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.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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.

Commercial Vehicles Involved in Numerous Fatal Accidents in Toronto

As Ontario car accident lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP keeps a close eye on road safety issues around the province, particularly in Toronto, where fatal collisions among vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) have increased alongside the city’s population. A recent accident near the intersection of Yonge St and Eglinton Ave in Midtown epitomized the issue while simultaneously shedding light on a serious but neglected problem.

According to the Toronto Star, 54-year-old Evangeline Lauroza was struck and killed by a cement truck at Yonge and Erskine Ave, three blocks north of Eglington, on September 10. Toronto’s Midtown has been a hotbed of construction for several years. There are numerous high-rise buildings under development and crews are working on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, a multi-billion-dollar public transit project. The result is chaos at street level: roads are narrowed, exits are blocked, and commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists are forced to share space with large industrial vehicles.

As of the Star’s September 12 article, nine of the 26 pedestrian fatalities in Toronto were caused by collisions involving large trucks. The article also cites analysis by University of Windsor researcher Beth-Anne Schuelke-Leech, who found that 10.6 per cent of pedestrian fatalities between 2007 and 2017 involved large trucks, despite these accidents accounting for just 4.8 per cent of collisions overall. Additionally, the research showed that 37.6 per cent of serious collisions involving trucks during that time period were fatal, compared to just 15.9 per cent involving other vehicles.

“Trucks are undeniably more dangerous to (pedestrians and cyclists) in a collision when compared to other vehicle types,” Schuelke-Leech told the Star.

Ontario car accident lawyers are familiar with the dangers posed by large vehicles, both in downtown settings and on highways. The question is: what can be done to reduce truck accidents and the fatalities associated with them.

What is Being Done to Address Truck Accidents in Toronto?

In 2017, the Government of Ontario announced that drivers must undergo more than 100 hours of safety training before being eligible for a commercial truck license. Since then, the government has also introduced a strict no tolerance policy regarding drug- and alcohol-impaired truck-driving.

The City of Toronto has been less proactive. Its ambitious – and so-far ineffective – Vision Zero road safety strategy does not specifically address risks posed by large commercial vehicles. However, the city does have certain restrictions in place.

“Heavy vehicles are prohibited on certain streets and at certain times – on some streets only during overnight and on some streets at all times,” City of Toronto spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad told the Star.

“Commercial vehicles are large, heavy, full of sight line challenges,” he added. “Any time these vehicles are operated in areas used by vulnerable road users there is a risk to safety.”

However, these rules include exemptions: if there is no other way for a commercial vehicle to access a work site, they may use roads on which they would otherwise by prohibited.

City councilors in downtown wards have called for action to reduce accidents involving large commercial vehicles. Several have asked for a hiatus on development approvals in Midtown until more effective safety measures can be established. One downtown councilor also requested that smaller vehicles be used as garbage trucks, fire trucks, and ambulances, a strategy that has already been adopted in nearby Hamilton.

What to Do if You’ve Been in a Truck Accident

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a large commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury or insurance claim. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be quite complex, not only because they result in devastating injuries but because questions around liability may arise.

For example, some commercial vehicle accidents are caused by faulty equipment or improperly secured payloads. Is the driver of the vehicle solely responsible in these cases? Is the company or organization that owns the vehicle liable? Should the manufacturer share the blame? Accidents involving city-owned vehicles can be similarly complex.

What is clear is that if you’ve been seriously injured in a truck accident through not fault of your own, you deserve compensation for the damages you have suffered. Serious personal injuries can lead to lengthy recoveries and long-term disabilities; a personal injury claim can help address financial challenges and ensure access to necessary medical and rehabilitative care.

For more information about pursuing a personal injury claim, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers will review your case and provide advice as you consider your options.

Will Davidson LLP provides personal injury representation on a contingency basis, which means we do not charge legal fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. When your compensation is secured, our team will accept a percentage of your total compensation as payment.

Court Decision Puts Ontario Accident Victims in a Tough Spot

When the Government of Ontario enacted sweeping changes to the province’s auto insurance system in 2016, it did so with the aim of reducing premiums by streamlining and simplifying the claims and pushing through broad benefits cuts. According to most Ontario car accident lawyers, the changes to benefits and shifting injury definitions in Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act, have had a negative impact on injury victims while also failing to significantly reduce premiums.

Another stipulation of Bill 15 was that responsibility for resolving accident benefits disputes between injury victims and insurers moved from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), a regulatory agency of the Ministry of Finance, to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). The change was met with skepticism by Ontario car accident lawyers, who noted that the LAT had no history of managing conflicts between insurance companies and vulnerable insureds.

The shift from the FSCO to the LAT has not been catastrophic for accident victims, but a ruling by the Superior Court of Ontario, recently upheld by the provincial Court of Appeal, may spell trouble. The case, Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, involved an allegation of bad faith against the insurer. The ruling confirmed the LAT’s jurisdiction over most bad faith cases, which limits potential awards for plaintiffs.

The Case

Fifteen-year-old Morgan Stegenga was seriously injured in a car accident in 2011. In addition to broken ribs, she suffered a head injury that affected her cognitive ability and caused personality, behavioural, and psychological changes, according to Canadian Underwriter.

Morgan’s family applied for accident benefits in 2012. Their insurer, Economical Mutual Insurance Company, failed to advise them that Morgan’s injuries may qualify as catastrophically impairment. It also failed, according to Law Times, to ‘investigate Stegenga’s condition, have her medically assessed, assign a case manager for her care and rehabilitation or respond to their requests for authorization of a neurologic psychoeducational assessment.’ The Stegenga family opted to sue, alleging that the insurer had breached its duty of good faith.

The Decisions

Ontario’s Insurance Act states that the LAT is responsible for “the resolution of disputes in respect of an insured person’s entitlement to statutory accident benefits or in respect of the amount of statutory accident benefits to which an insured person is entitled.” Superior Court Justice James Ramsay decided that Stegenga’s claim fell into this category and dismissed it.

In its appeal, the Stegenga family argued that the insurer’s duty to act in good faith was separate from its duty to provide benefits and could thus be addressed in court. Court of Appeal Justice Benjamin Zarnett disagreed and upheld the Superior Court’s decision. He cited lawmakers’ intent in his explanation.

“The legislature made a choice as to what disputes would be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the LAT, and what remedial powers the LAT would have. That was a policy choice it was entitled to make,” Justice Zarnett wrote. “The Insurance Act and its regulations form a comprehensive scheme for the regulation of insurers and insurance. The legislature must be taken to have armed the LAT with the remedial powers it considered appropriate to deal with improper insurer behaviour, knowing those remedial powers were different from the court’s.”

The Implications

The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company will prevent accident victims from seeking damages outside the LAT from insurers acting in bad faith.

“This was an attempt by the personal injury plaintiff’s lawyers to try to preserve that bad faith cause of action and pursue it in court,” one lawyer told Law Times. “This just firmly shuts the door on the potential to recover for bad faith in a standalone action.”

It also limits the amount of compensation available to plaintiffs. In cases of bad faith, the LAT can make a special award of up to 50 per cent of the benefits that the injury is owed and can order the insurer to pay a higher interest rate, per Canadian Underwriter. But this is “much lower than the potential risk for a bad faith claim,” the lawyer who spoke to Law Times said.

Will the reduced maximum penalty for bad faith actions embolden insurance companies to act unethically? That is certainly a concern for many Ontario car accident lawyers. However, it is still far too early to know how the Stegenga v. Economical decision will affect insurer behaviour moving forward.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are considering claiming accident benefits, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of Ontario car accident lawyers can help. We will be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and offer advice on how best to proceed. Contact us today for more information.

Dashcam Footage in Personal Injury Claims

Every year, hundreds of people are killed and tens of thousands are injured in car accidents in Canada. The impact of these accidents extends far beyond the people who are directly involved: families, friends, coworkers, and more are also affected. This far-reaching impact is why it’s so important for accident victims to work with an experienced car accident lawyer. If, for example, the person injured in the accident is the sole breadwinner for a family of four and is no longer able to work full-time, a car accident lawyer can help negotiate compensation that addresses the needs of the entire family.

But securing compensation isn’t as simple as submitting a list of expenses to an insurance company and waiting for a check to be delivered. Your car accident lawyer must establish who is liable for the accident, whether the accident was the cause of your injuries, and how much compensation is owed for those injuries.

Dashboard Cameras

Recently, dashboard cameras have become popular among the Canadian general public, with support from insurance providers, law enforcement, and personal injury lawyers. Often, they are adopted by people who have been involved in, or know someone who has been involved in, a traffic accident or insurance dispute.

Dashboard cameras are considered a reliable third-party witness in disputes over motor vehicle accidents, meaning they can help your car accident lawyer establish liability in a crash and, in some cases, prove causation of injuries. There are no privacy issues associated with dashcam footage, because roads are considered public places in Canada. As such, the footage is generally admissible in court. High-end cameras also record GPS positioning and speed, which can support liability claims.

Insurance providers favour dashboard cameras because they simplify the process of proving liability and reduce insurance fraud. In fact, some providers have considered offering discounts to drivers who use dashcams. Still, some members of both the insurance and personal injury fields believe the technology has flaws, not least of which is the risk of distraction.

“Dashcams may, like GPS devices, be a distraction if they’re not properly used,” said Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada director of consumer and industry relations for Ontario, told the Canadian Press. “On the other side of the coin, if someone is involved in a crash or they witness something, the good thing about having dashcam video is it really is an impartial and unbiased witness to the events.”

It is also worth noting that although dashcam footage is admissible in general, it is unlikely to be accepted if it has been edited, cut, or manipulated in any way. From the moment of your accident, you should be careful to preserve it intact.

Even in cases where a car accident lawyer is not involved – hit and runs involving another vehicle, theft, vandalism, etc. – dashcam footage can help law enforcement identify suspects and make arrests.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

With the help of your dashcam footage, a car accident lawyer can identify the parties who are liable for your injury and pursue compensation to cover the cost of your recovery. As mentioned above, car accident injuries can be extremely serious. Recovery can involve months of medical care, rehabilitation, and therapy, as well as extended and perhaps permanent attendant care. In some cases, home renovations and mobility equipment may also be necessary.

These costs can add up quickly. Accident benefits obtained through your insurance provider can address some expenses, but it may be necessary to pursue additional compensation through a civil claim against the individuals who are responsible for your injuries. Dashcam footage, in addition to evidence collected at the scene of the accident, witness testimonies, police and medical reports and more, is essential to proving liability in your personal injury claim. An experienced car accident lawyer can review this evidence and offer advice on how to proceed.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a serious accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team will assess the viability of your claim and provide guidance as you consider your legal options.

Will Davidson LLP has represented seriously injured Ontarians for several decades. During that time, we have come to understand the serious mental, physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany a traumatic injury. Although we know that no amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering you have experienced, we also understand that financial compensation can relieve some of the pressures associated with your recovery. For that reason, in addition to free consultations, we are proud to offer our services on a contingency basis, which means you will not be asked to pay legal fees until your claim has been successfully settled. If we cannot secure compensation, we will not accept payment.

Do Canadians Need In-Car Speed-Limiting Technology?

Technology is a mixed blessing on Canadian roads. On one hand, cutting-edge safety features like lane-keeping and automatic braking reduce injuries and accidents. On the other, smartphones and in-car navigation and entertainment systems cause distraction, which, as any car accident lawyer can attest, is a major safety hazard.

Now, the European Union is doubling down on in-car safety technology. It recently announced that intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems, or speed limiters, must be added to new vehicles from 2022. The United Kingdom will follow suit, regardless of Brexit.

ISAs use GPS technology or smart camera software to identify speed limits wherever the vehicle is travelling. When the vehicle exceeds the posted speed limit, the technology limits engine power to reduce speed.

The European Transport Safety Council is bullish on the technology. It believes speed limiters are the single most effective driver assistance systems on the market, and estimates that mass adoption could reduce collision by 30 per cent and traffic deaths by 20 per cent.

Some members of the public, including more than one car accident lawyer, are less optimistic. There are concerns that the technology isn’t ready for adoption: what would happen, for example, if a vehicle’s GPS system indicated one speed limit while its camera system read another? A second issue is personal freedom. Should centralized governments control precisely how fast citizens drive?

While automobile manufacturers will be compelled to include speed limiters in new vehicles after 2022, drivers will be able to decide whether to use them. The EU and UK governments want drivers to see the technology as a helpful tool, not an imposition on their autonomy.

“One issue is acceptance. We don’t want to be turning off public support.” Professor Oliver Carsten of Leeds University’s Institute for Transport Studies told the BBC. “The other issue is unreliability – what happens if the car accidently picks up a limit that’s much too low, on a fast road? It could be a serious safety issue.”

There has been no talk in Canada about following the leads of the United Kingdom and European Union, but as automotive technology becomes more sophisticated, Canadian road safety activists will become more likely to promote it.

In the meantime, Will Davidson LLP can offer access to compensation or accident benefits when you’ve been involved in an automotive accident. Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer.

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

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