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COVID-19 Lockdowns Present Major Challenges to Rehab Patients

As personal injury lawyers, the Neinstein legal team often partners with medical and rehabilitative service providers, including occupational and physiotherapists, to give our clients an inside track to recovery. When a person suffers a catastrophic injury, it may take many months of diligent effort to recover a sense of independence. In- and out-patient rehabilitation programs are essential to this process; unfortunately, many of these programs have been temporarily closed by the massive lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, the Toronto Star spoke to injury victims and rehab professionals about the consequences of the hiatus.

Perhaps the most predictable outcome of the lockdowns from a rehabilitation perspective is that patients’ recoveries have slowed to a crawl. The Star interviewed Richard Ansell, who lost the ability to walk after contracting an illness. He exited the in-patient program at Toronto Rehab Institute’s Lyndhurst Centre in late March, and was scheduled to proceed with several months of out-patient therapy.

“I would have liked to be on a golf course, hitting golf balls,” Ansell said. “Walking normally. Doing housework.”

Instead, his mobility remains severely limited.

“I missed out on a lot of manipulation of that right leg to strengthen it up,” he added.

Another consequence is a massive new backlog of patients. Some were already scheduled for out-patient therapy, others have been injured during the pandemic, and some are recovering from serious bouts of COVID-19.

“I think rehab needs to be seen as part of an essential service, as part of the pandemic response,” Charissa Levy, head of the Rehabilitative Care Alliance and executive director of the GTA Rehab Network, told the Star. “You’ll hear people talking about a second wave of the pandemic coming in the fall. The impact of the pandemic, and the need for rehab is being characterized as one of those upcoming waves that has yet to be seen.”

Like most of Ontario’s personal injury lawyers, many rehabilitation professionals turned to virtual alternatives to provide as much care as possible.

“We did our best in the last couple of months … to stay connected to patients and supporting patients in the community and in their homes,” said Shawn Brady, director of rehab at Providence Healthcare in Toronto. “But obviously, the nature of therapy and rehabilitation (is that) many of the interventions are physical in nature, and require in-person visits as well.”

This is particularly true for some of Ontario’s most seriously injured accident victims, including those suffering from spinal cord injuries.

“For people with spinal cord injury, who have no or limited voluntary movement, the remote rehab model doesn’t really work well,” said Dr. Cathy Craven, medical director of the spinal cord rehab program at the Lyndhurst Centre. “I’m concerned about our growing waitlist, and our ability to scale up and serve everyone once we are open.”

With so much uncertainty still surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic – caseloads are rising in many wealthy nations and a vaccine remains unavailable – it is difficult to predict the long-term fallout for accident victims requiring out-patient rehab. In the meantime, injury victims can rest assured that Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers is prepared to take on their case.

If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, contact Neinstein today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

 

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Common Causes of Summertime Injuries

Summer is a time of celebration for most Canadians, an all-too-brief reprieve from the long months of cold and snowy weather that define our nation. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have found new ways to explore their cities and spend time with friends. In places like Toronto, where Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers is located, cycling is up, park lunches are popular and, as the economy slowly reopens, diners have reconvened on outdoor patios.

Of course, there are certain risks that come with these summertime activities. In this blog, we’ll look at common causes of injury during the summer months and provide key tips for staying safe.

Boating Accidents

Boating is the quintessential summer pastime in Canada, and every year regional police experience a seasonal spike in boating-related injuries. To stay safe, remember to wear your life jacket; avoid boating in foul weather; plan your route and let friends know where you’ll be; and never, ever boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Car Accidents

There was speculation at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that motor vehicle accidents would decrease amid the lockdowns. That was momentarily true, but as economies have reopened road safety has become a serious concern. Remember to always follow the rules of the road, avoid using your phone or mobile device while driving, and never get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Motorcycle Accidents

While car accidents happen year-round, personal injury lawyers tend to only field calls about motorcycle accidents during the summer. Motorcycles are a perfect way to explore the Province of Ontario’s stunning landscape while international travel is on hold – just remember that you are vulnerable while riding on highways. Motorcyclists must always exercise extreme caution while sharing the road with larger vehicles.

Pedestrian and Cycling Accidents

Injuries to vulnerable road users – cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motor-vehicle road users – are a major concern for law enforcement and personal injury lawyers throughout the year. During the summer, as larger numbers of cyclists and pedestrians hit the streets, those concerns are heightened. It’s the job of everyone on the road to keep these vulnerable individuals safe. Cyclists and pedestrians must exercise caution, but motorists must also remain vigilant and alert.

Slip or Trip and Fall Accidents

Most Canadians associate slip and fall injuries with the winter; we’ve all taken an embarrassing tumble on a hidden patch of ice. However, personal injury lawyers represent clients injured in slip or trip and fall accidents year-round. They can be caused by anything from a dark and slippery bathroom hallway to an uneven public sidewalk. With more people out and about during the long summer days, the chances of somebody experiencing a slip and fall reach an annual apex.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you’ve been injured in an accident this summer, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of experienced accident lawyers.

Court of Appeal Decision is a Win for Automobile Injury Victims

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Economical Mutual Insurance Company’s application to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Tomec v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company. Law Times recently explained the implications of the decision, which has attracted praise from personal injury and car accident lawyers.

Tomec, the plaintiff in the case, suffered non-catastrophic injuries in an automobile accident and sought benefits under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). She was awarded two years of housekeeping and attendant care benefits. However, her condition deteriorated over time, and after five years her injuries were deemed to be catastrophic. When she sought additional, ongoing benefits, Economical denied her application.

The lower courts agreed with Economical that Tomec’s application came outside the hard statute. Her legal team argued that a standard of discoverability should be applied to catastrophic injury benefits, rather than a strict time limit. The Court of Appeal agreed, delivering a win for car accident lawyers and their plaintiffs.

“Insurers are not going to be able to put some of their most seriously injured insured in this impossible catch-22 position,” one of the plaintiff’s lawyers told Law Times. “The Court of Appeal has confirmed that discoverability applies to this question. There’s not going to be someone who is told that their injuries took too long to develop to a point where you meet catastrophic impairment and as a result of that time, is not entitled to the higher level of benefits that catastrophic usually unlocks.”

The Court of Appeal’s ruling, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant an additional appeal, will benefit a small number of accident victims whose injuries slowly deteriorate over several years. The ruling will, in theory, make it more likely that seriously injured accident victims have access to the benefits they need during their recoveries.

“The Court of Appeal accepted the fact that there was a hopeless situation,” another lawyer told Law Times. “So what they did is they imported this issue of discoverability, saying a clock can’t run until the injury is discovered. This is not a new concept. … discoverability has been out there for a long time. They said ‘Why would we not let discoverability apply in cases like this?”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automobile accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced car accident lawyers will assess your claim and provide guidance and advice throughout the legal process.

 

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How Has the Pandemic Affected Road Safety?

Road safety has been a topic of discussion throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just for car accident lawyers. Safety advocates have been keenly studying how reduced vehicle traffic affects pedestrian and cyclist safety. Municipal officials have taken the opportunity to experiment with expanded cycling networks and roadside cafes. And law enforcement has carefully reported changes in driver behaviour.

Many of the findings from this period of experimentation and observation have been positive. There is wide approval for the City of Toronto’s growing cycling network and temporary street closures, for example, and numerous urban planning professionals have endorsed the move to limit vehicle access to downtown communities.

“We’re doing a lot of work that was meant to be spread out over a few years in a few weeks,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told the CBC. “It’s going to keep people safer because it’s going to give people alternative to the transit system, where they’re still a bit anxious.”

In some jurisdictions across Canada, police and car accident lawyers are fielding fewer calls from injury victims. Unfortunately, negative trends have also emerged. According to the results of a recent Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) survey, Canadians are witnessing more dangerous driving since the lockdowns took effect. Forty-four per cent of respondents said they saw someone speeding in the last four months. Aggressive, distracted, and reckless driving are also increasing.

“These numbers are concerning,” said CAA National vice-president of public affairs Ian Jack, in a release. “It doesn’t matter if you are going for a 5-minute trip to the store, or a 30-minute scenic drive, keeping each other safe on and around roads should always be top of mind.”

“In the last few months, we have seen fewer cars on our roads, and more cyclists and pedestrians, who are most at risk when drivers are speeding and distracted behind the wheel.”

Reports of street racing and stunt driving were common in the early days of the lockdown. As jurisdictions slowly reopen, blatantly reckless driving appears to be giving way to commonplace dangerous behaviour. There have also been increases in impaired driving. In the Ontario Provincial Police’s East Algona detachment, impaired driving reports and arrests both increased in June 2020 compared to 2019.

“Impaired driving is one of the four major causal factors of fatal and personal injury collisions and is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada,” said detachment commander Tyler Sturgeon in a release.

As Ontario slowly reopens from its COVID-19 lockdowns, safety advocates, political figures, car accident lawyers, and law enforcement will watch closely for upticks in motor vehicle collisions and injuries. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how we can help.

 

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Ruling Delivered in Landmark Social Host Liability Case

Earlier this year, we discussed a British Columbia lawsuit centred on social host liability, a subject of sustained interest to Canadian car accident lawyers. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Calder McCormick, suffered life-changing injuries in a single-car accident after a 2012 party on the property of the defendants, Stephen and Lidia Pearson. McCormick’s lawsuit also named Andrew and Megan Coupland, who owned the vehicle in the accident, and the driver of the vehicle, Ryan Plambeck. Plambeck died in the crash; his estate settled out of court.

In Canada, licensed establishments owe a clear duty of care to patrons. When an intoxicated patron is permitted to drive home, the establishment is likely to be liable for at least some of the damage they cause.

Social hosts have a less clear duty of care. The precedent-setting case on this issue, Childs v Desormeaux, found the defendants not liable for injuries caused by their guest. A ruling in favour of McCormick would have further muddied the issue.

However, Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled in favour of the Pearsons. He found that the plaintiff’s case sought to establish an unreasonable burden of responsibility on the hosts.

“As hosts, the Pearsons had to take all reasonable steps to minimize the risks of harm to their guests, including the plaintiff,” Hinkson wrote in his decision, per the Globe and Mail. “The standard is one of reasonableness, not perfection. In my view, the standard proposed by the plaintiff is essentially one of perfection; anticipating all possibilities and avoiding any risks. That is simply not the way the world works… It is never possible to eliminate all risks, and the Pearsons were not required to do so.”

The judge noted that the Pearsons collected car keys from guests and drove several intoxicated partygoers home. No other impaired drivers left their property that night.

“The Pearsons’ plan of taking keys from anyone who might have intended to drive after consuming alcohol at their home and offering rides to those who had no safe way of leaving the party was successful in avoiding reasonably foreseeable harm to their guests,” Hinkson wrote.

McCormick and Plambeck were only able to drive away on the night of the party after finding a car with keys in it on an adjacent property. The car’s owners testified that the keys were left inside for a potential buyer to test drive it. This is not an unusual practice on rural Salt Spring Island.

While the result of this case is bad news for Calder McCormick, who continues to grapple with the fallout from his injuries, and will surely be questioned by some car accident lawyers, it is helpful in further establishing guidelines for social host liability.

If you or a member of your family have been injured due to intoxication, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our car accident lawyers will assess your claim and explain your options for pursuing compensation.

 

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COVID-19, Social Media, and Personal Injury Claims

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced tens of millions of North Americans indoors and… on to their phones. Social media usage is up – way up – since jurisdictions across the continent implemented antiviral lockdowns. That could be bad news for every personal injury lawyer and his or her clients.

Social media usage is up 61 per cent in the United States since the start of the pandemic, according to Kantar. Facebook usage is up 37 per cent. And two-thirds of respondents to an IZEA Worldwide survey said they expected their social media use to increase under lockdown.

According to Law.com, the increased engagement could be a boon for defence lawyers.

“Publicly available social media profiles routinely offer case-relevant information on plaintiffs,” wrote Michael Poskonka and Allison Oliver in a June 16 article. “What are their preferences and everyday activities? Who do they associate with?”

“Keeping in mind ethical and privacy considerations, social media research can provide pivotal information for cases. Litigation related to personal injury, wrongful death and domestic issues immediately come to mind.”

There is already a brief history of social media content being used against plaintiffs in personal injury cases in Canada. In 2015, a British Columbia woman’s claim for several hundred thousand dollars in damages from two car accidents was rejected on the basis of evidence culled from her Facebook account. The plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer insisted that she was depressed; Facebook images presented by the defence showed her attending parties and singing karaoke. She was awarded a fraction of her original claim.

Canadian courts have also questioned the validity of social media evidence. Judges in British Columbia and Alberta have ruled that social media content alone cannot prove that a plaintiff’s injuries are exaggerated. After all, many social media users present idealized versions of their lives, not unfiltered reality. A happy Facebook or Instagram account can easily hide an unhappy life.

If you are a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, using social media comes with risks. Be cautious when posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other widely available social media platform. Review your privacy and security settings – your profile should be visible only to those closest to you. And ensure your friends and family exercise caution with their profiles, as well.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Toronto personal injury lawyer.

Lifted Cottage Rental Ban Could Mean More Boating Accidents

Earlier this month, the Province of Ontario lifted its ban on short-term rentals (rentals lasting 28 days or less), which had affected lodges, cabins, cottages, B&Bs, homes, and condominiums since April 4. The ban, which was implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, had been a major concern for property owners that rely on rental incomes. It also put the economies of the province’s beachside and resort communities at risk.

While there is still concern that big-city visitors could import the virus, the economic opportunities for cottage country are too significant to turn down.

“We want people to come down from London, Hamilton and Toronto but we want them to be very cautious,” Malahide Township mayor Dave Mennill told CTV News London.

However, COVID-19 isn’t the only risk associated with out-of-town cottage-goers – every year in Ontario, dozens of people are killed in boating accidents, and many more contact boating accident lawyers to discuss claims for their injuries.

Unsafe boating is discouragingly common in Canada. A recent report from an RCMP division in British Columbia found that 93 per cent of boats were not equipped with necessary safety equipment. Closer to home, in Prince Edward County, Ontario, an OPP marine unit recently issued several warnings to unsafe boaters.

Impaired boating is considered equal to impaired driving under Ontario law. Boaters who are convicted of boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Ontario may have their driver’s licenses suspended. Despite law enforcement’s uncompromising stance, boating accident lawyers still field dozens of calls per year related to boating injuries.

During this year’s Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 16-22), the Canadian Safe Boating Council issued five key messages for Canadian boaters:

  1. Wear a Life Jacket: The vast majority of Canadian drowning victims (80 per cent) were not wearing a life jacket at the time of their accident.
  2. Don’t Boat While Intoxicated: Alcohol and prescription or non-prescription drugs contribute to a large number of Canadian boating accidents. It is never safe to operate a boat while impaired.
  3. Have a Plan and Be Prepared: Plan your water activities before you leave shore, and make sure your boat is equipped with all necessary safety equipment. Make sure you know what kind of weather you will face and ensure your fuel tank is full.
  4. Take a Boating Course: There are a number of online courses to get you started, and numerous on-water programs to ensure you’re prepared for the open water.
  5. Beware of Cold Water: Cold water can turn a minor spill into a major problem. Be extra cautious if you’re boating during the winter, spring, or fall.

Boating is a favourite pastime for thousands of Canadians, and the new availability of short-term cottage rentals will mean more boats on Ontario’s waterways. Please be safe this summer.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a boating accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced boating accident lawyers will get you the help you need.

How Will COVID-19 Cases Affect Personal Injury Plaintiffs?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected vulnerable Canadians, including nursing home residents and people with long-term disabilities, particularly harshly. As we have already discussed on this blog, individuals with chronic pain, brain injuries, and other serious health issues have had to deal with new barriers to recovery. Meanwhile, the plight of residents in long-term care facilities has been well documented.

As the crisis stabilizes and jurisdictions across the country emerge from prolonged lockdowns, personal injury lawyers and their clients may face a new challenge: overburdened court systems. Not only will the courts need to address existing matters that were put on hold as the pandemic took root, they will also face a wave of fresh, COVID-19-related lawsuits.

There were already almost 700 individual legal actions and almost 200 class action lawsuits related to COVID-19 filed in the United States by early May. Canada lags far behind – there were just 19 class actions filed by June 7 – but personal injury lawyers believe many more are on the horizon.

Included in those 19 is Neinstein’s own class action against Chartwell Aurora Long-Term Care Residence in Aurora, Ontario.

“These families trusted these long-term care facilities to care for their loves ones, and I think their trust is broken,” Neinstein’s Rose Leto said to the CBC about that case.

While suits against long-term care facilities make up the bulk of existing COVID-related claims in Canada, other industries have also been targeted. In the United States, claims have been launched against cruise line operators, insurance providers, airlines, ticket retailers, and universities.

“What you find with COVID is the breadth of the sectors it touches,” one lawyer told CBC News Calgary. “You’re seeing many industry sectors affected simultaneously. We will have COVID-related cases in the courts for many years.”

“Any time there is mass harm, lots of people suffering financially, physically, they’re looking to hold people accountable, entities accountable,” added Jasminka Kalajdzic, an associate professor of law at the University of Windsor, in a separate report from the CBC. “Whether any of these, most of these, cases are going to be successful is a big question.”

Among personal injury lawyers, there is concern that a massive influx of new claims, combined with existing delays in the courts, will make life more difficult for seriously injured accident victims who rely on compensation to fund their recoveries.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team will review your case and explain your options for pursuing legal action.

 

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Ontario Nursing Homes Remain at the Eye of the COVID-19 Storm

Many of Ontario’s long-term care facilities have operated under substandard conditions for years. The situation has been something of an open secret; residents, residents’ families, personal injury lawyers, and healthcare experts have long decried the lack of resources available to nursing homes, but the problem has not received widespread attention.

As long-term care facilities have become ground zero for COVID-19 in Canada, the wider public has become more aware of the conditions in which elderly and disabled Canadians are living. Last month, members of the military were called in to bolster overburdened and undertrained staff at nursing homes across Ontario. A shocking report on their time in the homes became available in late May.

The report contained graphic descriptions of abusive behaviour, neglect, infestation, hospitalization, and death. At Orchard Villa in Pickering, Ontario, troops witnessed a patient choke to death during a feeding. At Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, they reported “aggressive behaviour” by staff and the drugging of “difficult or agitated” patients. At Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, they reported “inadequate nutrition” among residents.

Even before the military’s report, several class action lawsuits had been initiated against long-term care facilities in Ontario. Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers has filed a claim against Chartwell Retirement Residences, which operates numerous facilities in the province.

The provincial government has announced an investigation into its long-term care system, and the Ontario Ombudsman has announced an investigation into the province’s oversight.

“The Canadian Armed Forces report painted a stunning portrait of the situation in long-term care during this crisis; our investigation will look at the systemic issues that led to it, and will make constructive recommendations for corrective action,” Ombudsman Paul Dubé said.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that expert recommendations to improve the long-term care system will result in positive change. After all, deficiencies in the system have been identified by numerous reports in the past, leading to minimal progress.

“We have been elevating our concerns about a growing number of long-term care homes for some time now,” said Ontario Nurses Association president Vicki McKenna to the CBC.

“We are grateful that the report from the military and the involvement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally resulted in attention being paid to deficiencies in these homes,” she added, referring to the Prime Minister’s recent public comments on the matter.

While most of the province’s personal injury lawyers hold out hope that systemic change will be enacted, most are rightfully pessimistic. In the meantime, our firm is accepting calls from clients who have been injured, or whose family members have been injured, in Ontario long term care facilities.

For more information about our class action lawsuit against Chartwell Retirement Residences, or to learn more about our experience in nursing home negligence cases, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

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As Cycling Increases, Cities and Road Users must Work Together to Reduce Risk

As we discussed in last week’s blog, cycling is on the rise across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an unexpected positive outcome from an otherwise disastrous emergency. Cycling is an efficient and healthy way to get from point A to point B and, when all road users obey traffic laws and treat each other with respect, it is also quite safe.

Unfortunately, as our bicycle accident lawyers know, cycling accidents are far too common in Toronto. Without proper preventative measures in place, the city could see a rise in serious cycling injuries in tandem with increased ridership. According to the Canadian Automobile Association and Statistics Canada, as reported by Global News, approximately 7,500 serious cycling injuries occur each year across the country. It will take the combined efforts of cyclists, motorists, and individual jurisdictions to prevent an increase.

Toronto is uncharacteristically ahead of the game on this front. Last week, city council voted to immediately add 40 kilometres of new bike lanes to the city’s growing cycling network. Included in the plan are bike lanes on high traffic stretches of Bloor St West (from Shaw to Runnymede), Bloor St East (from Avenue to Sherbourne), Dundas St East (from Sackville to Broadview), University Ave and Queen’s Park (from Adelaide to Bloor), and The Danforth from Broadview to Dawes.

“Expanding bikeways will help increase mobility options for people as the City starts to reopen and the need for travel increases,” a report to city council read, per CBC News Toronto.

“As we begin to transition to recovery in Toronto and more businesses and workplaces open back up, how we will get around is a pressing challenge,” read a joint statement from councillors Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, and Kristyn Wong-Tam. “For physical distancing we need to create alternative and safe methods of transportation.”

Mayor John Tory also voiced his support for the plan: “That’s going to mean more business for shop owners, it’s going to mean that we’re going to take some of the pressure off our transit system and protect the health of the city.”

As more cyclists hit the streets, it will be crucial that they adhere to traffic laws and follow safety rules. Doing so could limit the number of calls our bicycle accident lawyers receive. These rules include:

Always Wear a Helmet: It is illegal for those under the age of 18 to ride without a helmet in Ontario, and unwise to do so over the age of 18.

Ride a Bike That ‘Fits’: Bicycles are generally sized by their frame. It will be easier to control a bike that fits your body.

Equip your Bike with Safety Gear: Lights, reflectors, and a bell are must-haves for safe riding.

Wear Bright Clothing: Many serious cycling accidents occur at dusk or overnight. Bright, reflective clothing can mitigate this risk.

Travel with the Flow of Traffic: Always ride in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic, unless you are on a designated bicycle lane.

Don’t Ride on the Sidewalk: Just as motorists have an obligation to avoid injuring cyclists, cyclists must avoid putting pedestrians at risk.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a cycling accident in Ontario, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of experienced bicycle accident lawyers.

 

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