COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

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BRR!

It’s cold in out here
There must be a slip and fall
In the atmosphere

BRR!

It’s cold out here
There must be some slippy ice
In the atmosphere

Snow and Ice? Bring it on!

Snow and ice isn’t going to stop you from living your life. But, it can sure making getting around much harder, and more treacherous. We’ve seen some serious cold snaps and snow fall throughout Ontario. This has resulted in slipper winter weather conditions for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

The focus of this edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog will be what personal injury lawyers, insurers and Courts look for when assessing the merits and the value of a slip and call case in Ontario.

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The CBC Reported last month that nearly 58 pedestrians died as a result of car accidents on Toronto’s streets last year; with another 183 more reported as being seriously injured.

This is an alarming statistic given that 2021 was a year that saw rolling lockdowns due to the COVID-19 Pandemic resulting in fewer motorists on the road. Fewer drivers on the road resulted in fewer car accident claims. This trend was reported across Canada and in the United States where insurers saw large windfall profits on auto related insurance products. The savings have not been passed along to the consumer in the form of reduced car insurance premiums, but that’s a story for another edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog.

The City of Toronto has implemented a bold Vision Zero pledge to reduce the number of auto-pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries down to Zero. It’s a great goal, but since the Vision Zero program was announced, those fatality and serious injury cases to pedestrians have continued to steadily creep up.

Why is that?

Is the City not trying hard enough?

Are Toronto and GTA drivers simply the worst in the free world incapable of hitting pedestrians while driving?

Does it have something to do with the way Toronto’s streets are designed?

What can possibly explain why pedestrian fatality cases are so high in Toronto and the GTA?

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Marshall McCluhan coined the term “the medium is the message“.

This means in plain terms, without introducing a PHD thesis on the issue, that chosen method of communication to broadcast a message has a significant impact on how the message is received and understood. It’s almost to say that the way that the message is communicated (print, tweet, TV broadcast, radio), is just as important as the content of the message itself.

This notion that “the medium is the message” is very important when considering the impact which COVID-19 has played on our Courts and how personal injury claims are being litigated today.

This first struck me in the early days of COVID, after my first virtual discovery and my first virtual mediation. I had not done a virtual discovery, or a virtual mediation prior to COVID. Virtual proceedings were the exception and not the rule. It was expected that lawyers and their clients would meet in person for these earmark events in a personal injury case. Sometimes, an insurance adjuster would not be able to attend in person. They would be available over the phone. This was frowned upon because everyone was expected to be there; particularly for a mediation. But sometimes unfortunate life events would happen which prevented an in person attendance. We would proceed nonetheless and hope for the best.

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This edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog is coming out a bit early because I have the time to write now before I have to start homeschooling my children given the recent announced lockdown measures in Ontario. It’s rather difficult being a lawyer and educator for your young children at the same time. There’s a reason why kids go to school and aren’t taught at home by their parents who have full time careers.

I don’t need to tell you that Ontario is all messed up right now. Just tune into the news and it’s all doom, gloom, lockdowns and restrictions. It’s enough to make one cringe.

I’m just a personal injury lawyer, so it’s not my lane to comment on the health and safety of Ontario’s population. But what I can tell you is that I’m an optimist and I strongly believe that we will get through this. There is light at the end of the tunnel. This is the storm before the calm. If were were able to get through the Black Plague and Spanish Flu with nothing more than rubbing alcohol, spoonfuls of castor oil, other whacky home remedies and bandanas for face coverings; I think we will be able to get through COVID and all of its variations. What scientific belief is all of this optimism founded upon you ask? NONE! Just the fighting spirit of humankind and a positive belief that we all want the same thing which is for our health, happiness and our basic human freedoms.

A topic that is within my education, training and expertise is the area of personal injury law. This is the field of law I’ve been practicing in for basically my entire legal career.

Ontario has a really complicated system of car insurance. Each car accident case has two cases. The first case is a no fault accident benefit case with your own car insurer. Regardless of fault, the first claim is with your OWN CAR INSURER for accident benefits. These accident benefits cover such things as med/rehab benefits for physio, massage, chiropractic care, psychological counselling and anything else under the sun not covered by OHIP for your wellness and rehabilitation which is deemed to be both reasonable and necessary. Accident benefits also cover an income replacement benefit which under a standard policy of insurance is up to $400/week; and non-earner benefits for those unemployed or retired people of up to $185/week for up to two years; along with an attendant care benefit of up to $3,000/month for non catatrophic claims; which is then increased to up to $6,000/month for catastrophic claims.

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Not every case is perfect. That’s the reality of the law. Each case has its strengths, and weaknesses. Each case has its own unique set of warts so to say.

Some of these weaknesses can be avoided. Some of these warts can be treated.

As personal injury lawyers, we see clients make mistakes all the time; and that’s ok. Nobody is perfect. But the reality is that many mistakes can be avoided if people understand how the law works; and has a grasp of the consequences of their own actions; or lack thereof.

So without further a due, we will examine the top mistakes which personal injury clients conduct in the course of their accident and long term disability cases. It’s our hope that by understanding some of these mistakes, that personal injury claimants will prevent them from happening to strengthen their claims so they can get the compensation which they deserve.

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Recently I watched the Netflix Docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. It was a disturbing watch which made me feel a lot of emotions. Anger, shock, sadness, grief, rage, and some more anger to name a few emotions.

It was an interesting watch which I highly recommend it. I certainly understand if it’s not up someone’s alley because it deals with very sensitive and disturbing matters. But these are the sort of things which personal injury lawyers who deal with sexual assault, sexual abuse and trafficking claims see regularly.

If you aren’t familiar with the Jeffrey Epstein cases, his history, his wealth, power and influence, I recommend that you do your own research; or watch the docuseries.

A few notes from the series which are important for people to understand and victims of sexual abuse with potential claims to understand.

  1. It’s really hard for victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse and human trafficking to confront their accuser and report what they’ve been through to the authorities. It takes a lot of strength, courage and confidence to do so. And just because a victim does step forward, does not necessary mean that s/he will be believed, or that the authorities will take the complaint seriously. In the Docuseries, we saw a first two survivor sisters who reported Mr. Epstein to the FBI early on after a series of alleged sexual assaults on his New Mexico ranch. It would appear that the FBI did not do very much with these accusations until years later when more victims stepped forward. In that period of time, Mr. Epstein was left unchecked. Had the authorities properly investigated the allegations, his behaviours may have been curtailed much earlier on.
  2. There is power in numbers. Many victims of Mr. Epstein stepped forward to share their stories with authorities after word got out that he was being investigated. This helped the authorities build their case against Mr. Epstein, and gave the survivors confidence that they were not alone in this. It appeared that they did not have as much confidence to step forward beforehand given Mr. Epstein’s wealth, power and influence.

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It’s amazing to me how many people don’t know what to do after they’ve been involved in a car accident in Ontario.

Before you call a personal injury lawyer and we get into all the legal mumbo jumbo; there are a few basic and common sense steps which you will need to take to lay the foundation of a case.

  1. Report the accident to the Police.
  2. Get the medical attention you need.
  3. Steps #1 and #2 are so easy and can be taken care of by way of one single call to 911. The 911 operator can dispatch police, ambulance and the fire department if necessary.
  4. If the police won’t attend at the accident scene, then attend your local collision reporting centre
  5. If the ambulance doesn’t attend at the scene because you have refused it; then seek medical attention at your local emergency department, walk in clinic or family doctor.
  6. Get the name, contact information and insurance information of the other driver. Don’t let the other drive leave the scene without getting that information.

There is a very strong chance that your personal injury case will fail if you don’t report the accident to the police or don’t get medical attention for your injuries.

A Court will NOT accept your evidence that you were in pain if you don’t seek out medical attention. Your pain needs to be documented. Seeing a doctor and getting medical attention is the way to best document your pain for your personal injury case. The Court will draw a NEGATIVE inference by your failure to seek out prompt and regular medical attention. The Court will draw the conclusion that you are NOT injured; or your injuries are NOT serious because you have not sought out medical attention for your injuries. They will draw the inference that your injuries are either NOT serious or simply a fabrication so that you can claim compensation.

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When most people think about lawyers, they think about fancy offices, fancy suits, and very expensive hourly rates. It can all be very intimidating.

When I first started practicing law, I worked in the downtown Toronto core on Bay Street. Bay Street is synonymous with big banks, big finance and the big law firms which represent those large institutions.

What was really odd was that the law firm I used to practice act acted for neither the large banks, or large commercial entities. We acted for seriously injured and disabled people; many of whom did not live in the City of Toronto and if they did rarely ventured into the downtown core. Having our clients come into the office was a chore. They were scared of venturing to downtown Toronto; even if it was to meet with their own personal injury lawyer.

The law firm was accessible on the subway or streetcar, but there was no easily accessible parking which didn’t require a 5+ minute walk through an underground maze (The Path System). And once you got off the TTC, people often got lost. Navagating the elevator bank was also an experience in and of itself. Odd floors servicing certain levels on one side; even floors servicing other levels on another side. If you weren’t there everyday, or weren’t familiar with all of the commotion; it was an intimidating and scary sight.

Keep in mind that the bulk of our law firm’s work at that time was devoted to Plaintiff side personal injury law. Our clients had very real and very visible disabilities (wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, casts) or invisible disabilities (anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, chronic pain). Things weren’t easy for our clients simply getting to our law firm and that didn’t sit right with me. Seeing your own personal injury lawyer shouldn’t be a chore or an anxiety inducing event.

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Recently I read a very troubling decision from the License Appeals Tribunal (Travis v. Aviva Insurance Company, 2021 CanLii 120883 ON LAT)

This case is about a first responder firefighter, who heroically responded to the North York Van Attack which took place on April 23, 2018. You may recall that on April 23, 2018 Alek Minassian rented a van and deliberately rode down Yonge Street between Sheppard Ave. and Finch Ave along to pedestrian sidewalk and road and deliberately killed and injured innocent people.

This case hit very close to home. On the date of the attack Goldfinger Injury Lawyers Office was located at 45 Sheppard Avenue West, at Yonge Street in North York.

Myself, our personal injury lawyers and staff walked along the Yonge Street every day to get to the post office, to send couriers, for large copies, for dry-cleaning, for food, to take the TTC or just to get some fresh air. That stretch of Yonge Street was our daily route for pretty much everything outside. It could have been any one of us.

Reading this decision I had a pretty clear picture of the volume of pedestrian traffic and the route which the Van took.

In this case the first responder made a claim for accident benefits. That means that he made a claim through car insurance to get benefits like an income replacement benefit; an attendant care benefit, or benefits for psychological counselling or social work. Unfortunately, the accident claim was denied.

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Winter is coming?

Winter is here?

Winter never left?

Either way you cut it; it’s getting cold outside. And with colder weather comes snow and ice. Snow and ice mean dangerous driving conditions along with slip and fall walking hazards.

The focus of this edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog will be on winter time slip and falls in Ontario.

What’s changed for slip and fall cases in Ontario?

In December 2020, without any consultation, the Ontario Provincial Government introduced the Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act

The Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act provides for a new 60 day notice period for slip and fall cases involving snow and ice:

Notice period — injury from snow, ice

6.1 (1) No action shall be brought for the recovery of damages for personal injury caused by snow or ice against a person or persons listed in subsection (2) unless, within 60 days after the occurrence of the injury, written notice of the claim, including the date, time and location of the occurrence, has been personally served on or sent by registered mail to at least one person listed in subsection (2).

Not only does a Plaintiff have to give notice of his/her claim within 60 days; but the notice must either be served personally or sent by registered mail to:

1. The occupier of the premises and;

2. The independent contractor(s) employed by the occupier to remove snow or ice on the premises during the relevant period in which the injury occurred.

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