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Brian Goldfinger on privacy and personal injury law in Ontario

Friendly reminder that Brian Goldfinger and Goldfinger Injury Lawyers have been nominated by Canadian Lawyers Magazine as a Top Boutique in Personal Injury Law for 2019. In their own words, Canadian Lawyers Magazine is “looking for your input on the best firms specializing in personal injury law as well as the best arbitration chambers. 

Please choose the top ten firms from the list provided. If you do not rank at least five firms, your votes will not be counted.

The results will appear in our May 2019 issue. The survey will close on February 25.”

The survey only takes a few minutes to complete and you need not be a personal injury lawyer to do so. Brian Goldfinger and the team at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers would really appreciate your support. Here is the link to vote.

Now that the public service announcement is out of the way, we can begin this week’s installment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog. This week Brian Goldfinger would like to focus on privacy and personal injury law in Ontario. Believe it or not, these two areas of the law intersect more that you would think.

Here is a typical occurrence for Brian Goldfinger. Someone has been involved in a serious motor vehicle collision. The innocent accident victim is seriously injured, and in hospital. They have co-operated with the police and given a statement of their version of the events (often while in a hospital bed).

The police officer gives the innocent accident victim his/her business card along with an occurrence number for the collision. The kind officer looks them deeply in the eye and tells them in the most sincere way possible that they are deeply sorry for their accident, and if there’s anything further which they can do to help to reach them with the contact information provided on their business card.0008r_Goldfinger-200x300

The police officer does not leave them with a copy of the accident report (because it’s not yet completed and because they don’t release it for free…); nor do they provide them with the name, address or insurance information of the at fault driver. You are left in the dark.

The seriously injured accident victim does not have car insurance of his/her own. They need to report this car accident to an insurance company to claim accident benefits to pay for such things as physiotherapy, massage, the cost of the ambulance, the cost of crutches, the cost of a wheelchair and to recover an income replacement benefit. The injured party reaches out to the police officer who investigated the collision. They ask for a copy of the police report. The officer says that they can access the police report through their Freedom of Information Department and that it will cost $75 to process the request.

The injured accident victim goes through all the right channels and requests the police report via the department’s Freedom of Information Department. When the accident report comes back, the name, contact information and insurance information of the at fault driver is completed redacted!!!!

But why?

Upon inquiry, the injured accident victim is told that the police cannot release the name, contact and insurance information of the at fault party on account of privacy concerns.

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has two purposes:

  • It gives people the right to see records and personal information that are under the custody or control of Ontario government ministries and agencies.
  • It helps protect every individual’s right to privacy. The Act tells government ministries and agencies what they can do and must do when they collect, use, disclose, retain and dispose of personal information.

The irony of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is that you are entitled to records, but those records are more often than not entirely redacted! What good are records if you can’t read their contents. To put this in to greater context, Brian Goldfinger and Goldfinger Injury Lawyers has paid for, and received hundreds of pages of police records, witness statements, etc. all of which are entirely redacted! So what we are receiving are blank pages, or pages with dark lines over all of the writing making the records impossible to decipher. You are essentially paying for blank paper with police letterhead on the top.

More and more Goldfinger Injury Lawyers are seeing accident reports and police records which are entirely or significantly redacted. This makes it virtually impossible to decipher at the point of receipt the name, contact information and insurance information of the at fault driver. Even the license plate number is redacted!

When witness statements are redacted, it makes it impossible to decipher at the point of receipt how the accident took place and what third party witnesses reported to the police.

Worse yet, when accident reports are redacted it makes it impossible for uninsured accident victims to make timely claims for accident benefits because the insurance information and policy number of the at fault driver is redacted.

I don’t understand why a seriously injured accident victim to a car accident to which they were a party is being denied the contact information of the person responsible for the accident. It would seem that the draconian privacy laws protecting the at fault party provide more protections than those afforded to the innocent; and run contrary to access to justice in further penalizing the innocent under the mislead guise of “privacy“.

Take note that the information sought to be released is by a party to the accident; and not being sought to be released to a third party who was not involved in the accident (like a member of the news media seeking to get a scoop on a car accident story).

Our personal injury lawyers would agree with the excessive redactions should the Freedom of Information requests be brought by a third party. But this is not the case in the accident claim that we handle. We are not aware of any law suits against any police service in Ontario where a party to the accident has successfully sued the police for breach of privacy by releasing their details to the other party who was involved in the same accident. Food for thought to the Freedom of Information clerk out there whose reading this installment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer blog post.


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