Points to Consider When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer If You Were Seriously Injured

Some reasons why consulting with a lawyer about your injury can make all the difference

After a serious injury, the idea of contacting a lawyer is a consequential one. If you lack a lawyer’s opinion about your claim, you might end up settling for less or missing an essential time deadline.

A lawyer’s opinion about your injury claim will address the questions of what, how and when. What – A lawyer can clarify the types of damages that can be claimed for a serious injury which may include damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, past loss of income, loss of income earning capacity, medical care expenses, housekeeping expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, etc. How – A lawyer can provide guidance on proceeding with a formal claim and, if hired to represent you, can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and apply their skills, legal knowledge and experience to advocate for the best resolution of your case. When – Legal claims are subject to a concept called a limitation period. In the case of an injury in Ontario, it begins to run from a certain date and eventually expires; after the expiry date, if certain procedures have not been followed, the claim is statute-barred (i.e., can no longer be brought). For example, in general, for claims against an Ontario municipality, the limitation period begins on the date of your accident or when you became aware of your injuries and expires after 10 days; the procedure, required within the limitation period, is to inform the municipality in writing of your intention to file a claim. A lawyer can advise you of the limitation period so your claim does not expire.

In hiring a personal injury lawyer, one should be cognizant of the fact that a claim can take months or even years to be resolved. The first stage is a consultation where you and a lawyer review your background, the accident and injuries, and discuss your legal options. The next stage is the pleadings stage where both parties exchange formal documents that state their position on the relevant facts and issues; the person who initiates the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff” and the other party the “defendant.” After the close of pleadings is a process called discovery where each party has the opportunity to question and request information from the other. Throughout the proceeding, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation and may gather independent assessment and surveillance evidence; and the injured person will work to substantiate its claim with, e.g., medical assessments and opinions. Both parties may make a motion and attend case conferences before a judge. If a claim is not settled, the parties can proceed to a trial before a judge or a jury.

It is also important to keep in mind factors that can limit one’s amount of compensation. First, unlike the USA where general damages awards are unlimited, the Supreme Court of Canada placed a cap on damages for pain and suffering at about $400,000, which is reserved for the most serious of cases. Second, the principle of remoteness provides that an at-fault party is not liable for harm that could not reasonably have been foreseen or anticipated (e.g., psychological injuries for which it was not reasonably foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would have suffered). Third, the principle of contributory negligence states that one’s award of compensation can be reduced to the extent that one was partially at fault for the accident (e.g., because of their own driving).

Lastly, lawyers differ in how and what they charge for their legal services. In personal injury law, a contingency fee is usually used – meaning the fee is calculated as a percentage of the final award.

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