How technology has impacted personal injury law

Technological change has affected industries around the world, with the field of personal injury law being no exception. From the ubiquity of social media to the rise of automated vehicles and big data, personal injury lawyers in Ontario must confront challenges and leverage opportunities that would have been unimaginable to their colleagues 20 years ago.

Benefits of new technology

 In addition to facilitating communication with clients, case research, and organization, cutting-edge technologies are also helping personal injury lawyers establish the truth of their plaintiffs’ claims. In an OTLA Blog post from 2017, contributor Michael Giordano cited an Alberta case in which data from the plaintiff’s Fitbit – a piece of wearable technology that tracks active living metrics – showed a significant reduction in activity following her accident. The data also showed that the plaintiff, previously a personal trainer, was now less active than the average woman of her age and profession. She was awarded damages for pain and suffering.

The insurance industry has also embraced new technologies to the benefit of accident victims. According to Giordano, companies like Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance and Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance are using artificial intelligence to evaluate claims, analyze documents, and calculate payouts while reducing necessary work hours.

Potential pitfalls

 The same technology that can serve plaintiffs well in some cases may also harm their credibility in others. For years, defence lawyers have used plaintiffs’ social media activity to call into question the validity of their claims. An Instagram post showing a plaintiff spending time with friends may hinder that plaintiff’s claim of loss of enjoyment of life, for example.

Questions also exist regarding the accuracy of the data mined from Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other wearable technologies. How sincerely can these metrics be trusted in a court of law? Personal injury lawyers who base their clients’ claims on the reliability of these devices may be putting their clients at risk.

As Giordano puts it in his OTLA Blog post: “The legal implications of advancing technology mean that lawyers must utilize their unique set of skills to create innovative arguments that utilize technology while simultaneously accounting for its limitations. Before we vociferously discount technology, we must be aware of the potential it has. We must embrace the benefits it produces, but also be sensitive to its ability to mislead, obfuscate, and injure.”

Contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP

 If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a consultation with an experienced Ontario personal injury lawyer. Our team can assess your claim and provide guidance as you initiate your legal journey.

Durham Region adopts public messaging in bid to improve road safety

In Durham Region, the municipality directly east of Toronto, a motor vehicle accident occurs every 48 minutes and someone is injured in a crash every five hours. Since 2012, the region has endured a 33 per cent increase in fatal collisions, with approximately 37 per cent of those collisions linked to distracted driving. For local law enforcement and every car accident lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area, the prevalence of serious accidents in Durham is cause for concern.

In response to the region’s road safety issues, Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) has launched an expansive public messaging campaign promoting education and awareness. The program underlines the dangers of impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and not wearing a seatbelt, the “Big Four Killers” on Ontario roads.

“We wanted something that would create more enduring change than just getting a ticket,” said Const. Shawn Finley, chair of the north Durham traffic committee, according to DurhamRegion.com. “When you get a ticket, that might alter your behaviour for a short period of time, say the time it takes you to think of what that ticket cost, but we wanted something to get people thinking about the controllable behaviours that contribute to the big four killers.”

The DRPS’s approach, which includes installing posters at LCBOs and grocery stores and distributing pamphlets, is a breath of fresh air to any Ontario car accident lawyer, many of whom have advocated for public messaging and education to be deployed alongside tough traffic laws.

“It’s important to educate the public so they understand texting and driving is killing people, it’s raising the possibility of an accident,” said Staff-Sgt. Colin Shaw of DRPS North Division. “We don’t want to wait for someone to have an accident before we deal with the fact that they were speeding, drinking and driving or texting and driving.”

In 2015, impaired driving caused 166 DRPS-investigated collisions leading to 22 injuries and four deaths. The Service laid more than 700 impaired driving charges that year, in addition to more than 2,700 distracted driving charges and around 2,500 speeding charges.

As new road safety challenges like distracted driving and marijuana legalization emerge across Canada, police services and lawmakers at all levels of government are turning to innovative public messaging campaigns in a bid to influence driver behaviour. The approach has proven effective in the decades-long fight against drunk driving; however, distracted driving fatality rates have yet to fall, and the impact of marijuana legalization on road safety remains to be seen.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automotive accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to speak with an experienced Oakville car accident lawyer today. Our team will provide guidance and advice as you pursue compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: Zachary77F/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Can the Province of Ontario do more to prevent dangerous driving?

A recent survey conducted by Leger Research on behalf of insurer belairdirect found that the vast, vast majority of Canadians (95 per cent) believe they are good drivers, a conclusion that might surprise Ontario personal injury lawyers. Most of the survey’s 1,551 respondents were also able to identify risky driving behaviour, including driving under the influence, distracted driving, and fatigued driving.

Paradoxically, a staggering 93 per cent of the same respondents admitted to bad driving habits including distracted driving, eating while driving, talking on a cellphone while driving, and applying makeup while driving, according to the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Clark. An additional 31 per cent admitted to running red lights, and 29 per cent to disobeying road signs.

“Show me someone who thinks they’re a good driver and I’ll show you someone who’s never seen a professional take a car around the track,” Clark writes. “If we’re being honest, most of us are pretty good drivers at best and the thing that keeps us that way is a realistic appraisal of our skills.”

When even self-described “good drivers” engage in risky behaviour, what can be done to improve road safety? Ontario personal injury lawyers understand that distracted driving activities like the ones belairdirect’s respondents admitted to cause more accidents in the province today than drunk driving.

Indeed, Queen’s Park already imposes stiff penalties on distracted drivers. A convicted individual will have their license suspended and face a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee for a total of $490, if settled out of court. If a court appearance is necessary, the fine can be as much as $1,000.

Drivers will also have three demerit points applied to their records, which allows insurance brokers to apply further monetary punishment. Some drivers could see their rates double until the points are cleared, and even those with infraction-free records are likely to experience a bump of a couple hundred dollars.

“People just don’t think about the insurance aspects of bad driving,” InsuranceHotline.com’s Anne Marie Thomas told the Globe and Mail.

While lawmakers and insurers adopt monetary penalties to prevent distracted driving, the belairdirect study reveals the possibility of a different approach: paying off drivers. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to quit at least one bad habit in exchange for a cash incentive.

While the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP don’t condone payments to dangerous drivers, the survey makes clear that distracted driving remains a serious issue in Canada, even among those who consider themselves safe, capable drivers. If the government’s existing punishments fail to improve road safety, perhaps more creative solutions are necessary.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. We can help you access compensation for your injuries.

 

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Chad Warren

Safety advocates call for harsher dangerous driving penalties

In July, 21-year-old Mitchell Irwin was handed a four-year prison sentence and concurrent six-year driving ban for killing 26-year-old cyclist Adam Excell in a 2015 hit-and-run. Excell’s family believes the sentence is too lenient, and has found support among road safety advocates and car accident lawyers.

“It doesn’t seem like justice was served today,” Excell’s cousin Ashley Ferguson told the Toronto Star following the sentencing. “If you take someone’s life while driving, I don’t think you should be able to drive. You shouldn’t have that privilege.”

Irwin’s punishment, in other words, does not fit the crime he committed. However, in her decision Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestall noted that this seemingly lenient sentence would have been considered harsh in the recent past. In this case, the defence and prosecution agreed upon the four-year sentence ‘given that Irwin pleaded guilty, showed remorse and is a young man with no criminal record,’ according to The Star.

Road safety advocates and car accident lawyers are increasingly frustrated with lax sentencing for dangerous drivers. In Toronto, upwards of 10,000 pedestrians and 5,000 cyclists were killed or seriously injured by motorists between 2008 and 2012, and many hundreds more have been killed or injured since.

“Every single death on our roads is preventable,” Cycle Toronto’s Jared Kolb told The Star. “There is an immense amount of power that comes with driving a motor vehicle … (Drivers) need to slow down, need to put their phones down, need to pay attention and drive sober. It is a huge responsibility and a privilege to be driving.”

Some advocates and car accident lawyers believe the justice system’s implicit “car bias” has done as much harm to vulnerable road users as individual dangerous drivers, and are pushing for significantly harsher penalties. Today, drivers can face up to 10 years in prison for dangerous driving causing injury, but the courts rarely hand down maximum sentences. Friends and Families for Safe Streets, an organization formed by the loved ones of victims of traffic accidents, wants motorists who recklessly kill someone to face lengthy driving bans and fines of up to $50,000. The group also wants court appearances to be mandatory for dangerous drivers, in part so they are forced to listen to victim impact statements.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca is reportedly exploring options to improve road safety in the province, including stiffer penalties. In an email to the Star, his spokesperson Alana Kiteley wrote: “It is critical that we ensure that any changes made will have a real impact on the safety for our vulnerable road users and that any action taken, including penalties, will act as a true deterrent to dangerous driving behaviours.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation and learn how we can help.

Request a free consultation

COPYRIGHT 2020 © WILL DAVIDSON LLP