Accident benefits updates in Canada

Accident Benefits Update: Impaired Driving Charges After Crash

R. v. Canavan, 2019 ONCA 567 (CanLII), the appellant, Michael Canavan tried to overturn his convictions for impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death, operating a motor vehicle with over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, and two counts of driving while impaired causing bodily harm.

On the evening of June 12, 2015, Canavan was driving northbound on Trafalgar Road in the southbound lane – the wrong lane – as he was going up a hill. He collided head-on with a southbound car as it crested the hill, resulting in the death of the driver of the other car, Janice Bye, and injuries to the two passengers. He was taken by ambulance to the Georgetown Hospital for emergency treatment, where the staff drew several vials of blood for analysis. These vials of blood at the hospital were seized by the police acting under a warrant 10 days after the collision.

Under s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”. On this appeal, Canavan claimed that his Charter rights had been violated as the police had no right to seize the blood sample. He also claimed that Georgetown Hospital had acted as an agent of the police, because it had: drawn the blood without his consent, drawn more than was required for medical purposes, and preserved it to provide evidence to the police. Effectively, he alleged that the Hospital assisted in the unreasonable seizure of his blood.

The Court rejected Canavan’s arguments and upheld the trial judge’s decision. There was no evidence indicating collusion between the police and the Hospital. The attending physician and staff followed established protocols in drawing the blood. Consent to treatment had been secured and Canavan did not refuse blood work.

This appeal highlights the importance of following established protocols for treatment and documentation in vehicular trauma cases. If the Hospital had not been able to demonstrate the propriety of its care and its independence from the police investigation, Canavan might have succeeded in avoiding just punishment for his illegal actions.

The same principles are also true in cases where there are no criminal allegations. Most auto collision lawsuits are negligence claims for damages. Both parties in these lawsuits rely on the evidence from the hospital records to help determine causation, fault apportionment and damages. Often, where the records are accurate and complete, the claims and issues in dispute can be resolved without the need for trial. Lawyers on both sides of the insurance bar deeply appreciate the time and attention that you give to document and preserve this essential data.