Monday, April 14, 2014

Distracted Driving: Snapping Pics of a Car Accident Gets Drivers a Ticket

texting while driving
RCMP ticketing drivers who take pics
It should probably go without saying, but drivers shouldn't be taking pictures of other people's car accidents as they drive past the scene.

The RCMP is now handing out distracted driving tickets to drivers who have done just that:
The RCMP says a number of registered vehicle owners can expect to receive distracted driving tickets in the mail. 
Police say they were called to a single vehicle rollover near Innisfail late Thursday afternoon, which resulted in the driver receiving minor injuries after investigators say he admittedly fell asleep at the wheel. 
While at the scene, investigators say they saw a number of drivers taking photos with their mobile devices as they passed by the collision.
The story goes on to note that the tickets do not affect someone's driving record. However, the RCMP hopes that people get the message that distracted driving is dangerous.

As we reported on our personal injury site in the past, distracted driving now causes more fatalities on the roads than either speeding or impaired driving.

Pace's personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims in Toronto and throughout Ontario since 1980.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Compensation For Victims of Violent Crime

Elaine Bright - Pace Personal Injury Lawyer in Kenora: Many of us have been victims of crime. If we are victims of property crime, we usually call our insurance company, and obtain whatever compensation we are entitled to. But if we are victims of violent crime, most of us don’t know where to turn for compensation.

In some cases, a victim of violent crime in Ontario can seek compensation by taking legal action against the person who committed the crime, and their insurance company. But in many cases, people who commit crimes do not have insurance, or their own resources, to pay a settlement or award in a legal proceeding.

Compensation for crime victims | Handcuffs pictured

The Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) provides financial compensation to eligible victims of violent crime that took place in Ontario. This compensation is intended for victims who are not in a position to sue the person who committed the crime. If a law suit is commenced, and a judgment or award made to the victim, the CICB must be reimbursed.
Victims are supposed to apply for compensation within two years of the crime taking place, but the Board can extend the time for filing.
Anyone who has suffered significant physical or psychological harm as a victim of crimes such as assault, sexual assault or arson, can apply for compensation. Dependents of someone who was murdered can also apply for compensation, or anyone who supported the deceased or paid funeral expenses. Even someone who witnessed a crime such as murder can apply for compensation if they experienced "mental or nervous shock."

Amount of Compensation

The size of awards given by the CICB is small compared to awards made in civil court proceedings. The average award in the CICB process is about $8,000. The maximum that can be given as a lump sum is $25,000. Fortunately, Ontario Works and ODSP allow recipients to retain the full amount of lump sum awards from the CICB.

The CICB can also award periodic payments of up to $1,000 per month in some situations, such as when someone becomes disabled as a result of an assault. These awards are much less common than lump sum awards.

It is important to know that the CICB does not provide compensation for loss of property, or for harm resulting from motor vehicle accidents, or crimes that take place outside Ontario.

Time Limits

Victims are supposed to apply for compensation within two years of the crime taking place, but the Board can extend the time for filing if the Applicant provides valid reasons for not filing sooner. In the case of sexual assault, and assaults on children, it is generally accepted that victims may need to wait many years before being ready to talk about the crimes that caused them harm.

Do you need a lawyer to apply for compensation? In theory, no. If you can do your own income tax, you can probably apply to the CICB on your own. Application forms are available on the CICB website. The forms, however, are quite long (15 pages). In some cases, Legal Aid may be able to assist. Alternatively, some lawyers will help with these types of claims, but will charge fees, payable when an award is made.

I know a lot of people whose lives have been seriously impacted by violent crime committed against them as children, and as adults. And I want everyone to know that some compensation is available. Both the process of pursing an award, and the receipt of an award, can help with healing.

Do you know someone who is the victim of violent crime? Let’s all pass the word on.

Elaine Bright is a lawyer with Pace Law Firm. She handles cases in Kenora and throughout Northwestern Ontario. Pace's personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims in Toronto and throughout Ontario since 1980.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No Car Insurance: What Happens After An Accident?

Elaine Bright - Pace Personal Injury Lawyer in Kenora: Most of us would never drive a vehicle that was not insured. But in some communities, particularly remote communities, it is not uncommon to see vehicles being driven that could never pass a safety check or qualify for licensing or insurance. Ron McDonald of Wabaseemoong says, “In my community there are lots of unlicensed, uninsured vehicles that get driven around – we call them ‘Rez Cars’.”

What happens if you or someone you know is injured in an accident involving a vehicle that is not insured? If the accident victim, or their spouse, or someone who supports the victim, has insurance, the victim can apply to that insurance company for compensation. If any vehicle involved in the accident was insured, then the victim can apply to one of those insurance companies.

Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund

car keysIf no insurance coverage is available to the victim of a car accident in Ontario, it is important to know that we have access to a special fund called the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. This Fund provides eligible victims with all of the coverage available under regular auto insurance accident benefits: coverage for physiotherapy, chiropractors, housekeeping, income replacement and more. The Fund will also pay damages for pain and suffering and other losses, provided certain conditions are met. The maximum payable in damages $200,000.

As with all accidents, important timelines apply. If there is no insurance available, any one who was injured in the accident should contact a lawyer right away in order to find out how to start a claim for accident benefits with the Accident Claims Fund. You have two years from the date of the accident to start a legal action for damages, but you should get advice much sooner than that.

Consequences

A word of caution if you are the registered owner of a rez car and or any other uninsured vehicle: if someone drives your vehicle, with your permission, and is involved in an accident – the Fund might come after you for any money it has to pay out. And even worse, your driver’s license will get suspended if you don’t make arrangements to pay any money owing to the Fund.

The bottom line: if you are in an accident with an uninsured vehicle, you can still get coverage for eligible expenses and for damages through a special Claims Fund. And if you own an uninsured vehicle, don’t let anyone drive it!

Elaine Bright is a lawyer with Pace Law Firm. She handles cases in Kenora and throughout Northwestern Ontario. Pace's personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beware the Fine Print in the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act

toronto personal injury lawyer Albert Conforzi
Toronto lawyer Albert Conforzi
While the recent bill proposing changes to the Insurance Act of Ontario are being trumpeted as anti-fraud measures, the public should take heed of what's in the fine print. According to the Canadian Press, here's what is in the bill:
The provincial government is introducing legislation aimed at curbing auto insurance costs by combating fraud, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said on Tuesday. 
At a news conference, Sousa said the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act will make it easier to settle disputes by moving the dispute system to the attorney general’s Licence Appeal Tribunal, which he said will help cut down on consumer frustration. 
The legislation — which will be introduced late Tuesday afternoon at Queen’s Park — is the next step in the government’s Auto Insurance Cost and Rate Reduction Strategy.
One of the measures, Sousa said, is to establish a special investigation and prosecution unit for serious fraud, including auto insurance fraud.
 
Okay. However, the devil is in the details.

This round of changes could easily be called the Insurance Company Relief Act. Let's take a look at how this bill impacts car owners and accident victims:
  • prejudgment interest at 5% is eliminated
  • the right to sue for accident benefits is eliminated
  • special awards are eliminated
  • financial services commission dispute resolution is being rolled into a licensing appeals tribunal
  • the arbitrator's power to refer insurer misconduct to the market conduct branch is eliminated
  • Each of these measures hurts victims and rewards insurers for abusive conduct and delay
I have said before that insurers in this province will not be happy until they can collect premiums and have no obligation to pay claims.

The government drank the Kool-Aid served by insurers. The sad fact is that victims will only learn of how they were sold out when they are injured, vulnerable, and looking for help that won't be there.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. Pace's personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Importance of Optional Insurance Coverage

Elaine Bright - Pace Personal Injury Lawyer in Kenora: “Always review optional auto insurance benefits with your broker or agent.” I have given this advice in the strongest terms to my family, friends and acquaintances since I started working in the field of personal injury law.

For only a few dollars a year – under $10 for some benefit areas – you can gain access to important benefits or dramatically increase the benefits payable following an automobile accident. Optional increased coverage is available for expenses related to medical costs, rehabilitation, attendant care, child care, housekeeping, home maintenance and dependent care.

Increased Coverage

You can also buy increased coverage for death benefits and funeral costs at very affordable prices. This is really a type of life insurance, although it is only payable in the event of a death from an automobile accident.

Two types of optional benefits will cost several hundred dollars each, per year: an increase to the income replacement benefit (IRB), and choosing to have your benefits indexed.
car accident insurance

If you are self-employed, or you work for a small business or organization, you probably don’t have short-term or long-term disability insurance that will provide an income to you if you are unable to work following an accident. If you want to purchase such insurance through a life and disability policy, you will likely have to prove that you are in good health.

Many of us, particularly those of us who are middle-aged, have had one or more health issues that would disqualify us or make such insurance too expensive. Increasing the amount of IRB payable under your auto insurance policy can be a way of obtaining some increased disability coverage at a very low rate, without having to prove that you are in good health.

Income Replacement Benefits

Before choosing to pay for an increase to your IRB, there are some important factors to consider:

- IRB is a type of disability coverage, but it only applies if you are injured in an automobile accident. It does not provide coverage if you are disabled for any other reason. Although this may seem obvious, it is important to keep in mind if you are comparing the cost of various disability policies.

- You are only entitled to IRB if you were actually earning income in the weeks or year prior immediately prior to the accident. If you are not working, or cease to work, there is no point in paying for an optional increase to this coverage.

- Eligible claimants receive up to 70% of their gross pre-accident income. Every Ontario auto insurance policy provides income replacement of up to $400/week without buying any optional increase. If you are earning less than approximately $600/week, you will not benefit from buying an optional increase to your IRB.

- You can purchase increased IRB coverage to a maximum payable of $600, $800 or $1,000 per week. This will primarily benefit individuals who are earning $800/week or more.

- If you have disability coverage through other sources there is probably no benefit in purchasing increased IRB coverage.

Indexing Benefits

Indexing is an option that provides for an annual increase to the maximum amount of IRB payable, and increases to some other benefits. The cost per year for indexing is several hundred dollars. The calculations are complex. I suggest that you go over the numbers with your insurance agent or broker to determine how much of a benefit this option would provide for you.

Automobile insurance – we often complain about the cost, but ironically, we should all look at the benefits of paying a little more.

Elaine Bright is a lawyer with Pace Law Firm. She handles cases in Kenora and throughout Northwestern Ontario. Pace's personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.

Distracted Drivers Cause More Deaths Than Drunk Drivers or Speeders

Last year, distracted drivers caused more deaths in Ontario than drunk drivers or speeders. This report from the OPP lays out the details:
Distracted driving has surpassed speed-related and impaired driving as the leading cause of fatalities on Ontario roads, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) says. 
In an OPP report the regional police force says a total of 78 drivers died in 2013 stemming from distracted driving-related collisions, eclipsing impaired driving deaths (57) deaths and speed-related deaths (44). 
"When you consider the overall impact of these 78 fatalities last year and the 325 other distracted driving victims who have died since 2010, the number of people these irresponsible drivers have had a profound and devestating impact on is in the thousands," OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair stated in an OPP release. 
The OPP plan to launch a formal distracted driving campaign beginning March 8, running until March 14. 2014. The regional police force will additionally focus on enforcing distracted driving laws throughout the period province-wide, coninciding with Ontario's recent fine increases that will see drivers not paying attention to the road fined $280, up from $155.
Pace Law Firm has examined the issue of distracted driving before. Watch the video here for the mock trial we conducted on distracted driving and criminal negligence. Pace lawyer Pat D'Aloisio also did a video interview on the rules surrounding texting while driving and distracted driving.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fine For Distracted Driving Increasing By Over $100

As our lawyers have reported many times before, distracted driving is a serious problem in Toronto and across Ontario. The government has decided to tackle the problem again, by raising the fine for distracted driving by more than $100:
Ontario is boosting the fine for motorists who are caught driving while distracted by a cellphone, MP3 player or other electronic devices. 
Including surcharges, the current fine for distracted driving is $155 but it will jump to $280 on March 18 after Ontario chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo authorized the new amount last week. 
Drivers who receive a summons or who contest their ticket by going to court may face a costlier fine if they are found guilty. 
This is the first time the fine amount has increased since the ban on handheld devices came into effect in October 2009. 
There are no demerits points and police do not confiscate handheld devices.
For more information on this issue, watch our video mock trial on distracted driving and criminal negligence.

Our Toronto personal injury lawyers have been helping people in the GTA and across Ontario for over 30 years.