Walking can be dangerous in Toronto. On an average day, six people are hit by a car. In 2019, there were roughly the same number of pedestrian deaths as shooting deaths, but the pedestrians who died, tragically, didn’t receive the same level of attention and outrage as our shooting victims.
According to Toronto Public Health, pedestrians represent a significantly disproportionate number of fatalities and injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, compared to motor vehicle accidents in general. More than half the fatalities in motor vehicle accidents were pedestrians, based on a 2015 report, and the situation doesn’t appear to be improving.
Multiple studies have determined that speed, inattention and alcohol contribute to the likelihood of a pedestrian accident. Also, pedestrian fatalities are more likely to occur on roads that have higher posted speed limits.
A recent pedestrian accident illustrates the life-shattering consequences that may result when you're struck by a motor vehicle. A 23-year-old Scarborough man, Mr. Godin-Chevrier, was walking across Danforth Road in Toronto when he was hit by a car, causing him to be thrown about 30 meters. He was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury which required surgery on his skull to relieve pressure. Mr. Godin-Chevrier also sustained a broken tibia in one leg, a broken wrist, a broken facial bone, ocular nerve damage in his right eye and liver damage.
The accident victim required several surgeries to treat his broken bones and the brain injury, and he underwent care in the hospital for about 8 months. Thereafter, he was moved to a rehabilitation center where he requires treatment and attendant care for many impairments, including the inability to use the left side of his body, vision problems, accumulation of fluid in his brain, and aphasia (an impairment that effects language and speech). The long-term prognosis for Mr. Godin-Chevrier is grim – it’s slightly possible that surgery may improve his speech and the ability to use the left side of his body, but he will not walk again, care for himself independently, or ever work again.
Clearly, this accident has had a terrible and life-changing impact on this young man. He went from being an active and social young man, to being confined to a bed and under constant care. Not surprisingly, he suffers from depression and feelings of despair, as detailed in the criminal trial of the at fault driver, R. v. Bulland (2019). And, in addition to the physical, emotional and psychological impact on the accident victim, the injury has hugely impacted his family on many levels.
At his criminal trial, the at fault driver was convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 3 years and 3 months in jail as well as a 5 -year driving prohibition. When he struck Mr. Godin-Chevrier, the driver was speeding (between 11 and 26 km/hr over the posted 60 km/hr limit) and also had over the legal limit of alcohol in his body.
Clearly, no amount of money can compensate for a debilitating and catastrophic injury, such as was sustained in this pedestrian accident. Nevertheless, Ontario’s insurance laws and civil law system does provide mechanisms for car accident victims, including pedestrians and cyclists, to be compensated for the losses they suffered as a result of their accident.
When a car accident injury causes financial losses and/or pain and suffering, an injured person may claim no fault/statutory accident benefits (SABs) from their own car insurance policy or from the policy of a driver involved in the accident. Further, if the accident was caused by a negligent driver, you may also file a civil action against the driver to recover your financial losses (including lost income and medical/rehabilitation expenses) as well as non-economic losses (notably, for pain and suffering). In cases where the at fault driver was convicted of a driving offence in connection with the accident, the courts typically view the conviction as proof of negligence and liability, which means that the key issues to be resolved in your lawsuit will generally be the assessment of your losses and calculation of appropriate damages.
If you were injured in a pedestrian accident, talk to an experienced ILO pedestrian accident lawyer in your community to learn whether you have good grounds to make a claim for compensation.