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Injured in an Accident? Protect Yourself at the Scene

A recent Ontario court decision reinforces how important it is for a person injured in an accident to attempt to gather identifying information of any possible defendants or witnesses at the scene of the accident or as soon after as possible.

In Shapiro v. Doe 2016, the plaintiff’s claim against his own insurer for injury caused by an unidentified vehicle was dismissed because the plaintiff, a pedestrian, did not obtain identification from the operator of the vehicle that hit him.

After the accident took place, despite being in what he described as excruciating pain, the plaintiff advised the driver of the vehicle that he was okay and walked home without requesting any particulars to identify the vehicle or driver.

Later, the plaintiff sought recovery for his claim from his own insurer and the motor vehicle accident claims fund.

On a motion for summary judgment brought forth by his insurer, the court found an absence of any medical or forensic evidence to explain why the plaintiff was in such a state that it prevented him from seeking identifying information. Therefore, the court ruled that the plaintiff’s failure to take steps to identify the motorist who struck him at the scene of the accident was not sufficient to make that driver an “unidentified motorist” within the meaning of the plaintiff’s own policy of insurance. As a result, the plaintiff’s claim against his own insurer was dismissed.

People often fail to provide or collect full information after an accident, whether due to embarrassment, shock or the fear that their own insurance rates will rise. It’s also true that people are reluctant to take appropriate measures after an accident for fear of appearing litigious or claims-conscious.

Taking the steps outlined below does not mean you’ve made the decision to start a lawsuit, but it will certainly help to protect your rights in the event you find it necessary to take action. If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident, even if it seems minor, you should:

  1. Obtain identification from all parties involved (including vehicle licence plate numbers)
  2. Try to get names and contact information from any witnesses at the scene
  3. Take pictures at the scene of the accident. With the prominence of phones equipped with cameras, this is easily done and can be a useful means of establishing conditions at the time of the accident. Even if you don’t own one yourself, kindly asking a witness to take photos on your behalf is helpful
  4. Inform the police, especially if it’s a motor vehicle accident or a road hazard that caused the accident. Even if the police don’t feel the accident is serious enough to appear at the scene, the record of contact and the particulars provided to the police could be vital later on to help establish what happened
  5. Promptly seek medical attention, even if you think you may quickly recover from the injury
  6. Immediately inform your own insurer

Finally, give Ferguson a call. We’ve helped people injured in an accident protect their rights for a long time. We can help you decide if taking legal action is indeed an appropriate next step based on the particulars of your situation. Contact us online for a free legal consultation or by phone at 1-800-563-6348 to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

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