Unfortunately, motor vehicle collisions are occurring at alarming rates. People are generally more distracted and the result is more injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads – just last week there were 18 pedestrians struck in one day in the Toronto area. It is human nature to think that it won’t happen to you or someone you love, but motor vehicle collisions can happen to anyone.
You need to be focused on recovery but there are forms that the insurance company is requesting. Dealing with the legal side of things can be a daunting process for anyone. Part of my job as personal injury lawyer is to educate individuals and family members about the process of a personal injury lawsuit; what the steps are, when those steps will take place, and what my clients can expect. Most of the clients I meet have had little to no experience lawyers. For many people, the bulk of their exposure to lawyers and/or litigation is through television and advertising.
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision you may ask yourself, do I really need a lawyer and what really happens in a personal injury law suit?
The first thing you need to know is that in Ontario there are two streams of compensation for those who have been injured in a motor vehicle collision. One stream of compensation is called the “no-fault” or accident benefits system. The other is the “at-fault” or tort lawsuit.
“No – fault” or Accident Benefits:
Accident benefits that may be available to you after a collision include medical and rehabilitative benefits, attendant care benefits, housekeeping benefits, visitors’ expenses, income replacement and caregiver or non-earner benefits. These benefits are available to you regardless of fault for the collision; however, you will need to demonstrate entitlement to the benefits. Accident benefits are payable by your own insurance company. If you do not have your own automobile insurance policy, a skilled lawyer can help determine where you should apply for accident benefits. This may include the insurance company of a family member, the insurance company of the person that hit you, or if no other insurance is available to you, the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims fund.
“At-Fault” or Tort Lawsuit:
If you were injured in a collision caused by another person you can sue that person. In a lawsuit, you can claim compensation for your injuries. The categories of compensation generally claimed for in a personal injury lawsuit include: pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life; loss of income, earning capacity, and competitive advantage; future care needs; loss of housekeeping and home maintenance capacity; loss of shared family income; and out of pocket expenses.
Why do you need to contact a lawyer if you or a family member has been injured or killed as a result of motor vehicle collision?
1. There are important timelines to meet
- You have 7 days to report the collision to your insurance company and to advise of your intent to apply for accident benefits.
- You have 30 days from the date of the collision to apply for accident benefits.
- If you have a potential claim against a municipality, notice of the incident, injury and potential claim must be given to the municipality within 10 days of the date of the incident.
- You have 120 days from the date of the collision to notify the at-fault driver(s) of your intention to sue.
2. Preserving evidence and investigating the accident
- The sooner you speak to a lawyer, the sooner the lawyer can take steps to obtain and preserve evidence about how the crash occurred. Evidence disappears and memories fade. The sooner you can collect and preserve the evidence, the better.
3. Setting up a treatment team and planning for discharge
- Experienced lawyers will help you assemble a rehabilitation team that meets your needs. The sooner this can be done, the sooner you can begin your journey to recovery.
4. Taking away the stress of dealing with insurance companies, adjusters, and paper work
- After an injury, your focus should be you and your recovery. As soon as we have been retained we take over dealing with the insurance companies, adjusters, and all of the paper work for you. This means you get to focus on your recovery, which is exactly how it should be. Proper completion of forms is critical. An omission or incorrect usage of a phrase can have long term detrimental consequences.
You’ve hired a lawyer, what’s next?
It’s important that you hire someone you’re confident and comfortable with as you are entering a “long-term relationship”. A personal injury case can take several years to reach resolution.
Below is a list of the steps that you can expect:
- Initial Interview
- The Lawsuit is Started
- Gathering Important Documents & Photographs
- Examinations for Discovery
- Gathering Evidence through Expert Opinion
Finding the right lawyer after you or a family member has suffered a serious personal injuries is one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make. You are making this decision at a very difficult time in your life without any previous experience. Dealing with the steps involved in litigating serious injuries involves navigating a complex system. Each step has a compounding effect and will impact not only the next step but the ultimate success of your case. Remember that although the process may seem daunting, it is imperative that you consult a lawyer as early as possible. That way, your legal team will worry about the paperwork and logistics so you can concentrate on your recovery.