If you have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident or are making a claim against an insurance company for long term disability benefits, there a several key steps that must be taken before your claim resolves by way of settlement or verdict following a trial.
It is important to retain an experienced Ottawa personal injury lawyer soon after your accident or disability denial so that your claim can get properly started as soon as possible. At SG Injury Law, our injury lawyers have over 23 years of experience handling claims against insurance companies. Our lawyers also have a combined 15 years of experience working directly for insurance companies, in insurance defence, and as such, we know first hand the techniques used by insurance companies to try and minimize your claim. Since 2015, we have devoted our entire practice to representing plaintiffs in injury and long term disability claims in Ottawa and across Eastern Ontario.
Depending on the seriousness of your injury and how reasonable the insurance company or defendant is in negotiations, your claim could settle early on or go all the way through to trial. Many people are surprised at how long it can take to settle an injury claim or to get to trial. As a general rule, the more serious the injury and impairment, the longer it will take to resolve your claim. If your injury is relatively minor and resolves quickly, then the claim can also be settled more quickly. The resolution of a claim can take anywhere from six months to as many as six years, depending on factors such as the seriousness of the injuries and impairment and how reasonable the parties proceed in the negotiation of the claim.
Outlined below are the key steps involved in personal injury and long term disability claims:
This is the first step in making a claim. The notice letter is sent by your lawyer to the person or company that caused your injury.
The notice letter informs the at-fault party that they were responsible for your injury and that you will be making a claim. The responsible party is notified that they should inform their liability insurance company, so the insurer can respond to the claim.
If the at-fault party fails to respond, then consideration is given to proceeding by issuing and serving a court action, called the Statement of Claim.
To support and prove your case, medical records are ordered from your treating health care providers. This can include your family physician, medical specialists, psychologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and others who have treated you.
Other documents may also be required. For example, if you are making an income loss claim, your income tax returns or employment records will likely be collected. An accountant or actuary may also be needed to provide an estimate of your past and future income loss.
If an early settlement is not reached with the liability insurance company, your lawsuit must be commenced within two years. This is done by issuing a Statement of Claim at the courthouse, which is then served on the defendant.
The insurance company for the person responsible for your injuries will then hire a lawyer. The insurance company’s lawyer will respond with a Statement of Defence, outlining the defendant’s position.
The Examination for Discovery is when the parties testify under oath about the case. The Examination for Discovery is a very important step. It permits both sides to better understand the case and the evidence that each side will rely on.
At the Examination for Discovery you will be questioned by a lawyer on behalf of the insurance company. Your own lawyer will examine the person who was at fault for the accident or a representative of the insurance company that denied your benefits.
When you are examined, your lawyer is present with you and if there is an improper question your lawyer will object.
We may refer you to our own expert medical doctors or other specialists to provide an opinion about your injury, impairments and the effect of the accident has had on your life.
The defence lawyer is also entitled to have you attend for an assessment with his or her chosen expert. When you attend an examination with the defence lawyer’s expert it is important to keep track of certain information such as the length of the assessment, the names of the people who saw you and how you felt later that day or the following day.
A Mediation is an out of court settlement meeting that the parties and their lawyers attend with a Mediator. The Mediator is selected by agreement between the parties and is neutral. The Mediator does not make a decision about which side is right or wrong. His or her job is to try and bridge the gap between the parties so that the claim settles.
At a Mediation both sides present their position in the same room. After the positions have been presented usually the parties then go into separate rooms. The Mediator will then go from room to room; bringing offers to settle provided from one side to the other. The Mediation continues until the case settles or it becomes clear that a settlement cannot be reached.
If a case is not settled at the Mediation, the next stage is a Pre-Trial Conference. This is where the parties and their lawyers meet privately with a judge at the courthouse. After reviewing the case the judge may provide an opinion about what the case is worth and who is at fault. The parties may exchange settlement offers.
If a settlement is not reached the parties may discuss trial issues such as the trial date, expected trial duration and witnesses who will testify at the trial.
The trial is the final stage of the lawsuit. This is where the parties go to court, give evidence and call witnesses. Most personal injury trials are held before a jury but sometimes there is only a judge. After all of the evidence has been called and submissions made, the judge or jury will make the decision who was at fault and how much the case is worth.