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.

New Ontario distracted driving laws come into effect in January

In June 2018, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that distracted driving was the leading cause of traffic accidents in the province, making it as much a threat to public safety as drunk driving, drug-impaired driving, or dangerous driving. The announcement was unlikely to surprise Ontario car accident lawyers, but it may have come as a shock to the general public.

At the time, the government’s preventative efforts focused strongly on public education. The OPP and Ministry of Transportation partnered with local stakeholders to initiate awareness campaigns.

“A lot of kids follow their parents’ footsteps, so if they see their parents texting they might think it’s OK. They see their parents smoking they might think it’s OK,” said Holly Allen, a project coordinator with Kingston: Partners for a Safe Community in an interview with Global News this summer. “Trying to educate everyone is the goal, but educating parents first and foremost.”

Durham region also initiated a public messaging campaign underlining the dangers of the ‘Big Four Killers’ on Ontario roads: distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and driving without a seatbelt.

Unfortunately, education may not be enough to prevent Ontarians from driving while distracted. In a survey conducted by Desjardins, which we discussed at length in a previous blog about distracted driving, a majority of respondents suggested that only fines and higher insurance premiums would push them to reconsider their distracted driving habits.

In 2019, they will get what they asked for. As part of changes to the provincial Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, distracted driving will be punished more harshly in come January. First time offenders will face a maximum fine of $1,000, a three-day license suspension, and three demerit points; second time offenders will face a $2,000 fine, seven-day license suspension, and six demerit points; and subsequent offences will provoke up to $3,000 in fines and a 30-day suspension. In other words, Ontario will have the harshest distracted driving penalties in the country.

“Safety is our top priority,” Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek told the CBC in an email. The legislation, he added, “allows the province to address unsafe driving behaviours including careless and impaired driving with tough new rules and penalties that will improve road safety.”

While Ontario car accident lawyers are sure to support the new measures, most will caution that neither public education nor harsher penalties will reduce distracted driving on their own. The province and its municipalities must enact comprehensive distracted driving strategies to meaningfully improve road safety in Ontario.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers today to learn how we can help.

Top causes of car accidents in Ontario

Thousands of Canadians die each year in car accidents, and although the country possesses one of the world’s lower traffic fatality rates, law enforcement officers, road safety advocates and auto accident lawyers believe drivers’ safety can be much improved. The majority of car accidents are caused by some form of human error, meaning Canada’s transportation system could be made safer and more efficient if drivers chose to adhere to a series of simple safety measures.

Last summer on the WillDavidson.ca blog, we described some of the common causes of car accidents on Canadian roads. With warm weather approaching once again, it’s time for another look.

Distracted Driving

Between May 1 and May 7, 2017, York Regional Police charged almost 100 drivers with distracted driving. In April, a report presented to law enforcement in Hamilton, Ontario, showed that distracted driving contributed to almost half of fatal collisions in the area over five years.

Though cellphone use is the primary contributor to distracted driving, distraction can occur in a variety of ways, including by interacting with passengers in the car, eating while driving, or applying makeup. Regardless of cause, distracted driving is now the leading contributing factor to fatal car accidents and car accidents in general in Ontario.

Impaired Driving

Rates of impaired driving have fallen steadily over the past decades, thanks in large part to aggressive public awareness campaigns from activist groups, auto accident lawyers, and law enforcement officials. Public knowledge hasn’t eliminated the problem, however, and Canada’s drunk-driving death rate remains unusually high for wealthy countries.

As Ottawa prepares to legalize recreational marijuana, new concerns over impaired driving have emerged. Roadside tests for marijuana intoxication are inconsistent, and impairment varies greatly from person to person. How will police enforce drug-impaired driving laws when marijuana is the suspected intoxicant? Will impaired driving rates increase with legalization?

Speeding

Speeding has been a safety issue for as long as cars have been on the roads. Nearly everyone who drives exceeds the speed limit from time to time, often by mistake and sometimes because they’re in a rush.

Limits are posted for a reason, and even a modest speed increase will raise your chance of suffering a serious injury: individuals involved in collisions at 80 km/h have twice the risk of dying as those involved in 64 km/h collisions.

Weather

According to Allstate Canada’s Safe Driving Study, most Canadian car accidents occur in December, January and February, while the fewest occur in April, May and June. As auto accident lawyers know, bad-weather driving is an unfortunate reality of life in Canada.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury, however. Always check weather reports before you leave your house; make sure to equip your car with seasonal tires and emergency equipment; ensure your windshield wipers are functioning properly; and always drive according to the weather, not the speed limit.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact the auto accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team can help you advance a personal injury claim.

 

Photo credit: W. Robert Howell/Wikimedia Commons

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