Changes in seasons means changes in behaviour and patterns. Now that we are experiencing some “warmer” weather; we are seeing more people out and about. And I use the term “warmer” rather loosely. We aren’t seeing negative temperatures anymore and there isn’t any snow, ice, or slush on the ground. Here are a few of the trends that we see in personal injury law as the temperatures begin to heat up.
Trend #1: An increase in cycling accidents. I want to qualify this trend because there are common misconceptions that people don’t cycle in the winter time. This simply isn’t true. In fact, numbers continue to rise with respect to the amount of people who bike year round. But the fact remains that more people are out cycling in the warmer spring and summer months compared to the dead of winter. Just by sheer numbers of cyclists on the road, you are going to see more accidents by volume in the spring/summer and fall months compared to those dead of winter months. It is more dangerous to cycle in the winter given that there are shorter days and longer nights, combined with the poor road conditions caused by snow, sleet and ice. But fewer cyclists on the road will cause fewer cycling accidents. You also don’t have as many children or youth who bike in the winter time. It’s not on the approved list for many parents. It’s important for motorists to be cognizant that they are sharing the road with cyclists. One wrong move by a car can spell doom for a cyclists. On the other hand, one wrong move for a car and they have a slew of on board safety features to rely on; not to mention the protection of a car. Cyclists don’t have the same luxury. Their helmet is their best defiance after an accident happens.
Trend #2 An increase in assault claims. We tend to see tempers flare up with warmer weather. Hot days, shorter fuses I suppose. More people out and about sharing common space with one another leads to conflict and sometimes to violence. Once of the biggest trends we have seen during the Pandemic is once lockdown restrictions loosen, we have seen more and more assault case. I have a few hypotheses for this. The lockdowns have been very hard on people socially, financially and emotionally. People are in bad moods or upset because the world has changed and they’ve been locked down. This has resulted in increased conflicts which can sometimes lead to violence. The second reason for the increases in assaults during the Pandemic is that while we were all locked down in our homes we forgot how to act in public. We forgot how to be civilized and polite to strangers. We have forgot how to share public spaces with others. We all act as if we are at home in our pajamas where we can do whatever we like. The outside world doesn’t act that way. There is a certain social contract which goes with being outside in public whereby we are expected to act in a certain way and treat our neighbours with dignity and respect. All of this went out the window during the Pandemic. We are slowly getting reacquainted with being out in public and sharing space with strangers. But this will take time. And in that re-adjustment period we expect to see assault claims continuing to rise.
Trend #3 An increase in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents. For all of the Pandemic reasons stated above with assault claims, I believe that we will see a sharp increase in the amount of pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents. For the past 2 years our streets have been virtually empty due to government imposed lock downs. Those few motorists who were on the roads were delighted to see less traffic. Most people either could not work, or were forced to work from home. The result was no commuting traffic to or from work which produced less traffic on city streets and highways from coast to coast across Canada. Less traffic decreases the potential for accidents. As Pandemic restrictions loosen and the weather warms up, we will see more people out and about. With that comes a responsibility from motorists and from pedestrians to be mindful of their surroundings.
Trend #4 More Dog Bite and Dog Attack Claims. Roughly 23 million American households acquired dogs and cats during the pandemic, according to a recent survey from the ASPCA. That’s a lot of new dogs! The same trend applies in Canada where we have seen a dog ownership boom during the Pandemic. More dogs equals more potential for dog attacks and dog bite cases. A lot of the dogs acquired are by first time dog owners who may not have trained, or properly trained their dog. Dog owners need to be careful and mindful of the behaviour of their dog. Dog owners carry an absolute liability for the actions of the dog pursuant to the Dog Owners Liability Act. In plain English, this means that the dog owner is responsible for the actions of their dog. The act clearly states at s.2(1) The owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal. The Act goes on to state at s. 2(3) The liability of the owner does not depend upon knowledge of the propensity of the dog or fault or negligence on the part of the owner, but the court shall reduce the damages awarded in proportion to the degree, if any, to which the fault or negligence of the plaintiff caused or contributed to the damages. In plain English this means that the owner could have no idea about the dog attack; and the owner may have done nothing wrong leading up to the attack. Regardless, if the dog attacked someone, the owner is liable regardless of his/her knowledge or his/her actions. The conduct of a Plaintiff in provoking the dog to attack, or perhaps trespassing will be taken in to consideration by the Court.