How Do Trial Delays Hurt Personal Injury Victims?

In October 2019, Waldock v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, which was initially a dispute between plaintiff Thomas Waldock and his insurance provider over the severity of his injuries, was resolved by an Ontario divisional court panel. Through appeals and reviews, the case was heard by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), the Director’s Delegate, and the Superior Court. It took more than 10 years from the time of his accident in March 2008 for Waldock and his personal injury lawyer to be awarded compensation – unless, of course, State Farm decides to appeal the divisional court ruling.

Unfortunately, years- and even decade-long personal injury and insurance dispute cases are no longer unusual in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, as a recent Canadian Lawyer article makes clear. In Waldock v. State Farm, the insurance provider’s decision to file numerous motions and appeals caused the bulk of the delay, but defendants aren’t always to blame.

What Causes Trial Delays?

According to the plaintiff and defence side lawyers interviewed for the Canadian Lawyer article, are a range of structural issues cause trial delays in Canada. In Alberta, parties must complete expert reports, certify that they’ve attempted alternative dispute resolution processes, and demonstrate that they’ve completed questioning before a trial date can even be scheduled.

“You’ve got about two years – on a large case – of taking all those preliminary steps and getting everything in order,” one insurance defence lawyer in Alberta told Canadian Lawyer. “And then [there’s] another two-year wait for the date itself.”

“Judges want to know you’ve done all your work and you’re very serious and you’ve been forced to think through all the issues before using judicial resources, because those are really short in Alberta,” the lawyer added.

Mandatory mediation is also an issue in Ontario, according to one personal injury lawyer. Prior to recent changes, parties in personal injury cases or insurance disputes could schedule a trial date as long as a mediation date was also set. Now, the mediation must be complete before a trial date is approved.

“That delays the whole process by a number of years. … I’m finding that very, very frustrating,” the personal injury lawyer told Canadian Lawyer. “It’s just adding another year to the process.”

In contrast, British Columbia has no restrictions on trial scheduling, meaning fewer trial delays.

“You can get a trial date right away if you want,” a personal injury defence lawyer practicing in B.C. told Canadian Lawyer. “I really haven’t had any issues with trial delays. I think we have overall a very reasonable system. Two years is a pretty reasonable time frame for trials, and we seem to get those dates relatively easily.”

Further delaying matters is the fact that criminal and family law cases take precedence over personal injury claims and insurance disputes.

The parties’ actions can also have an effect, as in Waldock v. State Farm. One civil litigator who spoke with Canadian Lawyer said civil disputes now involve more numerous and extensive reports; plaintiffs will often submit economic loss, future care, and vocational reports, while the defence side prioritizes lengthy examinations for discovery, medical examinations, and other processes.

Who is Affected by Trial Delays?

Personal injury lawyers tend to blame powerful defendants like insurance providers and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) for trial delays. They claim that organizations with deep pockets prefer to ‘wait out’ plaintiffs with limited resources, forcing them to accept less compensation than they deserve. But most insurance providers prefer swift resolutions to legal disputes – years of litigation involving lawyers and expert witnesses is extremely costly.

Plaintiff side lawyers are also hurt by years of slow-moving litigation. When a case drags on for months or years longer than expected, clients have a tendency to second-guess their lawyer’s expertise.

“That might seem reasonable to a lawyer that’s practiced in the area of 10,20, 30 years,” one personal injury lawyer told Canadian Lawyer. “But it’s a long time for my clients that don’t understand the process. And a lot of times they’re concerned that the lawyers are dragging their heels.”

Plaintiffs are acutely affected by trial delays. Recovery from a serious personal injury can be costly, especially if the victim is unable to work. Between rehabilitation, medication, home and attendant care, home renovations, and other expenses, many injury victims struggle to keep their heads above water financially. Every trial delay, every appeal and motion, puts fair and reasonable compensation further out of reach.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in an accident or are engaged in a dispute with your insurer, contact Will Davidson LLP to speak with an Ontario personal injury lawyer. Our experienced team will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and describe what to expect from a civil claim. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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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.

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.

Should Roll Bars be Mandatory on ATVs?

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are a prevalent issue across Canada. Each year, dozens of riders die and thousands are hospitalized (more than 2,800 in 2017) in single- and multi-vehicle crashes. Despite how common these accidents have become, little is being done to improve safety on Canadian trails, much to the frustration of Ontario ATV accident lawyers.

One common sense move would be to mandate roll bars, sometimes known as crush-protection or operator-protection devices, in new vehicles. Australia is considering doing so, which has prompted manufacturers Honda and Yamaha to threaten withdrawal from the country. The effectiveness of roll bars has not been proven, the manufacturers say, and may even make accidents worse.

But other experts, including some ATV accident lawyers, disagree. ATVs’ high centre of gravity and narrow wheelbase make them inherently unstable, and their weight – between 200 and 400 kilograms – puts riders at risk of broken necks or being pinned beneath their vehicle.

“All of a sudden, you’re in a situation that you can’t correct,” said Don Voaklander, director of the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre, to CBC British Columbia. “That’s when you want a crush-protective structure to prevent that machine from rolling on you.”

David Sullivan, an Australian now living in British Columbia, manufactures roll bars for ATVs. He agrees that they save lives.

“This is absolutely a no-brainer,” he told the CBC. “It will prevent families from experiencing grief.”

However, many ATV riders and riders’ associations don’t want to be forced to drive ATVs with roll bars. They believe, correctly, that most ATV injuries and deaths are caused by human error.

“If a person rides within the limits of the machine, you shouldn’t have a problem,” said Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C. president Ralph Matthews. He believes roll bars should be “a personal choice.”

Dangerous behaviour like drinking and driving, speeding, and reckless driving cause the vast majority of serious ATV accidents. While roll bars won’t stop riders from engaging in these behaviours, they might protect them from death or serious injury when accidents occur. With riders unlikely to embrace roll bars willingly, it may be up to lawmakers and manufacturers to insist on them.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an off-roading accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville office to arrange a free consultation. Our team of experienced ATV accident lawyers can assess the viability of your claim and help you understand your legal options.

How Safe are Higher Speed Limits?

In May, Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek announced plans to review speed limits on provincial highways. Later in the month, the Conservative Government previewed plans to test a 110 km/h limit on three sections of 400-series highways. The announcements provoked mixed reactions from stakeholders, some who believe higher speed limits make perfect sense and others, including car accident lawyers, who fear they will lead to increased injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads.

Proponents of the plan often look to the United States for examples of successfully implemented higher speed limits. In 1995, Congress repealed a federal law capping speed limits at 65 mph (105 km/h) nationwide, allowing the states to set their own maximum speed limits.

Today, maximum speed limits vary widely state-to-state. According to the Globe and Mail, 22 have maximum speed limits of 70 mph (112 km/h); 12 have maximum limits of 75 mph (121 km/h); and seven – Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming – have maximum limits of 80 mph (129 km/h). In Texas, there is even a 41-mile stretch of highway with a mind-bending 85 mph (137 km/h) limit.

Like their southern cousins, Canadian provinces are able to set their own maximum speed limits. Ontario would join Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia by raising its maximum limit to 110 km/h. Only British Columbia’s is higher at 120 km/h on select roads.

Of course, the question for car accident lawyers is not whether Ontario should be able to raise its maximum speed limits, but whether it would be safe to do so. Evidence from the United States suggests not.

Chief researcher for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) Chuck Farmer has studied the effects of higher speed limits on road safety extensively. Per the Globe, he believes increased speed limits have caused roughly 37,000 deaths in the United States since 1993. By looking at annual traffic fatalities per mile travelled in states that increased speed limits and factoring out other road safety factors like seatbelt usage, Farmer was able to calculate an 8 per cent increase in fatality rate for every 5 mph added to the speed limit on Interstates and freeways.

Less nuanced numbers provided by the World Health Organization offer similar conclusions. The United States experienced 11.6 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2016; Canada experienced just 5.8. In 2017, 1,841 people died on Canadian roads; 37,133 died in the United States. Closer to home, British Columbia was forced to roll back its 120 km/h speed limits on several routes when accidents more than doubled.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers can provide guidance as you consider a personal injury claim.

Image credit: Bobby H./Wikimedia Commons

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley

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.

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Ontario Aims to Restore $2M Accident Benefits Limit

Personal injury lawyers across Ontario cried foul in 2016 when accident benefits available to catastrophically injured patients were slashed from $2-million to $1-million. The latest provincial budget, released April 11, pledges a “return to the default benefit limit of $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident.” Stakeholders have embraced the announcement, but maintain concerns regarding accident victims’ future wellbeing.

“I think the $2 million restoration would be applauded by most people who practice in personal injury law,” Federation of Ontario Law Associations chairman Mike Winward told Law Times. “Just about anybody who has had a catastrophic case since the limit went down would tell you it’s not sufficient. The $2 million impacts, in the most positive way, the people who have the most serious injuries in car accidents. It impacts them tremendously. The impact to the lawyers is, it certainly allows us to serve our clients better because we have far more funding to get the services and goods that they need.”

For individuals with serious, life-changing brain or spinal cord injuries, the $1-million accident benefits limit that has prevailed since June 2016 often proved woefully insufficient. When an injury victim requires home renovations, attendant care, prolonged medical therapy, and other services, $1-million can be exhausted quickly.

However, personal injury lawyers will have to learn more about the Progressive Conservative government’s policies before fully celebrating the new budget. For example, will the province restore the pre-2016 definition of a catastrophic injury, which was dramatically narrowed under the previous government? And will the $2-million in benefits once again be delivered in separate, $1-million parcels?

The provincial budget also announced a review of contingency fees, stating that the government will “work with the Law Society of Ontario to make contingency fee agreements more transparent for injured claimants who choose to hire a lawyer.”

Increased transparency is in every client and personal injury lawyer’s best interest; however, contingency fees are crucial to ensuring access to justice for Ontarians, and law firms will want assurance that they can continue to offer these agreements.

If you or a member of your family has been catastrophically injured in an accident, the Ontario Government’s recent budget should be met with relief. The restoration of the $2-million default benefits limit could mean the difference between a full, successful recovery and one which is stunted by insufficient funding.

For more information about how Will Davidson LLP can help, contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers will help you understand your legal options and provide guidance as you pursue compensation.

When are employers responsible for the actions of holiday party-goers?

Office holiday parties, in addition to being the highlight of many employees’ years, occupy a legal grey area in the Canadian civil justice system. When an attendee causes or suffers a serious injury, personal injury lawyers are challenged to discern who precisely is responsible.

If the office party is held at a staff member’s home, rules surrounding social host liability will apply. If the event occurs at a licensed establishment, we may look at commercial host liability. If the injuries relate to an improperly maintained property, the Occupiers’ Liability Act is likely to hold answers. Injuries related to authorized marijuana or alcohol consumption on a business’s premises, however, are not governed by these areas.

As we discussed in our recent blog on social host liability, the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada case Childs v. Desmoreaux states that “a social host at a party where alcohol is served is not under a duty of care to members of the public who may be injured by a guest’s actions, unless the host’s conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk.” Commercial hosts, as all Oakville personal injury lawyers know, are bound by a long history of case law to take positive steps to prevent their patrons from drinking and driving.

Because businesses owe their employees a certain duty of care, employer host liability falls somewhere between social host liability and commercial host liability. It is most likely to be applied in situations where an employer provides marijuana or alcohol to staff, is aware of an employee’s intoxication, and fails to take sufficient steps to prevent the employee from driving.

The 2002 case Hunt v. Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc. dealt with approximately this scenario. Hunt attended and consumed alcohol at an office holiday party at her employer’s premises. Her drinking was unrestricted and unmonitored. Following the party, she drove to a pub where she continued to consume alcohol. On her drive home from the pub, Hunt crossed into oncoming traffic and was seriously injured in an accident. It was determined at trial that Hunt’s employer breached its duty of care to maintain a safe workplace.

“…the defendant Sutton, as the plaintiff’s employer, did therefore owe a duty to the plaintiff, as its employee to safeguard her from harm,” the trial judge wrote. “This duty to safeguard her from harm extended beyond the simple duty while she was on his premises. It extended to a duty to make sure that she would not enter into such a state of intoxication while on his premises and on duty so as to interfere with her ability to safely drive home afterwards.”

Hunt’s employer and the pub where she continued drinking were determined to be jointly 25 per cent responsible for Hunt’s injuries.

Another case that personal injury lawyers may know, Jacobsen v. Nike Canada Ltd., returned a similar verdict. Jacobsen was severely injured in a single-car accident after drinking beer provided by the employer. In this case, too, the plaintiff visited a bar en route home; Nike Canada was still found 75 per cent liable for the injuries.

Avoid liability, reduce injury risk

 For businesses, the most effective means of avoiding employer host liability are also common-sense measures to reduce the likelihood of drunk driving injuries. For example: cap intake at two or three drinks; hire professional bartenders to serve alcoholic beverages; provide non-alcoholic options and plenty of food; offer taxi vouchers or Uber rides; and stridently promote responsible drinking at your staff parties.

With marijuana now legal in Canada, it is likely that employer host liability cases relating to marijuana intoxication will materialize in coming years. The courts will likely refer to Childs, Hunt, and Jacobsen to determine liability and compensation in these cases, meaning employer host liability will continue to lie between social host and commercial host liability for injuries relating to marijuana intoxication.

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of impaired driving, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help.

 

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Why SUVs are Becoming the Focal Point of Pedestrian Safety

Ontario has seen a significant rise in car accidents resulting in a personal injury or death – particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Transport road safety report lists 50,032 passenger car collisions causing fatalities and personal injuries in the province. In a missed opportunity, the report does not distinguish between cars and trucks; but, if it did, SUVs and pick-up trucks would likely be the worst offenders.

“Everyone is responsible for avoiding collisions”, says the MTO’s Drivers handbook. It means drivers of large vehicles have a greater responsibility to be able to drive their vehicle safely. By reason of their sheer size and weight, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks are significantly more difficult to manoeuvre than lighter vehicles.

Whether a pedestrian, a (motor) cyclist or even someone in a smaller or lower car, the injuries sustained in a collision with large vehicles are significantly worse. It means a driver behind the wheel of an SUV or pick-up truck has a greater duty of care: that they must be cognizant of the dimensions and performance of their vehicle.

Studies continue to show that car accidents involving a larger vehicle have a higher chance of resulting in serious or fatal injuries. For every additional 450 kilograms on the weight of a car, it becomes 40 per cent more likely to turn an otherwise survivable crash into a fatal collision.

And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes in a recent report an 81 percent spike in pedestrian deaths caused by an SUV between 2009 and 2016.

The additional mass of an SUV is not the sole reason for the increased severity of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists and even occupants of other cars, it is their frontal geometry too. The much higher hood and radiator structures mean that greater risk of injury to the thoracic and abdominal core of the body.

It is worse for occupants in standard height cars too. The high crash structure of SUVs and their tendency to ‘ride over’ means drivers of smaller vehicles are four times more likely to die in the collision, found a study by the University of Buffalo.

For many city dwellers who get around by bicycle, on foot or simply driving a smaller car, this evidence poses a serious threat. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, reach out to a car accident lawyer at Will Davidson LLP. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers has tremendous experience investigating car accidents, particularly those which involve large vehicles. We will assess your accident, give you advice about compensation and help you determine how best to take your claim forward.

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