Barrie Lawyers Discuss: What to Do If You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident
In 2017, 154,886 Canadians, including 35,972 Ontarians, were injured in Motor Vehicle Accidents; a number that is inclusive of all drivers, passengers, or pedestrians injured in automobile and motorcycle accidents (Transport Canada's National Collision Database and Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports).
Although some injuries may be minor or trivial, many of these injuries are described as ‘serious’, with potentially life altering health consequences, due to the high-speed and relative danger of motor vehicles. These accidents can seriously injure, thus causing pain and suffering, as well as other extreme financial and personal costs to the victim. Potential consequences include income loss, expensive uncovered medical treatment, and other non-insured rehabilitation plans.
While legal action is unable to completely erase the pain and suffering resulting from a serious motor vehicle incident, it does permit you with the ability to compensate yourself, whether you are a driver or passenger. Knowing the components of a motor vehicle accident claim, as well as the practical steps that are required immediately after the accident, is essential to your claim.
A motor vehicle accident has two potential legal components: (1) a Statutory Accident Benefits Claim and (2) a Tort Claim.
1. The Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) defines a number of benefits to persons injured in a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. Possible benefits include income replacement, rehabilitation, and attendant care, amongst others. These are accessed through your own automobile insurance policy, which provides a standard level of benefits. However, the quality of the benefit is dependent on the severity of the injury, the type of benefit being claimed, and the cost of the treatment. As a result, your insurer may deny requested benefits based on their assessment of the situation. These denials may, however, be challenged through the dispute mechanism known as the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT).
2. In addition, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of your own, you may have a tort claim available against the at-fault party. The most common type of motor vehicle tort claim is that of negligence, which occurs where there is a failure to take reasonable care to prevent harm to others (i.e. dangerous driving or violating traffic regulations). After the plaintiff establishes liability by proving some fault or negligence against the other party, damages are assessed under various categories; similar to the SABS benefits.
While understanding the legal component to your claim is informative, there are a number of broad steps to be taken immediately after the accident. Following these steps will ultimately aid you in any legal action you decide to pursue.
Step #1: Seek Medical Attention
Medical treatment should be immediately pursued for two reasons.
First and foremost, your own health and recovery is inherently important. It deserves immediate attention and must take priority. If you require emergency services, then you must utilize them. If you do not, you should go see your family doctor as soon as possible in order to be assessed and referred to appropriate specialists. All necessary and recommended treatments should be taken without delay.
Second, the faster you access treatment services, the stronger you claim can be. Any delay at this stage will hinder your claim, as it provides a basis for accusations of denial from opposing parties. Lawyers for insurance companies or opposing parties will use these delays as evidence that you were not truly injured and thus should not receive compensation.
Step #2: Document Everything
When legal action is initiated, any and all evidence will become invaluable to your claim. Therefore, it is important to take cellphone photographs of everything that you can. These will not only assist you in proving your allegations, but also confirm your credibility as a plaintiff. Things to be photographed include:
• Property/Car Damage
• Police Reports
• Crash Scene/Evidence (i.e. debris, weather conditions, road conditions etc.)
• Details of all other relevant parties, including other drivers and witnesses (i.e. Identification, Insurance etc.)
Alongside these photos, there should be extensive notes of everything you viewed after your car accident. This list includes:
• Names, Contact Information, and Other Details from parties involved
• Conversations with your insurance provider
• Injuries and diagnoses
• Testing (i.e. x-ray, CT scan, MRI)
• Work Implications (i.e. Modified roles, days missed etc.)
If you are injured and unable to photograph or document, then try to tell others, including friends and family, to do so. The majority of these details can be forwarded to your lawyer.
Step #3: Reach Out to Third Parties
After the accident, you should contact your insurance provider, who have covenanted to pay for any damages and expenses incurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Take notes of everything that happens when you contact your insurer, as these may become relevant in a SABS dispute. Most importantly, you should document everything in writing.
Furthermore, you should try to correspond with other witnesses and ensure their contact information is up to date. These individuals may be necessary to corroborate your story later on, so it is helpful to maintain contact with them.
Step #4: Legal Assistance
Although you may be able to access some information online, it is advisable that an injured party contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They will ensure compliance with all limitation periods, procedure, and correspondence within your legal action, with the goal of ensuring compensation to the fullest. Prior to retaining legal counsel, you should avoid signing or agreeing to anything with opposition parties, as they may attempt to capitalize on the situation by subverting you into signing away your right to take legal action.
Although practices vary by firm, initial consultations will generally be free, as motor vehicle accidents are commonly done on a contingency fee basis. This means that your lawyer will earn a percentage of the recovered amount; whether it be a damage award obtained by settlement or trial.
We at Littlejohn Barristers focus solely on personal injury litigation, whether these occur in motor vehicle accidents or other situations. Our office is in Barrie, but our lawyers are proud to serve Midland, Collingwood, Orillia and surrounding Ontario areas.
Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, O Reg 34/10,