SPRING TIME SAFETY SERIES - PART 2: DOG BITES - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The days are getting longer and spring is on the way.  But springtime comes with safety challenges and risk of personal injury.  Part 2 of our Springtime Safety Series focuses on dog attacks and bites.

As the weather improves in spring, more people like to take their dogs outdoors.  And while we picture happy dogs with wagging tails, the reality is that more dogs out in the spring often leads to increased dog bites and attacks, or even being knocked down by an excited dog.

Dog bites and attacks may result in permanent physical and psychological harm, including scarring and risk of infection.  Some dog attacks may even prove fatal.  Here are some interesting statistics:

  • The Humane Society of Canada estimates that someone suffers a dog bite in Canada every 60 seconds. 
  • A study by the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded that dog bites account for “more injury-related emergency department visits than injuries associated with playgrounds, all-terrain vehicles, rollerblading or skateboards”.  

The majority of dog bite incidents involve children.

In dog bite cases in Ontario, the law places “strict liability” for a dog’s actions on the owner. According to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, all damages and injuries are the legal and financial responsibility of the owner.  An owner of a dog may be liable for an attack even if the dog did not previously show a propensity to attack people.

This strict liability also applies to anyone who “harbours” a dog. A person who is not the owner may be found to be harbouring a dog if they are in physical possession and control over a dog just before a bite or attack[1].  For example, family members, friends or even dog sitters or walkers can be seen as harbouring the dog if they were in control of the dog at the time of an attack.

Victims can sue the dog owner(s) for compensation for physical and emotional suffering, housekeeping and home maintenance assistance, medical treatment and rehabilitation, income loss and out-of-pocket expenses.

If the dog owner is a homeowner, most standard home insurance policies include “third party liability” coverage which means that the insurance company will likely respond to a claim if the homeowner’s dog harms someone.

As a dog owner, it is important to understand your home insurance policy coverage. If your dog does harm someone, it is important that you notify your insurance company immediately.

If you are injured by a dog, seek immediate medical attention to ensure you have not contracted any disease. The incident should be reported to your municipal Animal Control Services Department.  It is also important to obtain the name and contact information of the owner and any witness information, as well as take photographs of the injury and of the dog itself. 

So get out there and enjoy your springtime walk.  Just remember that dog owners must be aware of their responsibilities and dog victims should be mindful of their legal rights in the event that such a bite or attack happens to them or a loved one.

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[1]  Wilk v. Arbour, 2017 ONCA 21

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SPRING TIME SAFETY SERIES - PART I: MOTORCYCLES

SPRINGTIME SAFETY SERIES, PART 1: Motorcycles

The days are getting longer and spring is on the way.  But springtime comes with safety challenges and risk of personal injury.  Part 1 of our Springtime Safety Series focuses on motorcycle accidents.

Springtime is a great time for getting out the motorcycle for a road trip.  However, because of increased motorist, pedestrian and other traffic, there may be increased risks.  Also, changing weather in spring (including freeze and thaw conditions) can cause slippery patches on the roadways, causing dangerous driving conditions.

Because of the vulnerability of being in an open and unprotected vehicle such as a motorcycle, the risk of serious injury in a crash increases.  Injuries include spinal and muscle damage, road rash, traumatic brain injury and even death.

A recent study suggests that motorcycles account for 10 per cent of all motor vehicle deaths in Ontario and cost the health care system six times the amount of car crashes.  Researchers showed that while car safety has improved with rates of severe injuries and deaths from car crashes decreasing significantly over the last 10 years, injuries from motorcycle crashes have remained stable or even worsened[1].

In Ontario, it is mandatory to have motorcycle insurance for any motorcycle you ride on the roadway.  Mandatory motorcycle insurance includes Third Party Liability, which protects you from being held personally liable for damage you might cause to other persons and/or their property. The legal minimum coverage of $200,000 is not adequate protection.  Most people have policies with at least $1 million.  But increasing your third party liability limits up to $2 million or more (for only a nominal premium increase) is a great idea.   Because injuries in a motorcycle accident are often serious, if another insured driver causes serious injury to you or a family member and they only have $1 million in liability insurance, you can access additional coverage from your own insurance company (up to your own liability limits) in order to be fully compensated for all your injuries and losses. Also, having higher liability limits will further protect you from personal liability.

Insurance coverage also includes Accident Benefits which compensate you for medical expenses, rehabilitation, funeral expenses and loss of income following a collision.  Accident benefits coverage was drastically reduced as of June 1, 2016.  Once again, given the added risk of injury in motorcycle accidents, it is advisable to choose to increase your level of accident benefits coverage in important areas.

If you have been in a motorcycle accident, you also have the right to sue a negligent driver.  You may have the right to compensation for pain and suffering if you suffered a “permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function,” according to the Insurance Act. This lawsuit would be in addition to your entitlement to Accident Benefits and may also seek compensation for healthcare expenses, income loss and other losses.

Before you hit the road again this spring on your motorcycle, talk to your insurance providers about increasing your Accident Benefits and liability coverage and make sure you understand what your coverage includes.

Also, protect yourself from springtime motorcycle risks by using appropriate safety gear and being aware of wet and slippery road conditions. Wear proper attire in changing weather to keep you warm, to prevent limbs stiffening and to allow you to react better in unexpected situations.  Be aware of increased roadway and pedestrian traffic.

Safety precautions and proper insurance are an essential part of ensuring that you and your family are entitled to care and compensation in the event of a motorcycle collision.

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[1] “Direct medical costs of motorcycle crashes in Ontario” published in CMAJ, November 20, 2017, by Daniel Pincus, David Wasserstein, Avery B. Nathens, Yu Qing Bai, Donald A. Redelmeier and Walter P. Wodchis; http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/46/E1410

 

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TEEN DRIVER? BE AWARE - AND BEWARE

Teen drivers, and their parents and guardians, need to be aware of the legal obligations and consequences that come with being a teen behind the wheel.

The Risk Statistics

While young people (ages 16 to 24) only make up 13% of licensed drivers, they account for approximately one quarter of all road-related injuries and fatalities. Teenagers are known to demonstrate increased risk taking behaviour, including distracted, impaired and aggressive driving and failure to wear seatbelts.  Statistics to consider:

-every year, 2,000 people die in Canada in motor vehicle collisions

-forty per cent of speeding drivers in fatal crashes are between 16 and 24 years old

-a texting driver is 23 times more likely to crash than a non-texting driver

-human error accounts for 93% of all crashes

 

Texting and driving is also a growing problem.  Almost all young adults feel that texting and driving is very dangerous, but over half still admit to doing it anyway (click here for more on distracted driving).

 

How to Protect Teens - and Parents/Guardians?  Know the Rules

 

Parents, guardians and teens should be informed of the various laws governing young drivers, including the Highway Traffic Act, the graduated licensing rules and the Criminal Code of Canada.

 

The Regulation called Drivers’ Licences sets out many of the rules regarding graduated licences.  For example, in Ontario, there is a “zero alcohol” condition for all drivers under 22 years old. Drivers with G1 and G2 graduated licences also face restrictions on where they drive, with whom and when.

 

Novice drivers face “escalating” penalties for violations of the law and regulations (including if convicted of breaking graduated licensing rules). For a first offence, a driver’s licence is suspended for 30 days. For a second offence, the suspension is for 90 days. After a third offence, a driver will lose his or her novice licence and will need to re-apply and start all over, taking all graduated licensing tests and paying all fees (and losing any time discount earned, time credited and fees paid).

 

Vicarious Liability - Owners Beware

 

Potentially serious injuries are not the only consequences of accidents involving teen drivers.  If a teen is driving a vehicle owned and insured in his or her name, an accident can have long-term economic consequences, including significant insurance premiums and impact on driving history and insurability. The law states that the driver of a motor vehicle is liable for loss or damage sustained by any person by reason of negligence in the operation of the motor vehicle.

 

But what about a teen driving a vehicle owned by a parent or guardian?  The Highway Traffic Act provides that the owner of a motor vehicle is liable for loss or damage, unless the motor vehicle was without the owner’s consent in the possession of some person other than the owner.  If you allow your teen to use your car, be wary.  Even placing restrictions on the teen’s use of a vehicle will not protect an owner from liability - if the teen is in possession of the vehicle with consent, the owner will be liable.

 

Also, if a young driver is permitted to drive a vehicle when he or she is “not authorized by law to drive” (for example, due to alcohol consumption or breaching the graduated licensing rules), the owner of the vehicle risks having no insurance coverage for the owner or the young driver in the event of an accident.  

 

Take the time to discuss road safety (#NTDSW) and compliance with the law before your teen gets behind the wheel.  And make sure you have enough liability and collision coverage….

 

 

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

More information? We're here to help - monique@wardlegal.ca  www.wardlegal.ca

 

 

 

 

 

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FIGHTING FIRE - WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW

The cool fall air has finally arrived.  Cords of wood are being delivered and wood stoves are being fired up.  Gas fireplaces are being flicked on.  It’s also time for Fire Prevention Week (October 4-10, 2015).  

 

The best way to prevent injury and loss from fire is to be prepared.  But when you have been affected by fire, you need to know your legal rights and options for seeking compensation.

 

If you have suffered damage to your home or property due to fire or smoke damage, you need to be proactive in dealing with your homeowners insurance company to make a fire insurance claim.  Call your insurance agent or company immediately.

 

Fire loss claims are complex and time-consuming. You will be required to submit a “proof of loss claim” as soon as possible, with a time limit in which to do so under your policy.  If you are displaced from your home, you may claim living expenses.  You may have the option to repair or rebuild your home and it is important to have the right appraisers and contractors working for you. Your insurer may deny your claim based on misrepresentation on your application, failure to advise your insurer of a change of use in the property or that a renovation has been completed. You may need to resort to legal action to obtain compensation from your insurer.

 

Damage to homes and personal belongings are not the only devastating effects of a fire. On average, 19 children aged 14 and under are killed by fire or smoke each year in Canada and nearly 600 are hospitalized. Fire victims suffer physical pain and emotional trauma. The recovery process for burn injuries can be excruciating and lengthy.

 

You may have the right to bring a claim for damages against a negligent party who caused a fire, including property designers, owners, managers, landlords and product manufacturers.  A fire can be caused by a failure to maintain or replace wiring, improper storage of flammable materials, lack of or defective fire and CO2 detectors, obstruction of fire exits, non-compliant building code construction, exploding propane or gas tanks, etc.  Also, the origin of a fire may be the result of defective products, including electrical equipment, wiring, circuits or heaters.

 

And what about your duties and obligations?  It’s the law in Ontario for homeowners to have working smoke alarms on every storey of a home and outside all sleeping areas. Landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental properties comply with the law.  Tenants of rental properties who do not have the required number of smoke alarms should contact their landlord immediately; it is also against the law for tenants to remove the batteries or tamper with an alarm in any way.  Failure to comply with the Fire Code smoke alarm requirements could result in a ticket for $235 or a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for corporations.

 

Ontario fire statistics reveal that in about 50 per cent of fatal home fires, the victims had no smoke alarm warning.  Smoke alarms are a proven way to prevent injuries and death from fires - see more here.

 

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services provides numerous resources (click here) about keeping your loved ones and property safe from fire.

 

Take some time to get prepared.

 

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

 

More information? We're here to help - monique@wardlegal.ca  www.wardlegal.ca

 

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BACK-TO-SCHOOL SAFETY

The countdown is on to the first day of school…  Take some time to remind your children about safe pedestrian practices.

In Canada, child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related deaths for children under age 14.  More than 30 children are killed and 2,400 are seriously injured in a typical year.  Child pedestrians are most often hurt in September and October.  (Source)

Children’s physical and mental capacities are still developing well into their teens and they are often unable to make safe judgments about traffic and pedestrian safety.  Also, children’s small size, lower eye level and need to look up and over vehicles can limit their field of vision and make them vulnerable to pedestrian accidents.

And it’s not just the young children who need to take care.  A teen pedestrian safety survey found that 51% of Canadian teens reported being hit or almost hit by a car, bike or motorcycle.  Teens engaged in various types of risky behaviour while walking, including listening to music, texting and talking on the phone.

Here are some tips for back-to-school pedestrian safety: 

- Look both ways and listen before crossing

- Only cross at street corners, stop signs and crosswalks and obey all signals

- Never run or dart out into the street

- Eliminate distractions - cellphones and other electronic devices should not be used when walking across streets

- Wear a helmet when riding a skateboard or bicycle

Pedestrian safety is not just for the pedestrians…  It is also each driver’s responsibility.  When driving, be careful near school zones and nearby neighbourhoods, give the right of way to school kids and stop at school crossings and for school buses.  Reduce your speed and don’t drive distracted!  Click here for information regarding fines and penalties for distracted driving in Ontario.

In a pedestrian/vehicle accident, victims have the right to medical and rehabilitation benefits and to compensation when injury and harm is caused by negligence.  In Ontario, the law assumes that the driver of the vehicle is at fault unless the driver can prove otherwise.  There are also specific laws about personal injury claims involving children.  Be sure to speak to a qualified lawyer in the event of an accident.

Be aware on the roadways and let’s have a safe school season.

 

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

More information? We're here to help - monique@wardlegal.ca  www.wardlegal.ca

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SWIMMING SAFETY - KEEPING YOUR HEAD ABOVE WATER

The City of Kawartha Lakes is fortunate to have an abundance of natural bodies of water for fishing, boating and swimming.  With sunny days and warm weather, many people also enjoy private and public pools and even fill up the little toddler pools for their children.  However, drowning and near drowning accidents continue to occur.  

 

It’s National Drowning Prevention Week (July 19-25, 2015) and time to take a moment to think about water safety.

 

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for Canadian children. Most deaths of children aged one to four are in home pools, especially when they are not supervised. Drowning can happen quickly and silently.  Children of all ages are at the greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes and ponds.  A young child can drown in as little as 2.5 cm (one inch) of water in just seconds.

 

Almost 60 children drown every year and another 140 children are admitted to hospital because they nearly drowned.  Near-drowning can result in long-term health effects - it can affect the way a child thinks, learns and plays.  Added to the human toll, the financial toll of drowning is staggering; in Ontario, the total direct and indirect costs are estimated to be over $30 million per year (see more here).

 

According to the Ontario Drowning Report - 2015 Edition, between 2008 and 2012, 845 drownings occurred in Ontario waters.

 

What are the legal issues related to drownings and near drownings?  Pool owners and caretakers may be liable for injuries or deaths resulting from drowning accidents - they are held to a reasonable standard of care and are required to demonstrate that they have done everything reasonably possible to ensure that a pool is safe.  Homeowners with pools may be liable for a guest’s injuries or death.  Public pools are required to have lifeguards on duty and water depths must be marked.  Failure to supervise minors may lead to liability in the event of an injury or death.  An injured person and their family members may be entitled to make a claim for compensation, including pain and suffering, loss of income and costs of rehabilitation and long-term care.

 

In addition to following safety standards and procedures, ensuring safe equipment and constant supervision, the following are tips to help reduce the risk of child drownings:

- Stay within sight and arms’ reach of your child when in, on or around the water.

- Learn how to swim or have your child supervised by an experienced adult.

- Learn first aid and CPR.

- Young children and weak swimmers must wear lifejackets when in, on or around the water and on a boat.

- If you have a property (house or cottage) that is close to open water, fence off a play area for children that is away from the water.

- Put your child in swimming lessons.

-Teach your children about currents and water safety rules.

Swimming and water play are wonderful recreational and fitness activities for people of all ages.  So get out the bathing suits and sunscreen!  And be safe.

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be.  Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.  More information?  We're here to help - monique@wardlegal.ca  www.wardlegal.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GOING FISHING? GET HOOKED ON SAFETY

Summer days are here and the many streams, rivers and lakes in the area provide opportunities for excellent fishing.  The week of July 4-12, 2015 is Canada’s National Fishing Week.  Fishing is a great pastime with friends and family, or for some peace and quiet on your own.  But it is important to remember to follow the law and to be safe at all times when near waterways and while boating.

 

Boating Laws and Regulations:

 

Before you go out fishing in a boat, be aware that there are laws, regulations and local rules covering speed limits, rights of way, use of lights and signals and collisions. Boats need to be registered and licensed. Regulations require anyone operating a power-driven boat to prove they are competent, most often by obtaining the Pleasure Craft Operator Card or taking an accredited boating safety course.  Boating while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and penalties include jail and fines.  A conviction for impaired driving of a boat in Ontario results in the suspension of your driver’s licence, fines and vehicle ignition locking.  Canadian laws require that recreational boats have one properly fitting lifejacket for each person on a boat.

 

Boating and Fishing Safety:

 

According to the Canadian Safe Boating Council and the Lifesaving Society, 80% of recreational boaters who drown each and every year in Canada were not wearing a lifejacket or Personal Floatation Device (PFD).  

 

Transport Canada has provided the following boating safety tips:

- Always wear a lifejacket or PFD (when on a boat and anytime you are on or around deep or fast-moving water, near shoreline or docks)

- Don’t drink alcohol while boating

- Take an accredited Canadian boating course

- Check the forecast for weather and water conditions

- Inspect all your equipment before departure

- Leave a trip / rescue plan with a responsible person

 

Here are some safe practices for wading, shoreline and dock fishing:

- Ensure that children have constant adult supervision

- If you are wading, wade with another person, wear your lifejacket or PFD, know how deep the water is and how strong the current is

- Know how to swim for your own safety - don't swim if there is any doubt about your ability

- Never dive into the water of an unknown area and don't swim in cold water- Look behind you before you cast to make sure your hook will not get caught on a power line, tree or person.

- Don’t leave tackle lying on the ground where someone can step or trip on it.

 

Boating Accidents:

 

In Canada, the Marine Liability Act sets out a maximum entitlement of $1,000,000.00 in compensation from injuries or loss of life resulting from a boat operated with negligence (and more in the case of a boat operated recklessly).  Compensation for expenses and financial losses may also be available.

 

Boating accidents can result in devastating injuries and drownings and can be complex as they may deal with both marine and motor vehicle law.  It is crucial to seek immediate legal advice after getting into a boating accident.

 

Remember to be safe and respect the rules of the waterways.  

 

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only.  It is not legal advice, or intended to be.  Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided to your circumstances.

More information? We’re here to help - monique@wardlegal.ca   www.wardlegal.ca

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