I argue for a living, and I love it!
As a child I never dreamed of being a personal injury lawyer in St. Catharines running the show at Sullivan Injury Law Professional Corporation. Mind you, I never hesitated to challenge my parents, any authority figure, or my siblings. I often heard the phrase expressed with frustration “You’d argue red was white”. It was not meant as a compliment.
I do enjoy arguing. I enjoy arguing for my clients. I enjoy arguing with insurance companies, adjusters, and most of all defence lawyers to try to help my clients get their life back. I enjoy meeting different people, hearing their stories and thinking about the pressure points that can be raised to the Insurance Company to maximise the case. It’s challenging and interesting work.
Most of the work that I do is Trial litigation arising out of motor vehicle crashes so for this article I am going to focus on that.
In those cases, the argument focuses on what the injuries and losses are, and not usually on who caused the crash. There are, unfortunately, plenty of bad drivers out there and it is often shocking how much harm is done to someone who is completely innocent. Many of my clients were just stopped at a red light minding their own business when suddenly smacked from behind. It is a terrifying and shocking experience. It has happened to me so I know.
What happens next is a tsunami of paperwork for the insurance company and the frustration of learning a very complicated government mandated insurance company system under which you can get compensation. It is not easy to understand. Many people are still under the illusion that we have a no-fault system but that is not entirely accurate. Bad drivers can still be sued.
When you have been involved in a car crash there are really two sides to any lawsuit. First and foremost, you are entitled to Accident Benefits through your own automobile insurance policy. That is the “no fault” side. That insurer pays under the Statutory Accident Benefit schedule, which we call the SABS. The SABS provide the most immediate assistance because they pay for treatment expenses, income-replacement benefits, and, if you have had the forethought to pay for optional benefits, that can provide help with housekeeping, and attendant care as well. “Optional benefits” are rarely pushed by insurance companies but if you are hurt it can make a huge difference in your ability to survive financially and get the treatment and help you need. Ask about the premium. It’s surprisingly cheap.
If you have been in a car crash you want to make sure you get the details of the other driver’s name, address, contact information, as well as their insurance policy details. If police are called to the scene, they will gather that information for you.
Your immediate priority once you have that information, is to take care of your health. Most clients suffer from whiplash after a crash. It can be terribly painful even though you cannot see it. Your head and torso literally flies forward and back like the tip of a whip and everything gets stretched and torn. All the muscles, tendons and ligaments. That hurts.
Go to the hospital, go see your family doctor, and start physiotherapy, chiropractic, or massage treatment so that you can put yourself into a position where you are most likely to recover from the injuries. There is automatic coverage for initial treatment so do not hesitate to go directly to a treatment provider.
The Accident Benefit insurer (your own company) should be helping you by paying for the treatment, and by getting income replacement benefits flowing steadily and continuously until you are able to attempt to return to work. Unfortunately, it is only when the Accident Benefit insurer starts to say no, or delay payments that people tend to come to my office and seek legal help. Many times, that is the first time you need my assistance but I meet with people for free earlier just so you have a general idea of your rights.
If you have been hospitalized, then I can help to get the insurance company to put into place in your home any equipment you may need to help you get around and get back to a normal life as quickly as possible.
Recovery through using the benefits under the Accident Benefit policy is usually the main focus during the first two years post-accident. That’s why you have up to two years to decide if you are going to sue the driver who caused the crash. Most people recover from car crashes with the help of the Accident Benefit insurer and do not need to get into litigation. I am there for the people who don’t recover.
If you are going to commence a lawsuit after a car crash, it must be started within two years of the date of the accident. I need to be involved long before that to make sure that you are given access to the appropriate treatment, and that the Accident Benefit insurer is treating you fairly.
I gather the police report, witness statements, and put the other driver’s insurance company on notice. In Ontario every driver MUST have insurance coverage. I deal with that company. I feed them information about your injuries and your financial losses and try to work out a settlement before we get into litigation.
The motor vehicle accident scheme created by the government is most unfair to motor vehicle accident victims. There are many hurdles both financial and evidentiary that must be overcome before you can receive compensation. For example, if you are advancing in any claims for pain and suffering, you must prove a Threshold injury. A Threshold injury is a permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function that is physical, mental, or psychological in nature, and permanently seriously affects employment, substantially all daily activities, or career and educational goals. Establishing that is what I do best.
Once you have established a Threshold injury, there is a secret deductible of almost $40,000.00 that comes off any claims for pain and suffering, and to make matters worse there is a cap on how much you can receive for pain and suffering. Even the most catastrophically injured plaintiff receives less than $400,000.00 for pain and suffering. So, lawsuits are usually driven by whether there is a viable economic loss side to the action.
Helping you get back to your life is my job. I know the system. I’ve been getting compensation for people for over 35 years. I love the satisfaction of knowing I’ve fought for clients against the multi-billion-dollar insurance companies and won. It’s your financial future at stake and I take that responsibility very seriously. Let me know if I can help.