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GETTING LEGAL: Brain Injury Awareness and Bike Safety

Susan Dhaliwal
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On our crowded Toronto streets, bicyclists inevitably face a higher risk of being involved in an accident compared to an occupant of a motor vehicle. Add to this increased risk the reality that the object into which the bicyclist impacts is either a 3,000lbs vehicle or unforgiving pavement and the results can be severe and devastating injuries.  While proper bike safety is always important all year around, its importance is especially highlighted in June during Brain Injury Awareness month in Ontario.

According to the Ontario Brain Injury Association, brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for people under the age of 44 and kills more people under the age of 20 than any other causes combined. Bicyclists are at an increased risk of suffering head trauma resulting in a traumatic brain injury.  Investment in safety equipment and taking proactive measures can prevent accidents and subsequent injuries.

Helmets are known to drastically reduce the risk of head injuries and are an absolute must to safe cycling. It’s also the law for every bicyclist under the age of 18 to wear an approved helmet.  When selecting a helmet the proper fit should be the most important consideration.  Ensure the helmet is comfortable but also fits tightly enough to prevent it from dislodging upon impact.

Plan ahead and choose a safe route. Many of Toronto’s streets have designated bike lanes that should be utilized wherever possible.  Under the Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is a vehicle, and must share the road with others, obey all traffic laws and have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.  Never ride on the sidewalk.  Not only is it against City bylaws but it’s actually more dangerous as cars rarely check sidewalks for bicycles when making a turn.

If you do have the unfortunate experience of being involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, bicyclists should be aware of the various insurance coverage they may be entitled to.  In Ontario, regardless of fault, accident victims have entitlement to benefits which can include medical, rehabilitation, attendant care and income loss benefits.  For suffers of brain injuries, access to these benefits are critical. While brain injuries can range from mild to catastrophic, every brain injury regardless of severity, can have permanent effects.  Symptoms can include cognitive deficits related to attention, memory, language processing and physical and social-emotional changes like chronic pain, irritability, depression and aggression.  Following an accident, an application for accident benefits should be considered and submitted to ensure access to the necessary medical and rehabilitation benefits are in place to promptly treat the injury.

Bicyclists not at-fault for the collision, also have the right to pursue a negligence claim against the at-fault party.  Where a bicyclist sustained a brain injury and failed to wear a helmet or take other necessary safety precautions, an award for damages will be lowered for contributory negligence.

Despite the available coverage, the best avenue is follow the rules of the road, wear a helmet and stay safe.

Note: Singer Kwinter will be contributing a few posts to BikingToronto in June in honour of Brain Injury Awareness Month.  This post originally appeared on Biking Toronto on  June 5, 2017. 

The content of this article or blog posting is of a general nature and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to be a full or complete analysis of the topic. Before applying the concepts or any content of this article or blog it is imperative that you consult your legal advisor.

Neither the author of this article or Singer Kwinter can accept any responsibility for financial loss nor gain of any nature should the reader not take advice from their legal advisor.

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