In Ontario, drunk driving continues to be a leading cause of personal injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents. And, anyone can be affected by a drunk driver’s actions, including pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and other motor vehicle occupants.
Accident victims who are seriously injured by a drunk driver naturally wonder how the driver can be held responsible for the life-changing injuries inflicted on them. Under Ontario law, civil lawsuits can only, in unusual cases, be used to bring punitive damages against a negligent party such as a drunk driver. Instead, we rely on the criminal courts to punish a criminally-negligent action such as drunk driving, by applying appropriate penalties depending on the specific charges brought against the driver (such as impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08, and dangerous driving) and whether or not it was a first or repeated offence for the driver.
However, anyone who is seriously injured by a drunk driver is entitled to seek damages to compensate them for any losses they experienced as a result of their injury. Common damages sought by accident victims include lost income, rehabilitation and attendant care expenses, housekeeping and home maintenance costs, expenses incurred by family members (under the Family Law Act), and pain and suffering damages. Rehabilitation costs may include a broad spectrum of expenses, such as chiropractic and physiotherapy, medical aids/equipment, chronic pain therapy, psychiatric treatment and care giver costs.
Understandably, the type and cost of rehabilitation treatments depends on the nature of the accident victim’s injuries. Traumatic brain injury including concussion, and spinal cord injury are common injuries incurred in car accidents in Ontario, and these injuries are often complex - recovery can vary significantly between accident victims and symptoms can be long-term and even, permanent. Soft-tissue injuries and bone fractures also often occur in motor vehicle accidents and healing time can vary between patients. The road to recovery is often particularly difficult and/or lengthy for persons with pre-existing injuries or other health conditions, and the elderly.
If you were involved in a motor vehcile accident caused by another driver, including a drunk driver, the first and important step is to contact police at the scene of the accident. Ontario law requires that accidents are always reported if someone was injured; if there may be criminal behaviour (such as drunk driving); when a pedestrian is involved; or if property and/or vehicle damage exceeds $2000. However it's prudent to contact police even for minor accidents and when you don't think you were injured.
Further, regardless of your personal situation or level of health, it’s vital to seek a medical assessment immediately after your accident. Some injuries don’t reveal themselves until a few days or weeks after the traumatic event, and a failure to get early treatment can worsen the symptoms or result in further complications. Once you receive a prognosis and suggested treatment, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice. The latter action clearly improves your chance of recovery, but it also serves as important evidence in a personal injury suit when you’re able to show that you did everything you could to minimize the extent of your injury and losses.
At Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan, we have helped many accident victims get needed and fair compensation after they were injured in a drunk driving accident. Our experienced legal team can also help you and loved ones connect with the appropriate medical and rehabilitation specialists during your treatment and recovery, and we will ensure that all evidence is brought to bear in developing a strong case for compensation. If you or a loved one were injured, call our office today for a no-obligation consultation.