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Common Long Weekend Accidents in Ontario

The July 1st Canada Day Long Weekend is fast approaching. People are excited to celebrate Canada Day.

Having practiced in the field of personal injury law in Ontario for over 2 decades, I can tell you that there are patterns for car accident cases.

Would it surprise you if I told that that our office sees a spike in car accident; and other accident related claims shortly after a long weekend? While I cannot single out the Canada Day Long Weekend in particular; what I can say is that we see a spike in accident calls shortly after a long weekend.

There are very good reasons for this.

For starters, many people are on the move over a long weekend. They are all out and about. Going on a trip, driving off to see friends, headed camping or to a beach to relax. Either way you slice it, more people are on the move over a long weekend, compared to a normal weekend.

There is also the “rush factor” of a long weekend. People want to get out of their city as quickly as possible to beat the traffic so that their long weekend can begin. Combine the “rush factor” with a bit of fear of missing out (“FOMO”) and you get a lot of drivers with tunnel vision who are in a big hurry. This spells recipe for disaster for getting to their destination; or getting back home after the long weekend is over.

The last ingredient for the spike in long weekend accidents are the use of alcohol and drugs. People are allowed to drink. People are allowed to smoke cannabis. But, what they are not allowed to do is drive a motor vehicle (car, SUV, boat, ATV, motorcycle) having had too much too drink or having smoked cannabis. The cold, hard, truth is that people will consume a bit too much alcohol and a bit too much cannabis over the long weekend; and they will think that they are ok to drive. This is a bad mistake. A mistake which puts the lives of the driver, his/her passengers, and all other motorists and nearby pedestrians at risk.

I was recently chatting with someone about the penalties under the Highway Traffic Act. This person was not a lawyer, nor a client. They were just curious how things worked, and wanted to know why people didn’t go to jail if they got into a car accident, that either fatally killed someone or put them in hospital for a very long time. They took the view that the law should operate on an “eye for an eye” basis. The punishment should be commensurate with the damage inflicted.linkedin-2-300x300

This makes sense. But the law does not work this way. Quite to the contrary, the penalties under the Highway Traffic Act are far from an “eye for an eye“; nor are those penalties commensurate with the damage inflicted in car accident cases.

The reality is that if you are charged and convicted under the Highway Traffic Act in relation to a car accident claim, you aren’t going to jail. You may receive some demerit points. You may have to pay a fine. You may have your driver’s license suspended. But chances are, you’re not going to jail.

For most accident victims who have been seriously injured, that’s not fair. Those accident victims often turn to their personal injury lawyer seeking “justice“.

Justice means something different to everyone you ask. Even lawyers have different ideas, and interpretations of justice. That’s why it’s such a powerful, and meaningful word.

As a personal injury lawyer, we cannot put people in jail. Personal injury lawyers cannot charge negligent defendants with criminal charges. A personal injury lawyer can help get an injured accident victim the compensation and benefits which they deserve following a serious accident or incident. That compensation, in most cases, does NOT come from the pocket of the at fault party. Instead, that compensation comes from the insurance company who insured the at fault party at the time of the accident. This is a hard concept for many Plaintiffs to understand. The insurance company pays for the Defendant’s lawyer, and pays out on any settlement or judgment. After the case is resolved, the insurance company may, if they so chose, sue the Defendant personally for the quantum of the settlement which they paid out to the Plaintiff in a separate claim. This is called a subrogated interest, or an insurer’s right to subrogation.

The tricky thing in those claims is that the Defendant driver will need to have some tangible assets in order of the insurer to get their money back. If the Defendant driver has no assets, the insurer is seeking to draw blood from a stone. It makes little sense seeking a judgment against an impecunious party who is incapable on paying out on a potential judgment.

What innocent accident victims quickly discover after litigation has begun is that the legal system isn’t fair. More protections are afforded to at fault defendants, particularly in car accident cases; compared to the few protections (if any) which are offered to the injured Plaintiff who did nothing wrong apart from being in then wrong place, at the wrong time. When the Defendant is subject to punishment, that punishment is no commensurate with the damage which has been caused. In fact, it’s far below the standard which one would come to expect such that one may think that the punishment in and of itself is hardly a deterrent; especially in a one off case where there is clear wrongdoing. Unfortunately, all it takes is one episode of poor judgment to create a catastrophic accident and cause catastrophic damage to another party. And it’s these one off accidents which are so common on long weekends. It’s not like people are going out there to deliberately cause damage and to inflict harm on others. Quite the contrary. These long weekend; one off accidents are a result of temporary lapses of judgment in otherwise, what tend to be decent people. But, in their excitement and hurry to get started on their long weekends; they can make poor decisions which have devastating consequences on others. Until next time. Slow down. Take a breath. Drink responsibly. And have a safe and enjoyable long weekend.



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