BLOG – NEINSTEIN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS

Ontario Auto Insurance Premiums Remain High Amid Pandemic

Many personal injury lawyers in Ontario believe the province’s auto insurance system unfairly benefits insurance companies at the expense of accident victims. As of February 2020, Ontario drivers paid an average of $1,528 per year in insurance premiums, the second highest amount in Canada after British Columbia, despite being one of the nation’s safest driving provinces. Between 2011 and 2015, Ontario averaged just 3.7 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, the lowest rate in the country. For comparison, there were 13.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 in Saskatchewan – the nation’s highest rate – 6.9 per 100,000 in Manitoba, and 4.9 per 100,000 in Quebec.

In 2016, the Government of Ontario announced sweeping changes to the province’s auto insurance system with the stated goal of reducing premiums. As personal injury lawyers know, this goal was not achieved: premiums remain high, while accident benefits have been severely curtailed. The maximum available benefits for a catastrophically injured accident victim with a standard insurance policy in 2020 are up to $1 million less than they were in 2015.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was hope among personal injury lawyers that traffic accidents would decrease amid the lockdowns, and that premiums would fall as a result. Indeed, the province’s insurance industry promised relief to consumers in the form of premium reductions and rebates.

Serious traffic accidents decreased significantly in 2020. Between March 17 and July 31, there were 56 per cent fewer accidents causing death, injury, or property damage than during the same period in 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, the insurance industry hasn’t kept its promises in any meaningful way. The OTLA Blog reports that more than 460,000 drivers did not receive a rebate from their insurance provider. Those who did received a negligible reimbursement. Insurers are expected to have returned just 7.1 per cent of the premiums they received last year; meanwhile, the average insurance premium has increased $30, or roughly 1.8 per cent.

“So we have a 56% drop in collisions… but only a 7% temporary credit on premiums,” the OTLA Blog post reads. “And, overall, premiums are actually going up this year by 1.8%. How is this fair?”

For more than 50 years, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers has helped hold insurance companies accountable for their actions by representing seriously injured accident victims in insurance disputes. If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident and believe you are entitled to more money than your insurer is willing to provide, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Can Party Hosts be Sued for the Spread of COVID-19?

Forty-eight per cent of Canadians surveyed in a Leger/Association for Canadian Studies poll visited with people outside their households this holiday season, despite pleas from regional health officials. COVID-19 cases are expected to increase as a result, but legal risks may also apply, according to several personal injury lawyers interviewed by CTV News.

During an ordinary holiday season, personal injury lawyers are concerned with a variety of seasonal risks: slip and falls, impaired driving, social host liability, decorations-related injuries, etc. The accelerating coronavirus pandemic opened the door to a new possibility: that hosts could be liable for the virus’s spread.

“The risk if they sue you is that your home insurance many not actually cover a claim like that,” one personal injury lawyer told Your Morning. “If you are doing something that is outside of the law or outside of the public health regulations or if you have an exclusion for communicable diseases, there is a risk that if you are sued, your own insurance policy will not cover you.”

In other words, party hosts this holiday season could be responsible for paying damages and legal costs out of pocket. Combined, these expenses are likely to be even higher than the fines implemented by municipalities to discourage gatherings.

However, suing a party host for the spread of COVID-19 could be challenging. The main barrier, according to one of the personal injury lawyers CTV spoke with, would be proving that the host was aware of the risk.

“The biggest issue is identifying did the host know,” the lawyer said. “So if the host didn’t know that anybody was sick or had symptoms, it’d be a much tougher case. It all comes down to knowledge but generally in our law we don’t sue for contagious diseases.”

However, another lawyer drew parallels between a host who knowingly allowed the spread of COVID-19 and a host who allowed their party guests to drink and drive.

“If an individual is intoxicated by way of alcohol or drugs and, as a result, they injure themselves or others, the social host can be held liable for those injuries sustained if it was found that the intoxication occurred while a guest of the social host,” the lawyer explained.

To our knowledge, there have been no incidents of COVID-19 victims suing party hosts for allowing the virus’s spread. But as case numbers rise in the weeks following the holidays, that might quickly change.

If you or a member of your family suffered an injury this holiday season, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Can Canadians Limit Slip and Fall Injuries This Winter?

Cabin fever, the feeling of listlessness and irritability that comes with winter isolation, is a familiar phenomenon to most Canadians. This coming winter, with communal spaces likes gyms, community centres, and churches closed due to the pandemic, levels of cabin fever could reach an all-time high. For many, there will be only one cure: bundle up and get outside.

Slip and fall lawyers in Ontario and elsewhere are already concerned that an increase in winter activities could lead to a spike in personal injury claims. From Winnipeg to Toronto, safety activists are calling on community stakeholders to ramp up snow and ice removal efforts.

Every winter in Ontario, hundreds of people are seriously injured in slip and fall accidents. For some of the province’s more vulnerable citizens, snow- and ice-covered sidewalks make leaving the house impossible.

“For many of us and many of our centres, the ability to get outside and enjoy relatively OK fresh air right now is very, very important for our own mental health and our physical health,” said Connie Newman, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, to CBC News Manitoba. “I love to walk in my neighbourhood, and yet with our icy conditions, it makes it almost impossible because of fear of falling.”

Falling on an icy sidewalk usually causes nothing more than a bruised ego. However, people of all ages can suffer catastrophic injuries from such an accident, and older Canadians are particularly susceptible. Without being able to visit friends and family this winter, outdoor excursions may be seniors’ only avenue to staying active and breaking the monotony. As such, it will be critical for everyone in the community – local governments, business owners, and private citizens alike – to be proactive about clearing ice and snow.

“Right now, trails and getting outside is really the only recreational opportunity that is available,” said Winnipeg Trails Association executive director Anders Swanson, also to CBC Manitoba. “I think it’s taken on an importance that even we couldn’t have conjured before this. People are going to need to get outside. More than ever, we need to look at … the ways we maintain our existing pathway networks to make sure that everybody has access.”

In large cities like Toronto, where Neinstein’s slip and fall lawyers are headquartered, municipal snow-clearing must also apply to designated bike lanes.

As the COVID-19 pandemic in North America stretches into its first winter, Canadians are bracing themselves for a uniquely challenging start to 2021. With luck – and buy-in from municipalities – rising slip and fall accidents won’t add to the expected hardships.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our slip and fall lawyers will review your claim and explain your legal options.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Court Decision is Another Blow for Ontario Auto Insurance Holders

Ontario’s drivers rely on insurance to cover costs when they’ve been involved in an accident. When an injury has occurred, insured drivers expect their provider to deliver an appropriate level of accident benefits according to the province’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). But what happens when an insurance company fails to act in their clients’ best interest?

According to some personal injury lawyers, policy owners now have fewer options to fight back against insurance providers acting in bad faith. This is due, in part, to the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, according to a recent article in Law Times.

The Stegenga case focuses on a 15-year-old girl who was seriously injured in an automotive accident. The family sought accident benefits from their insurer, Economical, but were never informed that the girl might qualify to receive catastrophic accident benefits. The family instead received standard benefits and, when those benefits ran out, the insurer refused to provide additional coverage.

The family believed that the insurer had acted in bad faith by failing to inform them of their right to be assessed for catastrophic injuries. However, they were not able to sue for bad faith due to changes made to Ontario’s Insurance Act in 2016. Those changes revoked injury victims’ right to sue insurers in court; instead, they would have to pursue claims before the Licence Appeal Tribunal.

“There’s only one catch – there is no claim for bad faith at the Licensing Appeals Tribunal,” one lawyer told Law Times. “There are provisions that are penal towards the insurance company in some circumstances that could increase the amount of money they have to pay.”

However, those provisions apply only to claims for withheld benefits. The Stegenga family was not seeking withheld benefits, but rather compensation for their insurer’s bad faith conduct. They are left without obvious legal recourse.

The 2016 changes to Ontario’s Insurance Act have impacted accident victims and the personal injury lawyers that represent since for years. Besides stripping injury victims of their right to pursue compensation for insurance companies’ bad faith actions, those changes drastically reduced the amounts of benefits available to injured drivers.

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. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and provide guidance as you embark on your road to recovery.

 

Image: Shutterstock

COVID-19 Has Changed the Face of Long Term Disability Claims in Ontario

Every Ontarian, from doctors to high school students to long term disability lawyers, has felt the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the event that has defined 2020 and is likely to define the next decade.

Certain members of our community have felt its impacts more acutely than others, a fact that has been reflected in trends in personal injury claims. Motor vehicle accident claims, for example, have involved increasingly severe injuries, a result of lighter traffic on major routes. Long term disability claims, which were most often linked to physical injuries before the pandemic, are now trending towards psychological impacts. Both of these effects were reported in a recent article from Law Times.

Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries are Becoming More Severe 

The increasing severity of motor vehicle accident injuries is one of the more unexpected side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. General wisdom in March and April was that widespread lockdowns would limit the number of vehicles on the road, which would result in fewer accidents.

That prediction may have come true, but what wasn’t predicted were the changes in driver behaviour. With fewer vehicles on the road, drivers are travelling faster than usual which, as every car accident lawyer knows, is a recipe for disaster; open road collisions almost always result in more serious injuries than rush hour fender benders.

Long Term Disability Claims are Changing

Long term disability lawyers help clients who have experienced life-changing injuries access compensation to fund their recoveries. Traditionally, long term disability claims have been related to catastrophic physical injuries: spinal injuries; brain injuries; massive trauma; etc.

Today, long term disability claims are increasingly linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, conditions that have been exasperated by restricted access to professional care.

“We have clients that were receiving regular treatment from a psychiatrist or psychologist, whether it’s on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week or monthly,” one lawyer told Law Times. “But those appointments were being cancelled. And when they weren’t getting the treatment, and medication, as well, wasn’t being prescribed, their mental health problems were significantly exasperated, as a result.”

Seriously injured accident victims are already among the most vulnerable people in Ontario, regardless of whether their injuries are physical, mental, or a combination of the two. Considering the profound challenges that COVID has presented – financial concerns, worries for the health of loved ones, isolation from friends and family – it’s no surprise that mental health long term disability claims are on the rise.

Contact a Long Term Disability Lawyer at Neinstein

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury and long term disability lawyers will assess your claim, outline your legal options, and provide a roadmap for your recovery.

 

Shutterstock

Lawyers Association Publishes Insurance Dispute Data

When a motorist is involved in an accident in Ontario, one of the first things they should do is notify their insurance provider. If they have been injured in the accident, they may be entitled to accident benefits under the province’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). Unfortunately, insurance providers and injured motorists don’t always agree on the amount of benefits owed. In these situations, the insured, with the help of an experienced insurance dispute lawyer, may present their case to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), the provincial body charged with resolving disputes concerning compensation claims, among other things.

Decisions made by the LAT can have a profound impact on an injury victim’s ability to live a happy, independent life. As such, personal injury lawyers are deeply concerned with the LAT’s inner workings. In September, members of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) joined an LAT Stakeholder Consultation Meeting. Here are a few key findings from the meeting, according to the OTLA Blog:

– The LAT has recommended to the province that there by more adjudicators, and has put forward recommendations for 10 new adjudicators.

– Video conference hearings are now standard, with in-person hearings only available to parties that ‘can establish significant prejudice’ or are unable to participate in a video conference.

– Parties are now able to schedule their own Case Conferences from a range of LAT-provided dates.

– The LAT is planning to enact simplified procedures for minor disputes.

The OTLA Blog also noted that the LAT seemed open to increased communication between stakeholders.

“It appears that the LAT wants to more regularly engage in stakeholder meetings,” it read. “The frequency of the meetings is not known, but, OTLA will continue to push for more meetings.”

More recently, the OTLA was able to obtain new LAT data through a Freedom of Information request. The data, which covers the period from the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2017-2018 to the first quarter (Q1) of 2020-2021, reveals several worrisome trends.

The number of resolution applications submitted to the LAT steadily increased over that period, as did the time between events in the resolution process. In Q4 2017-2018, the LAT received 2,928 applications; in Q1 2020-2021 it received 3,818. In that same period, the average number of days between an application and a case conference increased from 128 to 190; the average number of days between a case conference and a hearing increased from 93 to 138; the average number of days between a hearing and a decision increased from 126 to 173; and, most importantly, the average number of days between an application and a decision increased from 323 to 505.

These numbers are important because seriously injured accident victims need swift access to benefits in order to fund their medical care, rehabilitation, and a host of other expenses. With luck, some of the measures confirmed in September’s Stakeholder Meeting will limit delays.

The LAT data also revealed that a small number of insurers are involved in a disproportionately large number of disputes. The OTLA Blog mentions only one by name: Aviva.

Contact an Insurance Dispute Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. An experienced insurance dispute lawyer can ensure you receive the full amount of accident benefits to which you are entitled.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Ontario Announces Contingency Fee Changes

In early October, the Province of Ontario proclaimed amendments to the Solicitors Act which introduce a new ‘standard form contingency fee agreement.’ The changes will come into force in July of next year, with repercussions for the majority of the province’s personal injury lawyers. Last month, Law Times spoke with Adam Wagman, former president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) about the new agreement’s benefits and shortcomings.

What are Contingency Fees?

Contingency fees are a form of payment for legal services. Under a contingency fee, a lawyer and his or her client agree for the lawyer to be paid out of the settlement or compensation received at the end of the case.

Many personal injury lawyers view contingency fees as a means of providing access to justice. Per the OTLA’s blog: “In Ontario, access to justice is an important issue that the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) and the Ontario Trail Lawyers Association (OTLA) take very seriously. In order to ensure access to justice for all, the LSO allows lawyers in this province to take on … cases without being paid at the start.”

What Changes are Being Made?

The primary goal of the new standard form agreement is to limit confusion among clients. Standardized language will make it easier for prospective clients to understand the financial terms of their contract and how fees are calculated. It may also make it easier for clients to compare between law firms.

“Far too often in the past, a prospective client would say to me, yeah, but this other lawyer wants to charge me something very different from what we said that we were going to charge them,” Adam Wagman told Law Times. “And, in reality, it was the same thing, just said in a different way.”

Remaining Challenges

Although Wagman believes the changes are “far and away an improvement,” he believes issues will remain. For example, the new standard agreement doesn’t clarify how personal injury lawyers who have received all-inclusive settlement offers should handle disbursements – the costs paid out-of-pocket in the service of a case.

The new rules state that “a contingency fee agreement that provides that the fee is determined as a percentage of the amount recovered by the client under an award or settlement shall exclude any amount that is specified as being in respect of disbursements that a court allows or would allow as recoverable from an adverse party.”

In other words, lawyers may charge contingency fees on the amount recovered by their client, but not on any amounts designated to cover legal expenses. But most settlement offers do not specify what percentage of the settlement is intended for what purpose, which may lead to confusion.

Another point of concern relates to cases where the client changes lawyers. Traditionally, the incoming lawyer has covered the previous lawyer’s disbursements in exchange for the file. The new rules state that original lawyers may collect disbursements when the case concludes.

“It can’t be right that a lawyer who is no longer working on the file, because a retainer agreement has been terminated, essentially has to continue to fund that file with their disbursement money – which can be 10s of thousands of dollars – while they have no involvement in the case,” Wagman said.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers is proud to offer services on a contingency basis. To learn more about our fees, services, and areas of expertise, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. A member of our team will be happy to review your claim and offer advice as you embark on your road to recovery.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Are Injured Car Accident Victims Responsible for Collecting Drivers’ Information?

Canada’s Criminal Code states that when a driver is involved in a collision with another vehicle, they are required to stop, provide their name and address, and offer assistance to anyone who is injured. During this interaction, drivers generally choose to exchange insurance information as well. However, as every car accident lawyer in Ontario knows, not every driver is willing to take these steps.

What happens when an injured car accident victim seeks compensation from an at-fault driver who leaves the scene of the accident? This question was examined in Lamb v. Co-operators General Insurance Co., an Ontario case recently profiled in Law Times.

What Happened?

The plaintiff, Lamb, was driving her electric scooter in a parking lot when she was struck by a car. She suffered a fractured right tibia plateau, Law Times reports, an injury that required surgery. Her husband and friend, who were present at the time of the collision, immediately tended to her. The driver of the other vehicle exited his car to survey the damage. Lamb’s husband and friend carried her to a nearby pub for assistance; when they returned to the scene of the accident, the driver was gone.

Why the Dispute?

Lamb, with the help of a car accident lawyer, sought compensation from her insurer, Co-operators General Insurance Co. Co-operators refused to provide compensation on the basis that Lamb had not taken reasonable action to identify the driver or record his license plate number.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice was asked to decide whether Lamb, her husband, or her friend acted unreasonably in failing to collect this information.

“The question is not whether it was possible for Ms. Lamb to identify the driver or record his license plate,” wrote Justice James Stribopoulos. “Instead, it is whether her failure to do so was unreasonable in the circumstances, which necessarily takes into account her condition in the aftermath of the accident.”

The court ultimately decided that neither Lamb nor her companions acted unreasonably. It found that Lamb was likely in significant pain, and possibly shock, following the collision, and that her companions were well within their rights to tend to her before the addressing the driver.

In coming to its decision, the court cited Leggett v. British Columbia (Insurance Corp. of), a 1992 case in which the judge found that injured claimants are only required to discover and record information from at-fault drivers if they are in a reasonable condition and/or position to do so.

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team has represented injured Ontarians for decades, and has experience handling every manner of complex and unorthodox claim.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Ontario Drivers Miss Out on Expected Premium Decrease

In early February, CBC News Toronto reported that auto insurance rates in Ontario were set to increase by as much as 11 per cent. The change would further solidify the province as one of the most expensive places in Canada to purchase insurance. The average premium price at the time was $1,505, second only to British Columbia’s $1,832, despite Ontario holding ‘one of the lowest accident and death rates in the country,’ per the report.

For Ontario’s car accident lawyers, the report proved once again that accident victims face unfair barriers to fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries, especially given the drastic cuts to statutory accident benefits delivered by the previous provincial government in 2016.

And then, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Not only was the reported premium increase pushed off the front pages, insurance industry stakeholders announced that Ontario drivers could expect their rates to fall. In March and April, traffic plummeted across the province. According to mobility info published by Google and reported in the Toronto Star, activity at transit stations dropped 55 per cent from the recorded average, and workplace mobility dropped 32 per cent.

Since March, Ontario insurance companies have offered discounts worth $1 billion, according to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority. These include reduced premiums, deferred premiums, waived fees, and new payment options. But the Star reports that many Canadians never received a discount, or received a smaller discount than expected. That’s because vehicle traffic hasn’t disappeared; it’s simply moved to different locations. Workplace mobility is down, but park traffic is up 43 per cent.

More importantly, serious accidents have actually increased in 2020, as most of the province’s car accident lawyers know. In May, the Ontario Provincial Police reported a 16 per cent year-over-year increase in fatal accidents. Police have also reported more speeding infractions, and injury claims are reportedly up.

In other words, most Ontario drivers, even those who have used their vehicles less than in previous years, are paying the same elevated premiums as before the pandemic. Reduced insurance rates were expected to be a small silver lining in a destructive, challenging year. That expectation has not been fulfilled.

If you’ve been involved in an automotive accident and are having difficulty accessing benefits from your insurer, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no obligation consultation. Our team of car accident lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve for the damages you have experienced.

 

Image: Shutterstock

City of Toronto Liable for Eye Injury

Most personal injury lawsuits involve an injured person (the plaintiff) and a party who the plaintiff believes is responsible for their injuries (the defendant). Often, the defendant is another person – an impaired driver, for example, or a negligent doctor. The defendant can also be a business that failed to properly maintain its premises; an insurance company refusing to provide benefits to an injured motorist; or even a municipality. Such was the case in Becker v. Toronto (City), a dispute that was recently resolved in favour of the plaintiff by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

What Happened

In Becker v. Toronto (City), the plaintiff sued the city after she was struck by shattered glass from an office door in a city-operated community centre. She became blind in her left eye. The trial judge ruled that the city breached its duty of care under the Occupiers’ Liability Act by failing to use tempered safety glass in the door, as required under the Ontario Building Code.

At appeal, the city did not contest the facts, causation, or foreseeability of the event. However, it suggested that a breach of its duty of care would only be present if it had failed to take reasonable steps to attempt to install the safety glass.

The issue of attempting to install the glass was not brought up in the original trial. As such, the higher court dismissed the City of Toronto’s appeal.

“In my view the trial judge correctly characterized the issues the parties had put to her for decision,” wrote Court of Appeal Justice Benjamin Zarnett, according to Law Times. “They did not include the theory that the City took reasonable care in attempting to have tempered safety glass installed, and therefore fulfilled its duty of care, even if tempered safety glass was not actually installed.”

“I do not accept that the trial judge was required to consider an ‘even if’ theory, which was not argued at trial, just because the City never expressly abandoned it,” Zarnett concluded.

Bringing Personal Injury Lawsuits Against Municipalities

When a person, business, or government provides services to the public, they are expected to do so within a certain standard of care. When an injury occurs as a result of a breach of that standard of care, the injury victim may have the right to initiate a civil claim.

If you or a member of your family have been injured as a result of the negligence of an Ontario municipality, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team has experience with personal injury lawsuits against municipalities and has the expertise to get you the compensation you need.

 

Image: Shutterstock

Archives

ORGANIZATIONS WE SUPPORT