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Top 5 Winter Accident Questions posed by clients at Goldfinger Personal Injury Law

As you may know, Goldfinger Personal Injury Law recently expanded our territory, by opening a new office in London, ON. We are located in the heart of downtown London, at 341 Talbot Street, right next to the John Labatt Centre (Go Knights!) and the Farmer’s Market. If you’re ever in town, come by and check out our London office. Some say it’s nicer than our Toronto office, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. By opening our London office, we hope to better serve our clients in Southwestern Ontario. We’ve seen lots of new clients from London, Saint Thomas, Rodney, Bleheim, Oxford, Embro, Thurold, Arva, Drumbo, Blenheim, Chatham, Woodstock, Thames Centre, Ingersoll, Kintore, Thorndale and Tillsonburg. We are proud to serve these under-represented communities and provide these individuals with access to Ontario’s courts and access to justice.

What can I tell you about about practicing in Southwestern Ontario? It snows snows snows out here. And with snow comes slush, ice, poor road conditions and poor visibility. With poor road conditions and poor visibility comes more accidents.

Here are some of the top 5 questions/scenarios we’ve seen or been asked this winter:

1) Another driver lost control of his car on the ice and hit my car. The police says that the offending driver did NOT have snow tires on his car. Does that mean I have a better case?

In Quebec, you are at law required to have snow tires on your car. This is not the law in Ontario, although there has been some discussion about making snow tires mandatory for the winter months. There are two aspects to any case: 1 Liability and 2 Damages. Liabilty asks the question whose fault was the car accident. Damages goes to the issue of what your damages/injuries are as a result of the car accident. The fact that the other driver did not have snow tires may be a contributing factor towards pinning liability on that driver, but it does not tell the whole story. We also need to factor in the speed the other driver was travelling, whether or not the other driver broke any rules of the road, whether or not he could have avoided the accident by driving more carerfully, along with a proper breakdown of how the accident happened. Now, just because the other driver may be liable for the car accident does NOT guarantee that you have a case. In order to sue for damages in Ontario, your injuries must meet the threshold and surpass the deductible. The threshold in Ontario to sue for pain and suffering is that your injuries must be present a “serious and permanent impairment of an important bodily function” and those injuries must exceed a value of $30,000 in Court. If your damages do not meet the threshold or exceed the deductible, unfortunately, you have do not have a case. Please refer to my previous blog entry about Superman being involved in a car accident for more information on the threshold and the deductible. I hate being the bearer of bad news about the threshold and the deductible, but it’s the law and I can’t change it alone.

2) A guest slipped and fell on some ice on my walkway while trying to get in my house for a dinner party. Can I be sued?

There is a reason the City of Toronto tells its residents to “Be Nice, Clear your Ice“. It’s the law. As a property owner, or as an occupier of a premises, you are responsible for the safety of the premises for your invitees. So, if you’ve invited somebody over for dinner and they slip and fall on your walkway because you failed to clear your ice, they can certainly sue you. If that happens, report the accident to your property insurer. There are usually provisions under property insurance policies for coverage in the event of accident or injury of invitees on your premises. If you don’t have property insurance, then you’d better make sure you have a good lawyer….Or just clear your ice and keep your fingers crossed nobody gets hurt on your property.

3) Is the hood on my jacket dangerous or a safety hazzard?

Is this a serious question? How could the hood on my jacket been dangerous? It’s so pretty and it keeps me warm! The answer is “yes”. Beware the hood! You wouldn’t believe the amount of cases we see where pedestrians crossing the street on a cold winter day get hit by a car beacuse they lose their peripheral vision while their hood is up. Go ahead. Try it. Put your coat on and put the hood up. Now try looking out for obtacles from your side. Your vision is likely impaired because all you see it what’s in front of you; not what’s coming from either side. All we have to say to you pedestrians out there is BE CAREFUL while wearing those hoods.

4) I was driving on the highway/roadway and lost control of my car and hit the barrier and hurt myself. Can I sue? If so, then who?

Single car accidents are more frequent during the winter on account of poor road conditions. But who can you sue for a single car accident? I can’t sue myself. If you are involved in a single car accident, you have the right to make an accident benefit claim through your own car insurance company for such things as medical/rehabilitative benefits, income replacement benefits, attendant care benefits, housekeeping/home maintenance benefits etc. These accident benefit claims can lead to a mediation, arbitration or a full out law suit. See my blog entry which explains accident benefits for more information on this topic. But these accident benefits do not cover your pain and suffering. In order to recover damages for pain and suffering, you may be entitled to sue the Municipality/Government if the roadway was not properly maintained. If we are able to prove that the road was not salted, sanded or properly maintained and this led to the accident, then we may be able to sue for pain and suffering. In order to do this, we have experts examine the municipal road maintenance records, accident patterns in the area, roadway safety studies, and we may even have an accident reconstructionist attend at the scene of the accident. It all depends on the case.

5) I slipped and fell on an icey sidewalk. I was wearing high heels at the time of the fall. Can I still sue? How will this impact my case?

One of the things which jurors, judges and insurance companies look at in all slip and fall cases is what footwear you were wearing at the time of the slip and fall accident; and was the footwear you were wearing weather appropriate. In the event that your footwear was not weather appropriate, then a judge may reduce your damages by a certain percentage to reflect your level of contribution which led to the slip and fall accident. At law, this is called “contributory negligence”. So, if your damages are valued at $100,000; but a judge believes that because you were wearing high heels at the time of the accident, you were 50% responsible for the slip and fall accident, then your award will be reduced by 50% to reflect this apportionment of liability ($50,000). Our advice, wear weather appropriate footwear outside and keep those heels in a separate bag. Have your significant other carry those heels around for you.

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