almost 80 changes enacted, increases range from a few dollars to double the pre-April 1 cost.

For example, the cost of filing a lawsuit rose just seven dollars, but advancing lawsuits through the civil court system will now be significantly more expensive. In the small claims court, the price of applying to appear before a judge has doubled, to $180; the price of setting a trial date in civil cases has also doubled, to $810; and the price of scheduling a hearing in family court is now $420. These elevated expenses may prevent some lawyers from working on a contingency basis, and may push others to delay setting trail dates.

“In Ottawa, we often don’t get a date for two or three years,” one Ottawa personal injury lawyer told the CBC. “The processes of moving toward trial is painfully slow. So getting something down for trial as soon as possible is very important because if you don’t, you may be making an injured person wait many years.”

One change that will benefit plaintiffs, however, is being made to fee waiver eligibility. Prior to this April, plaintiffs had to make less $24,000 per year to qualify for a waiver; today, plaintiffs making less than $30,000 will qualify.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how we can help. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will provide advice and guidance as you initiate your claim.

Ontario personal injury lawyers worry Law Society policy is step towards non-lawyer ownership

In September 2012, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) formed its Alternative Business Structures (ABS) Working Group to explore alternative options to permitted law and paralegal firm structures. In general, ABS’s – which are legal in England, Wales and Australia, but not Canada – allow individuals without legal licenses to own organizations that provide legal services.

Alternative Business Structures are a controversial topic among Ontario personal injury lawyers. Their proponents argue that they could lead to innovation and wider access to legal services, while their detractors believe they increase the risk of conflicts of interest and compromised confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege agreements.

In September 2017, the LSUC’s Board of Directors approved, in principle, “a policy to permit lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services through civil society organizations (CSOs), such as charities and not-for-profit organizations,” according to the Law Society Gazette. The society stated that the policy aims to improve “access to justice for individuals who may have legal issues but who have traditionally faced barriers to receiving legal advice from a lawyer.”

The move was met with criticism by some Ontario personal injury lawyers.

“It’s just simply the first step and, two years down the road, we’re going to have full non-lawyer ownership of law firms,” one injury lawyer told Law Times’ Alex Robinson. “That’s where this is headed.”

The Working Group originally intended to table the policy in June, but delayed the decision after backlash from prominent provincial legal groups, including the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA), felt unable to provide sufficient input.

Despite the criticism, the Working Group insisted that the measure would help marginalized individuals access legal aid.

“What I would say to those who take the position that one shouldn’t do a good thing because it might lead to a bad thing is that they should analyze each proposal on its own merits,” Working Group chairman Malcolm Mercer told Robinson. “It would be a shame if the profession, if it was concerned about non-lawyer ownership, would not permit charities and not-for-profits to serve needs that we all know exist.”

Whether the LSUC’s new policy eventually leads to the formation of Australian-style, publicly traded law firms remains to be seen. For now, the LSUC appears to be taking the feedback from Ontario personal injury lawyers to heart and proceeding with cautious, marginal steps along the road to ABS’s.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help you on your road to recovery.

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