Personal injury claims are an odd mix of hurry up and wait. On the one hand, there are important deadlines to meet in order to maximize your chance of success.
On the other hand, a personal injury case can take upwards of two years to resolve. Add in the fact that the impact of some injuries might not fully come to light right away, requiring time, patience and medical follow up, means that you need to be thinking about your claim the right way, from the very beginning.
When You Should Hurry Up And Get Your Records Straight
There’s an old saying: “Start as you mean to finish.” In other words, do things correctly from day one to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.
When it comes to personal injury claims, the best possible outcome means the maximum physical and mental recovery you can have, supported by the right services.
Of course, if you’re lying in a hospital bed with serious injuries as a result of your accident, you may not have some of these tasks at the top of your mind. But knowing what to do from day one could save you aggravation down the road.
Step 1? Call your doctor. Unless you are still in hospital, you need to make sure that the physician who is going to be monitoring your injuries and ongoing care is involved and updated, with all the necessary information and details from the accident.
Step 2? Call a personal injury lawyer. Yes, your cousin Frank the real estate lawyer is also a lawyer, but you really want someone with experience on your side in a personal injury case. Most PI lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they don’t get paid until you do, and will happily discuss your case free of charge.
Step 3? Keep all receipts and copies of all documentation. Your lawyer will want all of it, including the police report, paramedic’s notes, receipts for attending treatment, including taxi cabs; basically anything and everything relating to your injury.
While the Ontario Statutes do give two years to file a claim and sue, you can’t wait until a year and 360 days have passed, and expect a positive outcome. Here’s why:
- Getting a file together to sue as a result of personal injury is a time-consuming task. It’s not whipped together in a few days, but requires your lawyer to get countless documents and evidence together to prove the extent of your injury.
- A hastily put together file has a major chance of having an error, which won’t help your case.
- Your credibility as an injured person would be stretched to its limits if you didn’t contact a lawyer until right before the two-year deadline. After all, how have you been coping for the last almost two years if you were so seriously injured that you now want to sue? In order to sue, your injuries need to meet a certain threshold. It will be difficult for anyone to believe that you will meet that threshold if you were functioning for almost two years post-accident.
- Some documentation will be harder to get if you wait, or worse, it may not exist because you didn’t know to get it. Working with an experienced PI lawyer from the get-go ensures that you are taking the right steps and getting the correct documentation for each of those steps.
A lawyer can also make sure that, in the initial days after your accident, you are getting all of the Statutory Accident Benefits that you are entitled to, per your insurance policy and the laws of Ontario.
When You Should Wait And What You Should Do While You’re Waiting
For what might appear to be a minor injury, a good lawyer will still look at your case, follow your treatments and recovery and make a determination in time—around about the one year anniversary—if there are injuries that meet the threshold, making a suit worth pursuing.
Part of the ‘wait and see’ is because some injuries—Mild Traumatic Brain Injury being a prime example—don’t manifest in the early days post-accident. Even scans like CAT and MRI don’t always pick up a TBI, but depending on what your normal daily activities, including work, looked like before the accident, a TBI can definitely cause you to meet the threshold for pursuing a lawsuit.
Ultimately, these types of lawsuits can take up to two years to resolve and you need to, once again, start as you mean to finish. That means:
- Going to treatment as recommended by your doctor(s). You may feel better, but not doing what you must to actively participate in your recovery could hurt you when it comes to a claim. The defense will say that you didn’t do what you could have to mitigate the extent of the injuries; in other words, to minimize them.
- Share all change and information regarding your health status, physical and mental, with your lawyer. Claimants will sometimes avoid sharing the truth of the current status with their doctor and / or lawyer, for fear it will hurt their chances of suing successfully.
Sometimes that resolve comes from a place of anger: you weren’t at fault for the accident and feel you’re ‘owed’ something for the inconvenience and pain you’ve endured. But the determination of your legal status really isn’t something you can take on: you need to be honest with your lawyer, so they can do the best job possible representing you.
Example? You felt well enough over the weekend to mow the lawn, which coincidentally happens to be when the defense had investigators videotaping you doing this task that you previously stated you couldn’t do. What the video won’t reveal is the days you couldn’t move afterwards, because you overextended yourself. Tell your lawyer! It might seem small, but they can’t help you if you don’t stay honest.
- Finally, while you’re waiting, stay off social media. I can’t stress this enough. Monitoring social media has become part of the investigative procedures of most insurance companies and it is far too easy for a moment in time on your Instagram feed to be taken out of context and used against you.
The key to success in any personal injury claim or suit is knowing when to hurry up and when to wait. That’s why it’s imperative to call a lawyer as soon as you can, when you are injured in a car accident. We can walk you through the details of what to do, and not do, to ensure that you have a positive route to your recovery.
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