Do I need a Lawyer for my car accident injury claim? After someone is injured in a car accident in Ontario, Canada, they often think about whether or not they need a lawyer. Some insurance companies may tell you that you don’t need a lawyer and that you can deal with them directly and, in some cases, that may be true. However, you should consider that question carefully, and early, as you will want to ensure that your rights are protected from the beginning. Since most reputable personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation, there shouldn’t be much harm in calling and obtaining an opinion about your case.
Some people believe that Ontario’s car accident law is “no fault” and because of that they don’t need a lawyer. That is not a correct statement. There are no-fault benefits (called accident benefits) that most injured people can apply for in Ontario even if they were at fault for the accident. However, payment of those benefits is not automatic and often leads to disputes with insurance companies. If you need any indication of how many disputes there are, you can call the Financial Services Commission (the body that oversees insurance companies in Ontario) and ask them. There are a series of forms, technicalities and rules that are difficult to navigate and understand and a wrong step can cost you dearly down the road.
For instance, you may have to “elect” between different available benefits (for instance: income replacement and non-earner) and once you make that election it is extremely difficult to change your mind. The decision can have significant consequences on what you receive, and you may wish to consult with a lawyer before making that decision. You must dispute denials of benefits within a set time-period or face consequences as well. I have also seen clients who meet with the insurer and sign a statement that contains information that may not be entirely accurate, but the claimant doesn’t understand the nuance or importance and just signs the document not knowing that they could then be stuck with that evidence down the road.
For drivers who are “not at fault”, or not completely at fault, there is also the opportunity to commence a lawsuit as part of their personal injury claim. There are a whole host of factors that go into the consideration of whether or not someone has a valid claim and it is best to speak with a car accident lawyer about this (my office can be reached at 905-409-2438 for a free consultation). There are a number of protections for insurance companies that are built into the law to make it very confusing (and many people would say unfair) for victims of car accidents who sustain a personal injury. For instance, pain and suffering is restricted to those who, generally, suffer an ongoing injury that interferes with their job, a job they are training for or most of their daily activities (there is a more specific test, but that is a general summary – I can speak with you and explain further). Claims for income loss, loss of competitive employ-ability, housekeeping etc. are not covered by that protection. There are other protections and deductibles that can also apply.
There are time-lines that play into matters as well. For instance, you generally have 2 years to sue as a result of a car accident injury (but you should speak with a car accident lawyer for more specifics). There can also be notice periods that apply – for example a 120 notice period to the other driver, 30 days to your own insurer for benefits, etc. (there can be some very short limitation periods for claims against municipalities and others – potentially just days).
When you are injured you should make it a priority to protect your rights and ensure that you understand what those rights are. Call us for a free consultation and we would be happy to explain further (905-409-2438). I restrict my practice to car accident injury and personal injury law, only acting for plaintiffs – injured people. I have 12 years of litigation experience and the law firm that I am with (Lerners LLP) has been around since the 1920’s and has over 100 lawyers and the resources necessary to assist you. We have acted for plaintiffs in record setting judgements and decisions and have a strong reputation in the community.