Five important realities you need to understand in a personal injury lawsuit
Despite reasonable restrictions on advertising legal services in the area of personal injury law, there are still plenty of people who hear the words ‘personal injury lawyer’ and immediately think of a rag tag bunch of lawyers in bad suits, chasing an ambulance or waiting at the emergency room doors, contracts in hand.
That is a bad image that the profession has gone to some lengths to dispel, but for many, it persists. Part of the reason for these images gone wrong is that there are lot of myths and misunderstandings out there about personal injury law. It’s not like you see in the movies: sorry, but Julia Roberts aka Erin Brockovich is not coming to your door with a cheque for $3.5 Million dollars.
Myth #1 – Having An Accident Will Make You A Millionaire
That last line brings me to my first point: you won’t become a millionaire by cashing in on an injury claim, as the result of an accident.
You (probably) won’t go to court and have a judge scream at the defendant, all the while handing wads of cash to you. In fact, the whole concept of ‘win or lose’ is not how the system works, in Ontario.
In reality, a settlement is reached through careful negotiation. It’s about how much you’re entitled to receive under the law, not whether you were right or wrong.
The negotiation system also means that many cases don’t even go to court. It’s not really the desired outcome for most anyway, as the risk of a lower payout is high when you involve a judge and jury, to say nothing of the added costs.
This is why many cases settle out of court, so if you’re hoping for the dramatic finale with your lawyer thundering away at a cowering defendant, you’re likely to be disappointed.
While an experienced personal injury lawyer can give you some idea on a range of what your final settlement might look like, they cannot and should not promise you a specific number. Be wary of anyone who does.
Myth #2 – You Don’t Need A Lawyer Because You Have Insurance
The insurance company, while not the enemy to your case, is not necessarily on your side either.
Their staff is not there to rip you off, but there’s no doubt that they are looking to pay out the least amount that they must.
If you are entitled to compensation, under the law, you can take all necessary measures to receive the best possible settlement amount. That includes hiring a lawyer, from the beginning, to ensure that you are covering all your bases. And there’s no downside for you: most personal injury lawyers will work on a contingency basis. That is, you don’t have to put money down up front, and instead, they will take a percentage of the final settlement in compensation. You won’t look ‘bad’ in the eyes of the insurance company: it’s the way things are done and they’re used to it.
I need to stress the importance of hiring a lawyer from outset, if you’ve been injured. A lawyer will be able to tell you how to go about managing your file, dealing with your doctor, communicating with the insurance company on your behalf and so on.
If your injury has resulted in your being on long term disability benefits and your company is telling you that you are going to be cut off, you have the ability to appeal the decision but it’s not something you want to undertake without legal help. Time is of the essence too: if you don’t file a lawsuit within a certain timeframe, you could be out of luck!
Myth #3 – There Is No Cost To You Unless You Win
While it’s true, as I said above, that most personal injury lawyers will work on contingency, you need to be clear in your dealings when it comes to expenses.
While working on your file, they will be paying out certain expenses, like a medical examination with a full report, for example. If your settlement was to be minimal or even if there was no settlement achieved—a rare situation—you need to know upfront what you are going to be responsible for in terms of disbursements (expenses.)
Myth #4 – It’s Frivolous To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer
Frivolous lawsuits aren’t the norm, mostly because lawyers working on contingency aren’t going to waste their time and their own funds on a case that has no hope of settling.
After a car accident, you have to meet an injury threshold before you can sue anyway, so if you’re getting to that point, it’s because your injuries are serious and your ability to continue in your normal course of life is impaired.
In addition, injury lawsuits resulting from an MVA have a deductible unless the award is over a certain amount, which prevents people from filing lawsuits for small amounts.
Myth #5 – Compensation Is Only For Physical Injuries
For many people, physical injuries are only one part of the trauma they’ve endured in an accident situation. Psychological injuries and post traumatic stress issues are factored in when your lawyer is negotiating for a settlement, as these ‘invisible injuries’ can be just as debilitating as a physical one.
At the end of the day, the best way to make sure that you aren’t caught up in the myths surrounding personal injury law is to talk to us. In the case of a motor vehicle or other kind of accident, we can help you to decide the right course of action that will net you the best possible result.