What Fees Do You Charge?
At SG Injury Law, our Ottawa personal injury lawyers offer legal services on the basis of an hourly rate or payable on a contingency basis. This includes cases such as motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls and long-term disability refusals.
The majority of our clients choose to proceed on a contingency basis, which means that no fees are charged until and unless the case is resolved through a financial settlement or an award of damages at trial. If you do not win your case, you do not pay any legal fees. If your case is successful, then the fees are based on a percentage of the damages and costs paid by way of settlement or court order.
In more rare cases, clients opt to pay based on an hourly rate for services provided. The hourly rate usually depends on the level of experience of the lawyer handling the claim.
Generally speaking, some factors that may be taken into account when considering both the percentage of the contingency fee or the hourly rate charged, include the following:
- the likelihood of success
- the nature and complexity of the claim
- the expense and risk of pursuing the claim
- the amount of the expected recovery
- who is to receive an award of costs, and
- the amount of costs awarded by the court.
Effective July 1, 2021, the there were various changes to the laws surrounding the use of contingency fee agreements. One of these changes is a requirement for all law firms operating on a contingency basis to inform the public of their maximum contingency fee rate. At SG Injury Law, our standard rate is 25% for most contingency fee agreements from July 1, 2021 and onward. For complex or risky files (where it may be more difficult to prove liability or the probability of of recovery is lower) our rate may increase to 30%.
How Much is My Injury Case Worth?
If you have been injured in an accident in Ontario you are entitled to damages and compensation if someone else was at fault. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident you are entitled to certain benefits regardless of who was at fault.
Court rulings have held that the maximum amount that an accident victim can recover for pain and suffering is approximately $363,000.00. This number rises each year with inflation. Accident victims who have suffered the most catastrophic injuries would be entitled to compensation in this range. Compensation for pain and suffering is determined based on the awards given in previous similar court cases, adjusted for inflation.
The Ontario government has passed legislation in an attempt to limit compensation for pain and suffering for motor vehicle accident claims. To receive compensation your injuries must reach a threshold in terms of the seriousness of the impairment. There is also a deductible imposed on the value of your pain and suffering. For example if the deductible is $30,000.00 and your pain and suffering damages are worth $50,000.00, the Ontario government permits the insurance company for the at-fault driver to only pay you $20,0000.00.
Aside from damages for pain and suffering, additional compensation that may be available for personal injury victims includes the following:
- Past and Future Income Loss.
- Loss of Competitive Advantage.
- Medical and Rehabilitation Expenses.
- Past and Future Care Costs.
- Family Member Claims for the Loss of Guidance, Care and Companionship.
- Housekeeping and Home Maintenance Expenses.
- Childcare expenses.
Numerous factors are considered when determining the value of your claim. Some of these factors include whether the injury or injuries have resulted in ongoing pain and psychological distress. Other factors include whether you are impaired from working and engaging in your usual activities of daily living, such as housekeeping and home maintenance, family responsibilities and recreational activities.
After reviewing your medical records and obtaining opinions from medical specialists, we will be able to provide an accurate assessment of your claim.
To discuss what your injury or disability claim is worth, contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation.
What Should I Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident?
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident there are several things you should do to make sure you are safe and that your rights are protected.
First, if you are involved in a collision, stop. If you do not stop you may face criminal charges.
Report to the Police
If anyone is injured or if the vehicles damage appears to be over $1,000.00, you must contact the police. If there is an emergency or if you believe any of the other drivers are drunk, on drugs or guilty of another Criminal Code offence, you should call 911.
If it appears that no one is seriously injured and the total damage to all vehicles is less than $1,000.00 you should still call the local police for instructions.
If the police or a collision reporting centre are not involved and there is no Motor Vehicle Accident report, the other party may dispute who was at fault for or even involved in the accident. It is important that the details of the accident are documented.
The Motor Vehicle Accident report will identify the names and addresses of the parties involved in the collision and their insurance information. This information is needed for your claims.
Move Your Vehicle to Safety
If it is safe, move your vehicle to the side of the road. If your vehicle cannot be moved, turn on your four-way flashers or use some other warning signal such as warning triangles or flares, if appropriate.
If possible take photos of the accident scene, preferably before the vehicles are moved. Take photographs of the damage to the vehicles.
Photographs can be helpful to demonstrate the seriousness of your collision to the insurance company and possibly a judge or jury. They may also assist with an understanding of how the accident happened.
Get Contact and Insurance Details
Get the names, addresses, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers and insurance policy information of the other drivers involved in the collision. Write down the license plate numbers and names of owners of the vehicles involved in the collision.
Also write the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of passengers and witnesses. If there is any dispute about who was at fault, the evidence of a witness could prove crucial to winning your case.
Seek Medical Attention
If you are injured, depending on the seriousness of your injuries, go to the emergency department at the hospital or see your family physician.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may want to meet with you to sign authorizations, take a written statement or settle your claim. Do not agree to do any of these things until you have contacted your injury lawyer.
There are deadlines and limitation periods that apply to your accident benefit claims and the claim against the other driver. Your lawyer will help ensure you do not miss any of the deadlines.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
In order to ensure you are properly represented in your injury or insurance case, it is important to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer.
While a general practice lawyer may be able to bring your claim, they may not know all sources of compensation available in the court action and under the accident benefits legislation. If your lawyer lacks experience bringing personal injury claims, they may not have access to, or even be familiar with, the best experts in the industry. They may not be up to date on the most recent cases and decisions in an ever-changing area of law.
For car accident victims, the Ontario accident benefits system is complex. You may be surprised to know that even many personal injury lawyers have limited experience suing and bringing arbitrations against insurance companies for accident benefits.
The insurance company on the other side of your case has on staff a team of sophisticated adjusters who handle thousands of accident claims. The insurance company will hire a lawyer or team of lawyers who specialize in defending personal injury claims. The job of the insurance company lawyer is to make sure you are paid as little as possible or if possible nothing at all. If you do not hire your own experienced personal injury lawyer, you are already one step behind.
A good, experienced lawyer will explain all of your options and guide you through the entire legal process. He or she will help build your case, access benefits, help make decisions on when to settle, explain the value of settlement offers and advise whether you need to take your case to court.
If you are going to hire a lawyer, make sure you are confident in his or her experience handling injury and insurance benefit cases. For car accident cases, make sure your lawyer is confident, knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to no-fault accident benefits.
Before hiring a lawyer, ask him or her whether she specializes only in personal injury and insurance law. Ask about the sorts of cases he or she has taken to court. If it is a larger law firm, ask who will be doing most of the work on your file. You should also know if your lawyer has worked for an insurance company himself or herself. Do they know first-hand what sort of tactics the insurance company will use, what factors the insurance company considers important in assigning a value to your claim and when is the best time to start the negotiation?
Personal injury and insurance law is complex. To ensure you receive the full amount of compensation you are entitled to, you need to have an experienced lawyer on your side.
How Long Will My Case Take?
A big question for many injury and disability clients is how long will it take for the case to settle or go to trial?
A personal injury case can last anywhere between a few months to a few years; or even several years. A few months is the bare minimum, and it is very rare for a personal injury case to settle that quickly.
For accident claims there are two key factors that determine how fast your case will settle: liability and injury recovery. Liability is the question of who is at fault. If there is no question that someone else’s negligence caused an injury, the claim will probably settle faster than if negligence is disputed.
The status of your recovery is usually the biggest factor that determines how long your case will take to settle. In most cases it is best to wait until you have reached maximum medical recovery before trying to negotiate a settlement. This means that you have followed the recommendations from your doctor and other therapists and your recovery is “as good as it is going to get.”
If you are still in treatment and still getting better, you can always try and negotiate a settlement. However, you will probably get less money. If you have not reached maximum medical recovery, the insurance company will assume you are going to improve and pay less.
You will be in a far stronger position to negotiate if you have medical evidence that your condition has stopped improving and will not get better.
A settlement with the insurance company or at fault driver is final. Once you have settled for a certain amount, if your condition gets worse in the future or you run out of money, you cannot go back and sue for more. For this reason, we never recommend an early settlement if we believe you may receive more by waiting, or of the prognosis is still uncertain.
Ultimately, it is your decision on whether to try and get an early settlement or not. The job of a personal injury lawyer is to provide you with the best possible advice and recommendations regarding the timing of the settlement negotiation and the value of your claim at any particular point in time.
What are the Steps in my Ottawa Personal Injury or Long-Term Disability Case?
If you have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident or are making a claim against an insurance company for disability benefits, there a several key steps that must be taken.
It is important to retain an Ottawa personal injury lawyer soon after your accident or disability denial so that your claim can get properly started as soon as possible.
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. 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.
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.
Your lawyer may also contact witnesses to build your case. For example, in a car accident case, this could involve a statement from an independent witness who saw the crash.
If an early settlement is not reached with the liability insurance company, your lawsuit must be commenced within two years. This is done by filing 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.
Examinations for Discovery
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.
The Examination for Discovery is not held in a courtroom in the presence of a judge and jury. Instead, it is usually held in a room similar to a board room in the presence of a court reporter who records all questions and answers. After the examination is complete, all questions and answers are transcribed in an official transcript.
Attendance at Medical Examinations
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.
Although the defence experts are supposed to be objective, you may very well find that the report prepared by the defence expert is heavily slanted to favour the position being taken by the insurance company.
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.
A Mediation is private, confidential and without prejudice. Nothing that any party says at the Mediation can be used against them at a later date such as the trial. This is to encourage an open dialogue and frank settlement discussions.
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 judge at the trial will not be the same judge who presided over the Pre-Trial Conference.
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 of who was at fault and how much the case is worth.
For more information about making a personal injury or long-term disability claim, or to arrange a free no-obligation consultation, please contact us.