Should the LSUC limit Contingency Fees?

Update: see previous posts – April 23, 2017 Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada and their rising again, April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says, April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says

A report by David Marshall, former CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, found that the rates of death and injuries in Ontario are among the lowest in Canada, yet Ontarians pay the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

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The report by David Marshall calls for faster and more efficient delivery of care to accident victims to avoid protracted legal disputes over benefits all too common under the current system.

The widespread use of personal injury lawyers to battle insurance companies indicates a “failure” in Ontario’s auto insurance system, says a government-commissioned report.

“There is clear urgency to make the accident benefits system simple and accessible without the need for legal representation,” says the report, written by David Marshall, former CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. “In many ways, the need to have lawyers involved to negotiate settlements in what should be a straightforward, no-fault, accident benefits system signals a failure in the system.”

Marshall’s report, titled Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario,” looks at the costs associated with Ontario’s auto insurance system and makes 35 recommendations to improve it. The report calls for faster and more efficient delivery of care to accident victims to avoid protracted legal disputes over benefits — disputes all too common under the current system.

Marshall states that personal injury lawyers charge approximately half a billion dollars in contingency fees annually, while insurance companies spend roughly the same in legal fees and expenses to defend claims. Every year, between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of claimants — about 15,000 to 20,000 people — hire lawyers to deal with their insurance companies, the report says.

“Clearly, a better way to deliver fair benefits to accident victims needs to be found,” the report says.

Claire Wilkinson, a Burlington personal injury lawyer and president-elect of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, which represents about 1,200 personal injury lawyers, said she agrees that if the accident benefits system functioned properly, people wouldn’t need lawyers.

“It’s always felt like a David-versus-Goliath battle,” Wilkinson said. “Individuals don’t have the financial ability to fight the power and financial resources of the insurance industry. So they turn to personal injury lawyers because we give them a voice and the ability to fight, to try to level the playing field.”

Marshall was appointed by the provincial government in February 2016 to review Ontario’s auto insurance industry and his report was quietly posted online this month. He is not giving media interviews, according to the Ministry of Finance.

As reported in the Star last week, Marshall’s study found that the rates of death and injuries in the province are among the lowest in Canada, yet Ontarians pay the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

In the report, he singles out personal injury lawyers as contributing to increasing costs and recommends that contingency fees — “you don’t pay unless we win” — be limited, while advertising and referral fees be banned or restricted.

A Star investigation published in January found that clients were often in the dark about how the contingency system works, including what fees their lawyers were taking versus what fees the lawyers were actually allowed to take. In one case the Star found, a woman injured in a car accident hired a lawyer on contingency and ended up with just 25 per cent of the total settlement paid out by the insurance company.

Marshall recommends measures to improve transparency surrounding contingency fee arrangements, including making insurance settlement cheques payable jointly to lawyers and their clients so victims understand how much of the total payout they will receive. Additionally, Marshall says clients should be informed in writing of their right to appeal fees charged by their lawyers and where to do so. The Star found many personal injury lawyers do not inform their clients in writing that they are entitled to appeal their legal fees to the provincial fee assessment office.

Marshall recommends that contingency fee agreements also be filed with the province’s insurance regulator, which would perform spot checks to ensure fairness.

Under the current system, Marshall notes, lengthy legal battles often mean accident victims do not receive timely assistance with their injuries and as a result suffer financially. Many are forced to turn to “settlement loan” companies that provide temporary funds without a credit check but at high interest rates.

“There should be very little, if any reason to have to hire a lawyer or resort to a finance company to provide a bridge loan, especially in cases where there are minor injuries,” Marshall writes.

Wilkinson, from the trial lawyers association, takes issue with Marshall’s recommendations, saying her group and the Law Society of Upper Canada were already addressing many of the concerns identified in the report. For instance, the law society voted this year to cap referral fees and provide more guidance on acceptable advertising practices, she noted. The ceiling on referral fees has yet to be determined, but recommendations from a law society working group looking at the issue are expected this week.

Wilkinson said making settlement cheques jointly payable to lawyers and their clients could create logistical problems if the two parties live in different cities. And she said clients already have to sign releases that state clearly how much their cases are settling for before they receive their money.

Wilkinson noted that restricting the amount of contingency fees lawyers charge could create “a serious access-to-justice problem.” She said her group is working with the law society to create a standardized contingency fee retainer agreement that would be easy for the public to understand.

“The Marshall report, in a couple of places, seems to suggest personal injury lawyers are part of the problem here,” she said. “We are not in opposition to our own clients. We are working together to try to get our clients fair compensation.”

Although Marshall’s report states insurers spend roughly the same amount on legal fees and expenses that lawyers charge in contingency fees, Steve Kee, a spokesperson for the industry group Insurance Bureau of Canada, says no one really knows how much money lawyers actually take from settlements.

“While our services, products and premiums are regulated, legal fees are not. No one knows exactly what lawyers pay their experts for their own assessments, so we have no idea how much of this money never makes it in the hands of accident victims,” he said.

“In the best interest of all Ontario drivers, we believe lawyers should be required to submit to the Superintendent of Insurance all information about their fees — including contingency fee arrangements, disbursements to expert witnesses, court-awarded and settled costs, and referral arrangements.”

Toronto man battles to get licence back amid bureaucratic nightmare

Update:

This year, on Family Day, Strachan was pulled over by an OPP officer.  He was told that his licence was under suspension, and had been since 2013.  When he went to Service Ontario to pay whatever fine may be outstanding, he was told he would have to re-apply for a driver’s licence and to through the entire process again, despite having been licensed for 24 years. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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James Strachan stunned to discover his licence was suspended — four years after the fact — after he was late to pay a speeding ticket. Now the province wants him to start over like he’s a brand new driver.

James Strachan is fighting to get his licence back amid a bureaucratic nightmare that stems from paying a speeding ticket a couple of months late.

Strachan is 40 years old, works downtown, lives in a semi-detached house in Leslieville with his dog, a Great Dane named Nina Simone, and says he’s never been in trouble in his life.

He’s had parking tickets, and he did receive a couple of speeding tickets over the years, but they weren’t anything serious. The last one, back in 2013, was issued on the 401 out near Oshawa and the citation said he was going 15 kilometres over the speed limit.

He put the ticket in the glove box and forgot about it.

Weeks later — he got the ticket in February 2013, and by this time it was July — he went looking for something in the glove box and came across the ticket. The next day he went to a ministry of transportation office downtown and paid it, plus an additional fine for being late with payment. Then he forgot all about it again.

Four years later, on the Family Day long weekend of this year, he was driving near Huntsville when he was pulled over by the OPP. The officer told him that his licence was under suspension — and had been since 2013.

“The cop,” said Strachan, “who was a very nice and polite guy, was driving one of those new cruisers that have technology to automatically scan and check every plate they encounter. My driver’s abstract came up on the computer screen and showed that my licence was under suspension.

“I was shocked; it was news to me.”

Strachan, who works in a legal capacity for a Crown corporation, was with a friend who drove them back to Toronto.

The OPP officer had suggested he go to a Service Ontario office to have his licence reinstated, so Strachan went to a kiosk in a store on Lake Shore Blvd. He paid $150, expecting to get his licence back.

Only then, after he had paid, was he told that his licence could not be reinstated. For that to happen, he was told, he would have to go through the province’s graduated licensing program from scratch, a process that can take up to two years and cost about $300, plus tax.

Graduated licensing is geared to help new drivers get driving experience gradually. It involves two road tests — the first to get from level one to level two (after which the new driver doesn’t have to have a licensed driver in the vehicle with them) and the second to earn full driving privileges.

Strachan is not happy about this state of affairs. He’s been driving for 24 years — since he was 16. He is determined that one way or another, whether it be through the courts or by embarrassing the ministry, he will get his licence reinstated without having to jump through hoops.

“I can understand a policy that has people go through the (graduated licensing) program who haven’t driven anything for three or four years,” he told the Star in an interview. “But I’ve been driving the whole time. To make me start over, right from the beginning, is preposterous.”

Strachan says he was never informed by anyone — the ministry, his insurance company, Service Ontario — that his licence was suspended.

“I’m not saying the ministry didn’t try to inform me,” he said. “I’m saying that I wasn’t informed. The ministry might well have sent a letter telling me of the suspension but I didn’t receive it. Somebody else might have found it in their mailbox, but I never received anything telling me this.”

Strachan also says he can’t figure out how he could have renewed his licence plate sticker at least twice, purchased another car and renewed his auto insurance several times without somebody pointing out to him that his licence was under suspension.

Bob Nichols, a spokesman for the ministry, told the Star in an email that while Strachan might have paid a higher fine back in 2013 because he was late paying off the ticket, records show he did not pay a reinstatement fee at that time.

Strachan says that, because he was not notified of the suspension, he didn’t think to ask about any reinstatement fee and that the clerk at the ministry office didn’t volunteer the information that his licence was suspended.

“While I wouldn’t have been thrilled to pay the $150 back in 2013,” he said, “I’d certainly have done it had anybody ever bothered to tell me. Why they would think anyone would put themselves into this predicament voluntarily is beyond comprehension.”

Wrote Nichols: “We’ve talked to this particular individual and have explained how and why we require retesting. Drivers are informed on their ticket that the driver’s licence can be suspended if no action is taken within a certain timeframe.

“A Notice of Suspension (NOS) is then sent to the driver advising of the unpaid fine and suspension and the steps required to reinstate their driver’s licence, including paying the reinstatement fee. Information on the back of the NOS advises that if the reinstatement is not paid, the licence will be cancelled without further notice.”

Nichols noted that if a person hasn’t had a valid driver’s licence for three years, they would have to go through the graduated licensing process as set out in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. The driver must also successfully undergo a vision, knowledge and road test, and pay the applicable fees, he said.

He added: “The suspension was not flagged when he renewed his licence plates because the ministry does not require an applicant to hold a valid driver’s licence when renewing a vehicle licence plate and/or registering a vehicle in Ontario.”

Strachan called this “a bureaucratic bit of nonsense,” and disputed several things Nichols had said.

“I have not talked to anyone from the ministry,” Strachan said. “To say that the ministry has talked to me is false. When this happened, I wrote Minister (Steven) Del Duca to ask for an explanation and asked nine specific questions. In reply, I got back something that read like a form letter and which did not answer even one of my questions. It was signed ‘VJ119.’

“I have no idea if that is even a person. That, plus a computer-generated acknowledgement of the receipt of a second email, is the only contact I have had with the ministry. I wrote the minister again and this time made a suggestion. O. Reg. 340/94, s. 24 (1) says that when there is a dispute, a temporary licence may be issued while there is an investigation. I suggested they could do this for me while this got straightened out but so far I have not received any further correspondence.

“And if it’s true that the ministry does not require a driver’s licence in order for someone to renew plates, why does it ask for that information on the application?”

Strachan misses driving his car but says it’s not the end of the world. Yes, he’s had to make some adjustments: he can’t drive his dog down to Cherry Beach to run but he exercises her in a park closer to home; he plays recreational hockey but the organization he plays in and the rink are near the northern border of North York and a return trip on public transit can take anywhere from three to four hours so he doesn’t play as often. Nor does he see his family as much. He always took transit to work, so that hasn’t changed.

So where does Strachan go from here?

“I haven’t decided,” he said. “I’m considering a lawsuit — or maybe I’ll just gate-crash the minister’s office. I’m told he doesn’t have discretionary powers in situations like this, that he can’t overrule anything or anyone, and I find that clearly bizarre.

“This whole thing defies comprehension and would appear to not be safety-driven, which I can appreciate, but revenue-driven, which I understand but don’t necessarily condone.”

Asked if the transportation ministry could tell the Star the number of drivers who have to be retested each year because they haven’t had a valid licence for more than three years, spokesman Nichols emailed back:

“We do not have that information readily available. To obtain the data, a special request would need to be submitted . . . We would then be able to provide the estimated time and cost of the request.”

Strachan said that, by coincidence, he was telling a friend about his problem and the friend replied that something similar had happened to him but that he’d had to pay the reinstatement fee before he could receive his sticker.

“I have a feeling this might be bigger than just me,” he said.

 

23-Year-Old Impaired Driver Sentenced to Seven (7) Years Following Cyclist’s Death

Update:

23-year-old Darya Selinevich was sentenced to seven (7) years today, after her drinking and driving on June 11, 2015 resulted in the death of 44-year-old cyclist Zhi Yong Kang. Kang left behind his 15-year-old son. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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A 23-year-old repeat drunk driver who killed a Toronto cyclist and fled police at 200 km-h was sent to jail Wednesday.

Darya Selinevich, a former highly regarded law clerk and aspiring paralegal, appeared stoic as a judge sentenced her to seven years, reduced to four and a half years in acknowledgment of time already spent in jail since the June 11, 2015 crash that killed Zhi Yong Kang, the 44-year-old father of a 15-year-old boy.

Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station.

After leaving Kang dying on the ground shortly after midnight, Selinevich raced through the residential neighbourhood, swerved around a police car and ran a red light before pulling into a strip mall and fleeing from the car which kept moving with locked doors.

At the time of her arrest, the Richmond Hill woman’s social media accounts glorified drinking and driving with photos of a wine bottle in a car, a speedometer at 202.5 km-h and a R.I.D.E. poster with her added joke that ride-home options, in addition to a bus, cab, police car or ambulance, were “option 5, my car.”

Yulian Liao, Kang’s ex-wife and the mom of their son, sobbed quietly as Justice Leslie Pringle described the crash in grisly detail before sentencing Selinevich for her admitted crimes of impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene and for police, refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while disqualified.

Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The jail term came as pedestrians and cyclists are dying on Toronto streets at an alarming rate, and safety advocates demand legal reforms in hopes of saving lives and reflecting the toll drivers can take.

In many cases drivers who are at fault when they kill someone, but not drunk and do not flee, receive a fine of $1,000 or less under provincial traffic laws rather than face Criminal Code sanctions like Selinevich.

Det.-Const. Arthur Lane of Toronto police traffic services said outside court the Kang family remains “devastated” but he is satisfied with the jail term.

“In previous years we’ve had low sentences and so I’m glad to see that the sentences now are starting to move up in duration,” Lane said. “Society’s looking at these cases in a more serious light and that’s going to be helpful.

“The public should know that this kind of activity is absolutely abhorrent . . .”

Darya Selinevich, 23, has received a jail sentence for the June 2015 crash that killed cyclist Zhi Yong Kang, 44, on Finch Ave. W. at Tobermory Dr. Selinevich, had previously been convicted of drunk driving.
23-year-old Darya Selinevich. (FACEBOOK)

Court heard Kang was exceptionally smart, graduated from “the Harvard of China” before moving to Canada, had a “maverick” personality and played sports and cycled with his beloved son.

Dong Kang said in a victim impact statement he was “deeply hurt” by his younger brother’s violent death and has struggled with depression and other health problems since the crash shortly after their father’s death.

Still, in her statement, Kang’s ex-wife said the family hopes the young woman one day achieves her dream of becoming a paralegal and has the same strong family supports as the cyclist she killed.

“Above all, we hope she has more patience in whatever she might do in the future,” Liao wrote. “We would like her to know we are immensely comforted by our family and friends surrounding us.”

Court heard Selinevich, originally from Russia, dropped York University law and society studies after a co-op placement led to a job as a law clerk/legal assistant. In a letter to court a former employer described her as intelligent and trustworthy.

But she ran with “high risk” friends and binge drank, especially after the deaths of four friends within two years, court heard. She is now a model prisoner, studying life skills, substance abuse, international business and, by correspondence, “dozens of bible studies” with an average of 95.9 per cent.

Selinevich did not address the court, saying “Yes” quietly when the judge asked if she understood her sentence.

“You are clearly someone who is intelligent, you are clearly someone who has the potential to learn from the horrendous crimes that have been committed in this case,” the judge said. “Good luck.”

 

TTC – Fare Prices Rise in 2017

Update:

TTC Streetcar stopped at intersection with passengers boarding and exiting. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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2017 TTC Fare Increase

On Monday, November 21, the TTC Board approved a fare increase to take effect on January 1, 2017.

The Board approved a 10 cent increase to the cost of a token and PRESTO e-purse, as well as a $4.75 increase to the cost of a Metropass. Senior/Student fares (cash and tickets) will increase by 10 cents. The cost of a Day Pass will increase to $12.50 and Downtown Express Stickers will increase to $43.00.

The TTC Board also voted to freeze the current price of adult cash fares.

Adult2016 fareCurrent new fare
CashCurrent fare is $3.25New fare is the same, $3.25
TokenCurrent fare is $2.90New fare has changed to $3.00
PRESTO E-PurseCurrent fare is $2.90New fare has changed to $3.00
Weekly PassCurrent fare is $42.25New fare has changed to $43.75
Regular MetropassCurrent fare is $141.50New fare has changed to $146.25
VIP Tier 1 (50-249)Current fare is $127.25New fare has changed to $131.75
VIP Tier 2 (250-499)Current fare is $125.75New fare has changed to $130.25
VIP Tier 3 (500+)Current fare is $124.50New fare has changed to $128.75
MDPCurrent fare is $129.75New fare has changed to $134.00
Post Secondary MetropassCurrent fare is $112.00New fare has changed to $116.75
Senior/StudentCurrent FareNew Fare
CashCurrent fare is $2.00New fare has changed to $2.10
TicketCurrent fare is $1.95New fare has changed to $2.05
PRESTO E-PurseCurrent fare is $1.95New fare has changed to $2.05
Weekly PassCurrent fare is $33.00New fare has changed to $34.75
Regular MetropassCurrent fare is $112.00New fare has changed to$116.75
MDPCurrent fare is $102.75New fare has changed to $107.00

Children 12 years of age and under continue to ride free.

Other Fares2016 fareCurrent new fare
Day Pass/Group/Family Pass/E-TicketCurrent fare is $12.00New fare has changed to $12.50
GTA Weekly PassCurrent fare is $61.00New fare has changed to $63.00
Downtown Express StickerCurrent fare is $41.50New fare will change to $43.00

 

Pass Vending Machines

Located in select Subway Stations, the Pass Vending Machine offers a variety of passes for purchase by credit card and debit card.

  • Monthly Metropasses passes are sold starting the 24th of the month prior to the month they are valid.
  • Weekly passes are sold from the previous Thursday, until the Tuesday of the week for which the pass will be used.
  • The Pass Vending Machine (PVM) accepts payment by debit card and credit card (Visa, Mastercard, or American Express).
  • Some subway stations have more than one PVM; the passes sold in each PVM may differ and are subject to availability.
Pass Vending Machine – Sales Locations and Pass Types

Bathurst

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Bay

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Bloor-Yonge

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Broadview

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College

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Davisville

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Don Mills

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GTA
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Downsview

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GTA
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Dundas

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Dundas West

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Eglinton

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Finch

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GTA
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Islington

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GTA
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Kennedy

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King

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Kipling

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GTA
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Main Street

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North York Centre

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Osgoode

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Ossington

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Queen

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Queen’s Park

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Scarborough Centre

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GTA
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Sheppard-Yonge

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Sherbourne

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St Clair

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St George

Adult
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Adult
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St Patrick

Adult
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Adult
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Union

Adult
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Senior/Student
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Adult
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GTA
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Warden

Adult
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York Mills

Adult
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Driver who ran red light and killed cyclist sentenced to 2 years in jail

Update:

Displaying IMG_2626.JPG
The intersection was shut down after Adrian Dudzicki, 23 was hit by Aleksev. Photo by fightyourtickets.ca

see source

Aleksey Aleksev, 23, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death earlier this year

Adrian Dudzicki, 23, was cycling to squash practice on the morning he was killed by a driver who recklessly sped through a red light at an intersection in North York.

The now 23-year-old driver, Aleksey Aleksev, was sentenced Wednesday to a jail term of two years less a day, three years of probation and a ban on driving for 15 years.

Earlier this year Superior Court Justice Gary Trotter found Aleksev guilty of dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing death and, unusually, manslaughter.

However, in his Wednesday ruling, Trotter said he would be sentencing Aleksev on the count of criminal negligence causing death and staying the two other convictions since the law prohibits a person from being convicted on multiple counts for the same offence.

He stressed that his decision to sentence Aleksev for criminal negligence causing death rather than manslaughter made no difference to the sentence and does not diminish the severity of the crime or the devastation to Dudzicki’s family.

Trotter noted that this case did not involve alcohol or drugs; Aleksev claimed he was distracted by adjusting the heating or the radio shortly before the November 2013 crash.

“This case is a sad reminder of the devastation that can be caused by the egregious conduct of a sober driver,” Trotter said.

He referred to the many victim impact statements submitted by Dudzicki’s family and friends, quoting the words of his parents.

“My life will never be the same again. He was all I had,” his mother Ewa Dudzicka told the court.

“There is just emptiness,” his father Jaroslaw Dudzicki said. “There is no hope.”

After the ruling, Jaroslaw Dudzicki said he had been hoping the court process would lead to closure, but he still has many unanswered questions.

Among them, what responsibility Aleksev’s parents carry for allowing their son to continue driving recklessly. Aleksev had a history of driving infractions, including speeding tickets, court heard.

“How did he get behind the wheel?” Dudzicki said.