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Vaccines are Overwhelmingly Safe – but Recipients Still Need Protection

The chances of being seriously injured by a COVID-19 vaccine are astronomically rare, less than one in a million, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). And yet, with tens of millions of doses expected to be administered over the next several months, some complications will arise, and individuals who experience serious injuries may choose to seek compensation for the damages they have incurred.

In December, the federal government announced that it would soon launch a national vaccine injury support program providing no-fault support to any vaccine recipient that experienced serious adverse side-effects.

“The program will ensure that all Canadians have to have fair access to support in the rare event that they experience an adverse reaction to a vaccine,” the PHAC said in a news release at the time.

Since then, no new details about the program’s rollout have emerged, according to a CTV News report. The PHAC said in a recent statement that a call for proposals to administer the program was closed in late February and that it is “currently evaluating the proposals received.”

Vaccine injury support programs serve two important purposes. First, they protect vaccine recipients who experience serious adverse reactions. Even though the chances of experiencing negative side effects are miniscule, ‘vaccine hesitancy’ is a serious problem in Canada; a support program addressing the one-in-a-million chance of complications could mitigate that problem.

Second, no-fault vaccine injury support programs are designed to protect vaccine manufacturers from the threat of litigation. Vaccines are a critical tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing Canada needs is for vaccine manufacturers to limit supply over the threat of class action lawsuits.

Today, Canada is the only G7 nation without a national no-fault vaccine support fund. (Quebec has its own program).

In the United States, claims for compensation due to vaccine-related injuries are handled through the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP). In the UK, individuals who prove that they were disabled as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine can access up to £120,000 through the country’s Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS).

Both of the above programs have flaws. The United States’ CICP limits compensation to only the most seriously injured claimants. It also carries a high burden of proof and strict time limits for filing claims. The UK’s VDPS has a complex application process and rejects upwards of 65 per cent of claims. But both are preferable to the Wild West approach currently in place in Canada.

As one personal injury lawyer told CTV News: “There is no perfect program. There is no perfect system, but I truly believe that a vaccine injury compensation program with a fund is – regardless of it not being perfect – something is better than nothing for these individuals.”

At Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, our team is committed to helping seriously injured accident victims secure compensation to help fund their recoveries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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Dirt Bike Injury Leads to Accident Benefits Dispute

An accident benefits dispute, Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada, which was decided in February by an Ontario Divisional Court three-judge panel, shows how complex and technical some insurance claims can be. Indeed, the claimant’s ability to receive benefits hinged largely on the interpretation of a single sentence of Ontario’s Off-Road Vehicles Act.

What Prompted the Accident Benefits Dispute?

In July 2017, Michael Beaudin was catastrophically injured while competing in the Rockstar Energy Motocross Nationals at Gopher Dunes, a closed course in Norfolk County in Southern Ontario. The competition was organized by a promotions company and sponsored by Canadian Motorsport Racing Competition.

Beaudin sought accident benefits though his auto insurance provider, Travelers, who denied the claim, stating that the dirt bike was not an “automobile” for the purpose of determining benefits.

What Did the LAT Initially Decide?

Auto insurance and accident benefits disputes in Ontario are generally handled by the province’s Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). When Beaudin v. Travelers first came before the LAT, the adjudicator ruled in favour of the insurance provider.

According to Canadian Underwriter, at the heart of the dispute was the question of whether Beaudin’s dirt bike was required to be insured on the day of the accident. While Ontario’s Off-Road Vehicles Act clearly states that “no person shall drive an off-road vehicle unless it is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in accordance with the Insurance Act,” the dirt bike may have fallen under one of four exemptions: “off-road vehicles driven or exhibited at a closed course competition or rally sponsored by a motorcycle association.”

The adjudicator applied the “last antecedent” rule to that exemption and found that the term “sponsored by a motorcycle association” only applied to the word “rally” and not the term “closed course competition.” According to this interpretation, Beaudin’s dirt bike would not be required to be insured.

Beaudin Appeals

 Beaudin appealed the LAT’s decision, and in 2019 the LAT’s vice-chair overturned the ruling, finding that “sponsored by a motorcycle association” should have also been applied to “closed course competition.”

In backing up the vice-chair’s decision, the Divisional Court stated: “It must always be remembered that the ‘rules’ of statutory interpretation are not rules in the ordinary sense of having some binding force. They are aids to construction, presumptions or pointers. Not infrequently, one ‘rule’ points in one direction, while another in a different direction.”

As it stands, Beaudin is owed accident benefits by his insurer.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

For more than 50 years, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers has helped seriously injured accident victims access compensation for the damages they have incurred. This work has included helping resolve numerous accident benefits disputes. If you’re involved in a dispute with your insurer, contact us today to learn how we can help.

 

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Why do Insurance Providers Survey and Record Claimants?

Insurance is designed to protect policy holders from financial loss. There are many different kinds of insurance. Homeowners insurance helps pay for home repairs or to replace items lost in fires or floods. Automotive insurance covers expenses incurred by victims of motor vehicle accidents. Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provides support and insurance for people injured at provincially regulated workplaces.

Unfortunately, insurance providers don’t always work with policyholders’ best interests in mind. Private insurance companies, such as those that provide automotive insurance, are sometimes driven by self-interest; their raison d’être is to make and increase profits. At Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, our insurance dispute lawyers have experienced first-hand the lengths to which private insurers will go to avoid providing benefits.

Even public organizations, like the WSIB, have been alleged to try and reduce payments to policyholders wherever possible. Last month, CBC News’s Go Public team spoke to a Toronto woman who was secretly followed and recorded by the WSIB.

Alicia Micallef suffered a concussion during a shift at a retail store in May 2015. She sought benefits through the WSIB, which soon decided that her recovery was taking too long. The organization hired an investigator to follow her and record her actions to prove that she was lying about her injuries.

“It was horrifying,” Micallef told the CBC. “They came into my apartment building. They stood outside of my door and listened to what I was saying to my cat.”

The WSIB claimed that the video they obtained proved that Micallef was lying; it cut her benefits and demanded she pay back the income replacement it had provided. When she refused, she was charged with two counts of making false claims under Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

Public insurers and compensation boards aren’t alone in surveying and recording claimants, but the rules by which they operate are different from private insurers. According to the CBC, ‘private insurance providers must follow the rules of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act, including obtaining hard evidence of fraud – not just suspicion – before secretly videotaping. Public insurers and compensation boards often fall under provincial privacy laws which often don’t address court surveillance by insurers.’

In either case, most insurance dispute lawyers agree that video surveillance is a harsh tactic to employ against policyholders who are already suffering.

“This kind of evidence is more of a sensational value, certainly instills fear into [those] injured,” one lawyer told the CBC. “And so, if people are intimidated into abandoning their claim, that’s a financial benefit for the insurance company or the workers’ compensation board.”

Micallef’s troubles are far from over. According to the CBC’s story, an Ontario Court of Justice acquitted her of charges in 2018, but she has yet to receive coverage from the WSIB.

Contact Neinstein’s Insurance Dispute Lawyers

Insurance companies are only profitable when they receive significantly more in premiums than they must pay out in benefits. At Neinstein, our insurance dispute lawyers have deep experience helping clients access the insurance coverage and/or accident benefits they deserve. Contact us today to learn more.

 

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What are Accident Benefits?

Accident benefits are part of your auto insurance policy. They provide compensation to injury victims regardless of who is at fault for the accident, and are mandatory in every jurisdiction across Canada, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador. The amount of compensation available in Ontario depends on the severity of your injuries – when you believe the benefits your insurer has offered are too low, an accident benefits lawyer can help. Read on for more information.

What is Covered – and Not Covered – by Accident Benefits?

When a person is seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, they will likely require extensive medical care beyond what is provided in the emergency room or a family doctor’s office. This care can be costly; some, but rarely all, may be covered by your accident benefits.

For example, some injury victims require long-term physical rehabilitation, including physiotherapy and similar treatments. These treatments should be covered by your mandatory insurance.

Some injury victims may also require extended home care services, including housekeeping and home maintenance, which should also be covered. These benefits are available only if you have purchased additional coverage, or if your injury is deemed ‘catastrophic.’

Some injury victims also find that they are no longer able to earn the same type of living that they were capable of earning before their accident. This loss of future earning capacity can be devastating but isn’t covered by accident benefits; it can only be recovered via a tort claim.

How Much Should I Expect in Accident Benefits?

In Ontario, there are two very different levels of accident benefits coverage. Individuals suffering from ‘non-catastrophic’ injuries are eligible for up to $65,000 in benefits, while individuals suffering from ‘catastrophic’ injuries are eligible for up to $1 million in standard policies. An accident benefits lawyer can help explain the difference between these two designations.

These coverage levels are relatively new in Ontario and are considered quite low by many victims’ advocates and personal injury lawyers. Prior to 2016, catastrophically injured accident victims could access up to $2 million, an amount much better suited to covering a lifetime of expensive medical treatments, rehabilitation, and attendant care.

How Much Do Accident Benefits Cost?

Despite the 2016 cut in available standard benefits, insurance premiums in Ontario remain high. The standard policy costs consumers roughly $1,500 per year – only BC has higher premiums – which includes basic accident benefits coverage.

In order to better protect themselves and their families, many drivers purchase additional coverage that increases the amount of accident benefits they have access to. The price of this additional coverage varies by provider.

What Can I Do if the Benefits Provided are Not Enough?

If your insurance provider refuses to offer an appropriate amount of compensation for the injuries you have incurred, an accident benefits lawyer may be able to help you address this issue. Our personal injury lawyers have helped clients resolve accident benefits disputes with many of Ontario’s most prominent insurance providers – contact us today to learn how we can help.

 

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Ontario Promised Tough New Careless Driving Penalties. What Happened?

In 2018, a new offence was added to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act: careless driving causing bodily harm or death. The change was cheered by road safety activists and personal injury lawyers who believed it would close a glaring gap in existing road safety laws. More than two years later, the results have been disappointing, as detailed in a February 1 article in the Toronto Star.

Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death

Drivers convicted under the new offence, which came into effect in September 2018, face fines of up to $50,000, license suspensions of up to five years, and up to two years in prison.

The offence aimed to address a critical need in the province’s road safety rules. Under previous laws, drivers who killed or severely injured someone would only face criminal charges if they committed the absolute worst of driving offences, such as impaired driving. Other drivers in fatal and serious accidents would be convicted only of non-criminal charges, such as failing to stop for pedestrians. These charges carried light penalties.

The hefty fines and serious jail time threatened under the new offence aimed to bridge the gap between those two disparate sets of punishments.

How Has the Offence Been Enforced?

According to the Star’s report, serious penalties under the new charge have been few and far between. Of the 144 drivers charged between September 2018 and December 2020, 80 were not convicted, 29 received a fine, and 28 received probation. Nobody has received the maximum fine, and just four drivers have landed in jail.

These light punishments occurred despite serious accidents remaining common. The Star shared several examples of people being killed by careless drivers who received lenient sentences. Many personal injury lawyers have helped clients facing similar ordeals.

In one example, a 13-year-old Ottawa boy was struck and killed while riding his bike in 2019. The 80-year-old driver plead guilty to careless driving causing death and admitted to not wearing the prescription glasses his license required. He received a $5,000 fine and a four-year driving ban.

“I don’t think it’s justice,” the boy’s father told the Star. “The only message I’m getting from this (is) that anybody can hit somebody and kill them and (the driver) is going to be OK.”

In another example, a 63-year-old woman was struck and killed by a minivan in Stratford. The driver fled the scene but eventually turned herself in. She plead guilty and received a $2,000 fine, a six-month driving ban, and two years of probation.

In a third example, a 40-year-old woman was struck and killed by a driver in Bradford. In this case, the driver wasn’t even charged under the new offence – they instead faced charges of failing to yield to a pedestrian.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. When law enforcement in Ontario is unwilling to charge careless drivers for their serious crimes, accident victims look to the civil justice system for compensation. Our team of personal injury lawyers is prepared to help your family secure the justice they deserve.

 

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Keeping Pedestrians Safe During the Last Weeks of Winter

From 2018 to 2020, 170 people were killed in traffic accidents in Toronto, including 101 pedestrians. More than half of those pedestrian fatalities (51 per cent) occurred between November and March. In other words, and as car accident lawyers in Toronto know, winter is the most dangerous time of the year to be a pedestrian in Canada’s largest city.

Toronto Police are also aware of this issue. In January, they launched “Winter Watch,” a week-long safety blitz focused on raising road safety awareness, starting conversations, and cracking down on the ‘Big 4’ driver behaviours that cause serious traffic accidents: speeding, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and impaired driving.

The initiative, like all city-involved road safety programs, was enacted in support of Vision Zero, an ambitious plan aimed at eliminating traffic deaths in Toronto. The plan, which was originally launched in 2016, has made little headway in the fight against pedestrian fatalities.

How to Stay Safe as a Pedestrian 

Pedestrians, along with cyclists, are considered ‘vulnerable road users,’ meaning they are most at risk from collisions. Because motorists are better protected by their vehicles, they have an inherent responsibility to be cautious of vulnerable road users.

However, as Toronto car accident lawyers know, dangerous driving is all too common in Ontario, and vulnerable road users tend to pay the biggest toll for that behaviour. While much of the onus for protecting vulnerable road users lays with motorists, there are certain things that pedestrians can do – and not do – to avoid trouble and stay safe during the remaining weeks of winter.

Avoid mid-block crossing: According to Toronto Police, 40 per cent of collisions where pedestrians were killed or seriously injured occurred while the person was crossing mid-block. Wherever possible, find a designated crosswalk before crossing the road.

Be alert at intersections: Forty-three per cent of fatal and serious collisions involving pedestrians occurred while drivers were turning at signaled intersections. Even if you have the right of way, try to make eye contact with waiting drivers before crossing.

Wear bright clothing, particularly at night: Low visibility is one of the main reasons that pedestrian fatalities increase during the winter. If you’re walking outside of daylight hours, try to be as visible as possible.

Stay alert: We already know that distracted driving is a key cause of fatal accidents in Ontario; distracted walking can also be dangerous. If you’re walking in a high-traffic area or around fast-moving vehicles, take the earbuds out, put the phone in your pocket, and be as alert and aware as possible until you reach quieter streets.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

The car accident lawyers at Neinstein have been representing seriously injured accident victims for decades. If you or a member of your family has been involved in an accident, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team will review your case and provide the guidance and advice you need as you pursue compensation.

 

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Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers 2020 Year in Review

 

2020 was a difficult year for most. Vulnerable members of our community, including seriously injured accident victims, people on long-term disability, and residents of long-term care homes bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because these groups are among our clients, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers resolved not to scale back during these unprecedented times, but to scale up. We quickly adapted to a new way of conducting business, shifting to virtual work to accommodate our clients’ needs. The results speak for themselves: just like in years past, we were able to represent and secure compensation for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens.

In 2020, we expanded our team and promoted deserving associates. We doubled down on our support for organizations and associations that do good in our community. We informed the public about the important work we do. At a time when young people’s lives have been put on hold, we delivered scholarships to promising young students. And we proposed a class action claim against one of Canada’s largest long-term care operators, seeking to hold them responsible for the tragedies that have played out as COVID-19 has swept through Ontario’s nursing homes.

Last year, when the province was brought to its knees by an unparalleled health challenge, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers made clear that we are here for the people of Ontario, ready to represent them when they are at their most vulnerable. In 2021, we plan to continue this fight.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Blood Test Could Benefit Patients and Brain Injury Lawyers

Even though the most serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can cause instant, life-changing symptoms including paraplegia, quadriplegia, permanent cognitive disabilities, and death, most of the clients that brain injury lawyers encounter experience a broad spectrum of symptoms. Brain injuries are complex and mysterious afflictions that affect every victim differently. This complexity makes them challenging to diagnose and creates a range of legal obstacles for suffering plaintiffs. However, a new diagnostic tool may pave the way to more efficient care for brain injury victims.

Stat Alinity

According to Canadian Lawyer, Stat Alinity, a handheld diagnostic device produced by Abbot Point of Care Inc., was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The device ‘draws a blood sample from the patient’s arm, then tests this blood sample for molecular markers released by the brain once trauma has occurred,’ Canadian Lawyer reports.

For years, physicians and brain injury lawyers have anticipated that blood samples could be the key to efficient and effective TBI testing. Although Stat Alinity has not yet been approved in Canada, its US approval is cause for excitement.

How Will the Device Improve Treatment?

Except in extreme cases, diagnosing TBIs has traditionally been a slow and unprecise process. Most tests require patients to answer questions and self-report symptoms. An efficient, cut-and-dry diagnostic tool would allow doctors to quickly triage and begin treatment on brain injury patients. It would also allow doctors to determine which patients require follow-up testing (CT scans, etc.), and which suffered minor, almost imperceptible brain damage.

In other words, prompt TBI diagnoses can help doctors make life-saving decisions about their patients’ treatments.

How Will the Device Help Brain Injury Lawyers?

Many of the clients that brain injury lawyers represent suffer from what are known as ‘invisible injures,’ such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, trouble with impulse control, and emotional volatility. These and similar symptoms can profoundly disrupt a person’s ability to enjoy life, even if they don’t have obvious physical impacts. Yet it can be difficult for a lawyer to convince a judge or jury of their gravity – people associate serious injuries with paralysis and lost limbs, not sleep disorders. A reliable TBI diagnosis could help persuade a court that a plaintiff’s injuries, even if unseen, are real.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or a member of your family has experienced a traumatic brain injury, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of brain injury lawyers will explain your legal options and provide the support you need on your road to recovery.

 

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Should COVID-19 Long-Haulers Receive Long-Term Disability Benefits?

In the span of a year, COVID-19 went from a dangerous but little-known infection spreading rapidly in central China to the century’s biggest news story. But despite its infamy, there is still plenty about COVID-19 that neither the general public nor the medical establishment understands. “Long COVID,” for example, remains difficult to define, diagnose, or treat, yet it is a significant medical issue affecting patients across the country. Recently, it has also become central to insurance disputes involving long-term disability lawyers.

What is “Long COVID”? 

The effects of COVID-19 tend to last anywhere between a week and a month in most patients. However, a small number of COVID ‘long-haulers’ experience severe symptoms for much longer. “Long COVID” is the term used to describe these lingering, serious symptoms.

What are Long-Term Disability Benefits? 

Long-term disability insurance provides benefits to policy holders who are unable to return to their jobs after becoming disabled. These benefits generally begin after the policy holder has exhausted their short-term disability insurance benefits, sick leave benefits, and EI benefits.

Should Insurance Companies Provide Benefits to COVID Long-Haulers?

This is very much in dispute. In January, CBC News Ottawa reported that Chantal Renaud of Clarence-Rockland, Ontario, was launching a long-term disability claim against her employer’s insurance provider. Renaud, who originally contracted COVID-19 last March, has been suffering from “Long COVID” since June. Her symptoms include ‘debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat,’ according to the CBC.

After several weeks in bed during the summer, she attempted to return to work in the fall. When she did, her symptoms returned; she has been unable to work since November. She has already used the sick leave benefits she is eligible for, and her short-term disability benefits will soon run out. If she is unable to secure long-term benefits, she may risk losing her home.

“I’m feeling very hopeless and anxious,” Renaud told the CBC. “It can not only destroy your life, but you can also start losing everything you worked for.”

How Can Long-Term Disability Lawyers Help? 

Most Canadians aren’t equipped to take on large insurance companies when their claims are denied. Long-term disability lawyers have the experience and expertise to ensure your case is heard and your interests are represented.

Renaud isn’t alone in seeking long-term benefits for her “Long COVID” symptoms, according to the lawyer working on her case.

“There needs to be some attention here, because this is having real effects on people – to the point they’re losing their homes,” he told the CBC. “Because they’re not able to work, and they’re stuck trying to prove a medical condition that’s really in its infancy. My concern with long-haulers is that they are really at risk of falling through the cracks. These people will be left in the dust.”

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you are unable to work due to lingering COVID-19 symptoms or any other catastrophic injury or illness, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how we can help. Our experienced team of long-term disability lawyers will review your case and provide the guidance you need throughout the legal process.

 

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Slip and Fall Changes Coming to Ontario

Ontarians who slip and fall on icy or snowy stairs and walkways will soon have less time to file an insurance or personal injury claim than they have had in the past. Bill 118, an Act to amend the province’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, was recently passed by lawmakers and will soon be implemented. The upcoming changes have been criticized by slip and fall lawyers in Toronto and elsewhere.

What Are the Changes?

In the past, when a person was injured in a slip and fall accident, they had up to two years to decide whether to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the ‘occupier’ of the property where the accident occurred. Under the new rules, they will have just 60 days to make that same decision. They will also have to submit formal written notice to the occupier.

Here’s how CTV News explained the new rules:

“For a slip and fall on private property that is due to ice and snow, you must serve the owner/occupier with written notice of the fall, the time, the date, and the precise location with 60 days of the incident by personal service or by registered mail.”

The time limit for falls on municipal property is even more restrictive. Again, from CTV:

“For a slip and fall on municipal property, you must provide the city with written notice of the fall, the time, the date, and the location within 10 days of the incident by service on the City Clerk or by registered mail.”

The one circumstance in which the two-year rule still applies is if a person dies in the accident.

What Has Been the Reaction? 

Slip and fall lawyers are, unsurprisingly, not thrilled with the change. They fear that 60 days is not necessarily enough time for the victim of a serious injury to weigh their options, determine who is the legal occupier of the property, and craft and deliver an official notice of intent. The result could be seriously injured accident victims missing out on much-needed compensation.

“This could lead to the barring of a number of legitimate claims,” one personal injury lawyer told CTV News Toronto in a separate article. They added that “being able to identify the appropriate parties that need to be put on notice within 60 days is not always possible.”

Snow plow operators, on the other hand, are happy. Slip and fall claims can drastically increase their insurance premiums, and the stricter time limit is almost certain to reduce the number of claims that are submitted in the province.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you know has been involved in a slip and fall accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Our slip and fall lawyers will review your case and provide the guidance and support you need during this difficult time.

 

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