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Police Response to winter weather car accidents across Ontario

A few recent headlines caught my attention over the past 48 hours:

From Toronto/the GTA:

There were 350 Car Accidents in the past 24 hours in the Toronto area due to snowy and slippery conditions. OPP responded to 350 car accidents in the GTA due to slippery weather conditions in the past 24 hours.

From Kitchener/Waterloo:

Police to respond to fewer collisions. Under a new partnership with Accident Support Services Ltd., police will decide if they will attend collisions depending on the severity of the crash, injuries, and whether the collision is suspicious. 

What does this mean? It means that right now, there are a lot of accidents happening on roads across Ontario on account of winter weather and slippery conditions.

It also means that police will respond to fewer of those car accidents regardless of the conditions. Police can arbitrarily tell callers that if there doesn’t appear to be any injuries, and/or if the collision does not appear to be severe, that they won’t attend on the scene to investigate. This has significant consequences for a personal injury case. Here’s why.

Before we jump in to why police not investigating car accidents is significant for personal injury cases in Ontario, let’s first examine a bit about Accident Support Services Ltd.

That name “Accident Support Services Ltd” makes it sound like the company is an arm of the government or part of your local police force. Take away the “Ltd.” corporate moniker, and all you got is “Accident Support Services” which sounds super official and very much like a government run bureaucracy.

They’re not.

Accident Support Services International Ltd (ASSI). is the private enterprise element of a partnership between Police, Insurance Companies and private enterprise. The company is the operator of several Collision Reporting Centers across Ontario and Alberta.

In the past, our law firm Goldfinger Injury Lawyers has made routine requests for police reports to local police detachments. We get billed varying rates for 1-2 page motor vehicle accident reports varying anywhere from $45.20 (from the London Police Service), to around $44.90-$115 (Toronto Police Service) depending on what is produced. Keep in mind that police offer’s notes from the accident scene can cost as little as $5 via Freedom of Information request and are often much longer than a 1-2 page standard motor vehicle accident report.

In comparison, Accident Support Services International has routinely billed our law firm, and other law firms across Ontario $367.25 for the same 1-2 page accident reports.

It’s clear that either the local police detachments were undercharging for police reports over the years, or that Accident Support Services International is a for profit enterprise which is able to make up any rate they want. Gouging the public on data that they need in order to advance any sort of claim is far from a public service.London-Head-Shot-Brian-Goldfinger-201x300

Here is why this is concerning:

  1. Police are investigating fewer accidents and relying on a for profit reporting centres which works in partnership with insurance companies to process the reporting of claims
  2. If you don’t have car insurance and want to make an accident benefit claim without going through a lawyer, you will have to dish out $367.25 out of your own pocket to get a copy of the accident report so that you can identify the at fault driver and their insurance company. That’s a lot of money. This is hardly access to justice. This situation is very common where pedestrians or cyclists get hit by motor vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists aren’t required by law to have car insurance. They need to get that insurance information in order to make an accident benefit claim. The identity of the at fault driver and their insurance information is not routinely provided by the police officer at the scene of the accident or at the collision reporting centre. There are breach of privacy considerations which the police need to take in to consideration. In fact, our law firm has needed to contact OPP supervisors in order to get this information released in a timely manner so that our clients can assess the identity of the at fault party/insurer and make a claim to get the benefits they need. The fact we have needed to do this in the past for this basic information is frustrating beyond belief.

Some police detachments (Toronto Police Service) may release a one page summary of the accident which is not an official accident report. But, what it does is list the name and contact information of the at fault driver along with their insurance information so that injured accident victim can then make a claim to receive accident benefits like massage, physio, chiro and income replacement benefits. These are important benefits immediately following a serious car accident to help make ends meet, and to assist the injured party in getting better.

The most concerning part of this for personal injury lawyer Brian Goldfinger is that fewer police officers will be investigating car accidents. This is significant with the legalization of cannabis. Just because cannabis is legal, doesn’t mean that you can smoke and drive. With the police giving the signal to the public that they are less inclined/eager to come out to accident scenes, what happens with the at fault driver who you suspect to be impaired via cannabis or alcohol. If the police don’t show up to the accident scene, it’s your word vs. theirs. They will of course deny operating the motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. Your opinion will be to the contrary. Without the police DOING THEIR JOB of investigating these calls, then whose to say? Does this mean that more impaired drivers will be getting off the hook of impaired driving charges because the police aren’t coming out to accident scenes as frequently as they once did? Will you word vs. their word stand up in Court such that proper charges can be laid in this type of scenario. All motorists should be concerned.

It’s impossible for the police to be in all places at once. But, one of the core and less glamourous functions of police officers isn’t just coming out to accident scenes to get to the bottom of liability, but also completing the requisite paperwork which takes in to consideration the actual scene of the accident, getting witness statements and taking pictures at the scene of the collision. Why these services are being cheapened down is beyond me, particularly when it appears that we need the help now more than ever.

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