Client Earns More Compensation with an Ottawa Lawyer

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – An example from yesterday reminds me of how vulnerable most accident victims are when it comes to asserting their rights to accident benefits. We have a seriously injured Ottawa man whose accident took place in the late fall 2008.
He came to see us because he had not received any housekeeping assistance. Little did he know how much he was actually entitled to…
We sorted through his file and determined there were multiple benefits that he had not accessed and we initiated the process. The insurance adjuster, very friendly, writes back and says “Yes, you are entitled to these benefits, but you did not submit receipts so you won’t get them. We look forward to receiving your receipts from now on.”

Excuse me? How does he get receipts for benefits he does not know exist? How does he pay for those benefits with money he has not received?

Most lay people, I believe, would take that answer at face value and give up on four months’ benefits. However, we were able to write a letter citing the case law that told the adjuster that her position was wrong and that she had to pay the back benefits.

The result? A letter OF APOLOGY (yes, you are reading right) from the adjuster indicating that she was not aware of the law on that point and indicating that she was recommending that the insurer make payment.

That issue has two positive offspins: First, the client gets the money which he really needs. Second, and also important, the power balance shifts. Now we have an adjuster who, within the first few weeks of dealing with me, has had to apologize and admit she knows less than I do.

Have you been injured in an Ontario accident? A top personal injury lawyer can help you make a claim for the insurance compensation you need. For more information, contact the Ottawa injury lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Ottawa Lawyer | Comments on the FSCO Recommendations

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER -The long-awaited five year review on car insurance was released today by the Superintendent of FSCO. FSCO is the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the body that oversees insurance in Ontario.

In the report are 39 recommendations for the reform of auto insurance. The changes are focused mainly on creating savings from statutory accident benefits. Statutory accident benefits are the no-fault benefits available after an accident, regardless of fault. Many people think they are too expensive and too cumbersome.

We are still reading the 5-year review, however, one important recommendations urges the government to consider easing the restrictions on the ability of injured victims to sue the people who caused an accident. The Superintendent suggests:

1. Reducing the deductible on non-pecuniary general damages from $30,000 to $20,000. This is very important! Right now if your damages for pain and suffering are less than $100,000, the insurance company does not have to pay the first $30,000. Talk about a “tax on pain”;

2. Reducing the deductible on Family Law Act claims from $15,000 to $10,000.Also important. If your loved one loses your care and companionship, the insurance company does not have to pay the first $15,000. Given that these awards are very low to begin with, the deductible often wipes the damages out altogether.

3. Eliminating the $15,000 deductible on fatal accident claims; This one should be pretty obvious!

4. Revoking the regulation defining the “Verbal Threshold”. Right now you can only sue if you have a serious and permanent injury The Verbal Threshold are those words “serious” and “permanent”. (The requirement is more complicated than that, but this is a blog post so that will have to do!) A few years ago the government published a regulation that attempted to narrow who could sue by defining “serious and permanent” in a restrictive sense. The regulation was particularly restrictive for injured people who were not in the workforce, such as retirees, homemakers and the unemployed.

If these changes came to pass, Ontario would have a more fairer tort claim system. Tell your member of provincial parliament that you support the tort reform proposed in the 5-year review! They need to hear from you.

UPDATE: As I continue to research the recommendations by the FSCO Superintendent, I note other interesting recommendations.
Insurance companies may like these:
• a single health professional to direct a claimant’s rehabilitation. The concept is that this will reduce the chance of a multiple treating professionals making interventions in the claims process. Simplify.
• capping the cost of completing forms (including any assessment required to complete the form) at $200, and capping all other assessment costs at $2,000. This one can be tricky. You can’t get treatment if you can’t get it approved. You can’t get it approved if you don’t get an assessment. You don’t get an assessment if the practitioner won’t do one for the insurance company’s rate;
• limiting availability of in-home assessments to seriously injured claimants only. Hmm…What does serious mean? In home visits by occupational therapists are sometimes the life line for injured victims; and
• converting mandatory housekeeping and home maintenance expenses and caregiver benefits into optional benefits that can be purchased or not. This suggestion makes sense as long as the insurance brokers who sell accident benefit policies are well educated on advising their customers about the options.
In addition to the reduction in the thresholds discussed in the post below, accident victims will like:
• Further consultation with experts in the field to amend the definition of “catastrophic impairment.” This definition is tricky and somewhat mysterious. The level of accident benefits you receive after an accident depends on whether or not you are “cat”. And yet, unless you are paraplegic, quadriplegic, blind or in a few other specific categories, it sure is tough right now to know if you qualify for the higher level of benefits.
• The accident benefit forms and application process will be simplified. Halleluja! The forms are basically impossible for anyone without a law degree. And even then…; Many, many people show up on my office doorstep simply because they cannot complete the forms. I suspect a pleasant offshoot of this reform for insurance companies will be fewer lawyer involvements.

Have you been involved in an Ontario accident and obtained injuries? An Ottawa personal injury lawyer knows the most up-to-date information on your insurance benefits. For more information, contact the Ottawa lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Ontario’s Auto Insurance Deductible Hurts You

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – It was a great week last week for three of my injured car accident victims in Ottawa. Their injury cases all settled, relatively early in the process, and all clients were pleased with the outcome. I was happy too. I felt like each of the clients achieved a fair settlement considering Ontario’s compensation framework.

The case I want to discuss, however, highlights the issue with the deductible that applies to general damage awards under $100,000. General damages refers to the money you get to compensate you for pain and suffering.

The case is covered by confidentiality clause so I can’t spell out the detail. But I can give you enough of the gist to make the point.

My client was an older individual who was injured after being rearended by a small truck. We settled on the basis that he would receive damages for pain and suffering and past and future housekeeping and attendant care. Given his age, his future care costs would all be covered by the accident benefit carrier so were not an issue.

His three adult children each contributed very significantly to his care post accident and it was agreed that they would be awarded family law act damages for their efforts. Family Law Act damages refer to damages received by family members for the loss of care, guidance and companionship between the family member and the injured person.

When all was said and done, what deductible do you think applied to the case? First, the gentleman’s damages for pain and suffering were less that $100,000, so there was a $30,000 deductible right there. Second, the damages awarded to each child as family law act damages were reduced by the $15,000 deductible, for a total additional reduction of $45,000.

All in all, this client’s settlement was $75,000 less than it would have been if it were not for the deductibles.

If you think there is a problem with this picture, why not let your Provincial Member of Parliament know how you feel? The provincial government in Ontario is currently reconsidering the deductible. My own MPP has indicated that he does not think Ontarians care about this issue because no-one (apart from me) had ever raised it with him.

If you have been injured in Ontario and are interested in getting fair compensation from your insurance company, a top personal injury lawyer can help. For more information, contact the Ottawa accident lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Ottawa Lawyer | Why You Have to be Truthful in a Defence Medical

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – I want to share with you a section of a case decision that was released in Ontario. It is not my case and I do not know the lawyers or the parties involved. I do know this, however, the case sure does show how dangerous it is to overstate the extent of your injuries. I am not saying that the plaintiff in this case was exagerating. I’d have no way of knowing that. But that is certainly what the defence lawyer’s orthopoedic surgeon thought and ultimately what the judge believed.

Here’s a section of the case summarizing the evidence of the defence doctor at trial:

Dr. Hugh Cameron is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of knees and hips. At the request of counsel for the defendant, he examined the plaintiff in his office on March 19, 2008. Dr. Cameron took a history from the plaintiff and also reviewed an extensive medical brief. Following his examination of the plaintiff, he concluded that:
• the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in March 2005 in which she
strained her neck and right shoulder;
• at worst, the plaintiff sustained a simple, uncomplicated musculoligamentous strain from which he would expect a woman of her age to have by now made a full recovery;
• at the time he examined the plaintiff, while there were subjective complaints of pain, there was no objective corroborating evidence of any significant organic pathology with respect to her cervical spine;
• while the plaintiff did have a restriction on range of motion in her right shoulder, he was of the opinion that the restriction was caused by pain inhibition and that if the plaintiff continued with appropriate stretching exercises, she could return to a
full range of activities within one year.

Here’s the kiss of death, right here:

Dr. Cameron expressed the opinion that, where a person favours the use of one arm over the other, there will be evidence of muscle wasting in the underused arm. During his examination of the plaintiff, he observed that there was no muscle wasting when he measured her arms. As well, during his examination of the plaintiff, Dr. Cameron performed a test known as pseudo-axial loading. He testified that this was a fake test which should produce no pain whatsoever. However, during this test, the plaintiff informed the Dr. Cameron that it produced pain in her neck.

The problem is, as a lay person, you just never know what types of testing are done purely to detect malingering. Almost all insurance related tests have some variation of “validity testing”. That includes psychological testing, functional capacity assessments as well as more traditional medical assessments.

As a result of the passage above, as well as other findings that the woman was not honest about her pain and symptoms, this claim for pain and suffering was rejected completely.

Don’t let that happen to your case!

If you have been injured in an Ottawa accident, your first step after getting immediate medical treatment should be to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you make your injury claim. For more information, contact the Ottawa injury lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Can an Ottawa Injury Lawyer Review My Settlement Documents?

Ottawa Lawyer | Reviewing Injury Settlement Documents

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – About a year ago, a very nice lady met me for a consultation after a slip and fall. I really liked her and felt badly for her. She was a single mother with kids and this accident had thrown her for a loop. We met. We spoke on the phone. But in the end, she decided to handle her case on her own. It was not the largest or most complicated case, so the decision to represent herself was not ludicrous.

However, now she is dealing with the adjuster one on one. He is coming to her work to negotiate a settlement. (To her work!?) And she is calling me now. What do I think about this? What do I think about that? Could I look over the documents before she signs. She’ll pay me for my time, of course. And she means it. I know she does. So why do I have to say no?

Because when a personal injury lawyer works up a case for settlement, she has obtained and reviewed your medical records. She has spoken to your rehabilitation professionals (your physiotherapist, for example) and knows what your future needs are. She has studied your past loss of income and obtained whatever reports and calculations are needed to project what your future loss of income claim is. She has considered the impact of your accident on your family and quantified your Family Law Act claims. She has tallied up your out-of-pocket expenses to determine what you have spent and what you will spend in the future. She’s done all that, and more.

So when you ask her to look at numbers on a piece of paper, without any of that context, it is very difficult for her to give a useful opinion on whether it is a fair offer. She can tell you it is in the ball park or it is ridiculous. But if she does that, it is without knowing if that back pain may result in a spinal fusion surgery a year from now. So, why would she do that and potentially lead you astray?

There are times you can and should go it alone in a personal injury claim. And even in those times, it makes sense to have an initial consultation with a lawyer to make sure you are on the right track. However, if you are representing yourself, no lawyer can or should give you an off the cuff opinion about the insurance company’s offer. Without a file review, that opinion ain’t worth much!

Top 12 Things about Being an Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyer

In honour of twelve years at the Bar of Ontario (called: Feb 21, 1997), I have collected twelve great things about a career representing Ontario accident victims.

12. No two days are the same. Representing people, as opposed to companies or institutions means I deal with real human beings, each of whom has a unique set of issues.

11. Actually making a difference to clients. Taking on a personal injury case means that almost immediately you have taken the load off someone’s shoulders. And those shoulders are usually already burdened with pain and other issues.

10. Freedom. Many people are surprized by how much freedom a lawyer has. As long as I don’t have to be in court or at discovery or mediation, I can work when I want and where I want. I may well be writing your settlement conference brief on my dining room table.

9. Participation in the community. I enjoy getting to know people in other businesses, like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, engineers and doctors. Many lawyers and other professionals end up dealing only with people within a narrow field. An Accident lawyer deals broadly with folks from all walks of life.

8. Watching Heroes in action. I am constantly humbled watching people in very difficult situations respond with grace and dignity.

7. The pursuit of justice. Sometimes I have the pleasure of seeing opposing counsel or an insurance adjuster actually come around and change their point of view. That is a very good feeling because those are the moments when you feel justice happening.

6. Going to Court. Not every lawyer loves going to court but I do. I love that feeling a few minutes before the judge walks in and I am ready to go. I like when they ask questions. I like when I feel I am provoking thought.

5. Involvement in the Advocates Society. Many associations are a waste of time. The Advocates Society is the opposite. It is a group of lawyers from across Canada who work together to ensure that courtroom lawyers have the highest level of skill possible.  I am proud to be a member of  The Advocates Society, including serving on the Personal Injury and Insurance executive.

4. An opportunity to shape the law. Everytime you make a legal argument or argue in Court, you have a chance to participate in the shaping of the laws and principles that impact the future settlements and judgments received by Ontario accidents. Personal injury lawyers have a big responsibility to get it right. It is an honour for me to participate in this process.

3. Negotiation. I love it. Like going to court, negotiation provides an adrenalin rush. Everytime I negotiate a settlement I learn something about human nature, business, and how to maximize the results I get for my clients.

2. A Challenge. Being a lawyer at my own firm, developing and servicing my personal injury practice is not without its challenges. This challenge has forced me to become more organized, more outgoing and to really focus on my goals. Most of these goals centre around how to attract and service the most needy injured victims and to provide those clients with the highest level of service. Every day I see movement forward and believe my clients do too.

1. RESULTS. For me the results my clients get are the highlight of this process. The happiest days for me are the days I am handing over a settlement cheque!

Brenda Hollingsworth is an accident lawyer representing injured people and their families in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Brenda is the author of AN INJURED VICTIM’S GUIDE TO FAIR COMPENSATION. If you would like to receive a copy of this free consumer guide, visit https://www.personalinjuryottawa.ca.

An Ottawa Injury Lawyer’s Constant Frustration: Defence Counsel who Delay

Defence Counsel who Delay

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – If you ask a personal injury lawyer anywhere in North America what they find most frustrating, I suspect the majority will tell you the same thing: insurance lawyers’ delay. I faced a heavy dose of it today on a very serious case involving a 42 year old mother with life altering injuries that no-one disputes were caused by her accident.

It starts when they delay the delivery of the statement of defence (the document that responds to the law suit). Then, they don’t give you their documents on time. That is followed quickly by the fact that their calendars are soooo full that they cannot give you discovery dates for m-o-n-t-h-s. AHHHH.

Injury cases in Ottawa face mandatory mediation. These are hard to schedule because many of the good mediators have their own scheduling issues. And then of course, the defence counsel has to request an adjournment due to a trial, or because their client the insurance adjuster has a personal emergency. HMMMM

Of course if you have not completed mediation, the settlement conference (pre-trial) has to be adjourned, likely for 4 to 6 months. It is not until the settlement conference that you can get a trial date. And, depending on what length of trial you are dealing with you may not get that trial date for a year.

In almost every case, delay is bad for the plaintiff who is suffering financially because of the accident and who feels stressed and anxious about the case. For the insurance company, it is gravy. They are not sweating the delay because they are professional litigants. They are holding on to their money a little longer. The plaintiff might give up altogether. The plaintiff might take a discount on a fair deal to make this never ending law suit…end.

So what can your lawyer do for you? In Ottawa we can get a court-ordered timetable. We can enforce the timetable. We can send materials, notices, reminders far enough in advance of each event that the defence lawyer has no excuse (or fewer viable excuses) for the delay. We can enlist the help of the court to move the case along. All of these steps help.

However, the most valuable step we can take is to ensure our client that the day will come when the case will end. Patience, most often, is rewarded with something closer to justice. Take a deep breath, like your lawyer is doing, and know that petty tactics are not enough to deter you from the compensation you deserve.

If you are looking for an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist with your case, please feel free to review my website at www.personalinjuryottawa. I would be happy to provide a free consultation – call the Ottawa lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by phone at (613) 860-4529 or email us at [email protected].

Ottawa Lawyer | The Injured, The Bad and The Ugly

The Injured, The Bad and The Ugly

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – Two stories remind me why it is so important to be a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa, even if it is not the most glamorous area of the law.

First, I spoke to a lady who is a quadriplegic and has been since childhood. As a result of travel on a certain public mode of transportation, she has suffered additional injuries that impact her already limited freedom in a serious way.

Handling her claim on her own without a lawyer she is now beyond the two year mark which is the limitation period for most motor vehicle related claims. Did any of the many adjusters she was dealing with or negotiating with (apparently in good faith) ever tell her about the deadline? Certainly not in a a way she understood. She now has a much more complicated case than she did, that’s for sure.

That’s story number one.

Story number two is this. A very young man called me today. He received some advice from me in a free consulation in the fall. He decided at that time he was going to try to negotiate a settlement himself. He was in a line of work that involved negotiations so felt pretty good about going head to head with an adjuster.

Today he called back and asked me to please take his case. Why? Because he remembered what I had explained to him about when you were allowed to sue for pain and suffering in Ontario. He had taken notes at our meeting. However, when the adjuster explained the process to him he became aware that she was not giving him the straight goods. Because he had already been educated from a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, he was able to detect that the adjuster was not someone he could trust to look after his best interest.

Also problematic, the adjuster suggested that he stop using his rehab money for physiotherapy while they were negotiating. Uhm, that’s just wrong. Auger Hollingsworth is pleased that we can help this guy who has worked very hard to rehabilitate after his accident.

If you have been in an Ottawa accident and injured as a result, it’s time to get in touch with a top personal injury lawyer. For more information, contact the injury and accident lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Ottawa Lawyer | Accident Benefits and Catastrophic Injuries

When The Best Just Won’t Do: Accident Benefits and Catastrophic Injuries

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – What would you do for money if you were catastrophically injured in a single car accident and there was no-one to sue?

It is very easy to identify millions of dollars in necessities, not luxuries, that are needed by quadriplegics or others with profound disabilities. Medical devices, lifts, attendant care, prescriptions, physiotherapy, massage therapy, vocational assistance, case management, wheelchairs, adapted transportation and home modifications are just some of basic needs of people who suffer serious injury.

If you don’t have disability insurance and significant extended health benefits, how do you pay for this? If you think the answer is OHIP, think again. Virtually none of the items in that list are covered by OHIP.

Fortunately, in Ontario, we have the most extensive no-fault accident benefits available in North America. Virtually everyone in Ontario who is injured in a motor vehicle accident is entitled to these benefits. That is true even if you do not have your own auto insurance. That’s great, right?

It’s good. Not great.

I met with someone recently who became a quadriplegic in a single car accident a few years ago. There has been no opportunity to make a claim against any form of insurance apart from the no-fault accident benefits. We have been discussing settlement and what might happen down the road. I was asked by a family friend who met with us whether the plan we were proposing, which would be an excellent result relative to what is available, would be enough for this person to cover his needs.

The straight answer I had to give him was “no”. For a young person (and by young I mean 40 and under), there is simply no way to stretch the policy limits under the accident benefits (assuming you can get the limits) to make them cover all of the needs of a quadriplegic if that person lives a typical lifespan. And that is in the province with the best no-fault scheme.

So what is the call to action? First, despite tougher economic times, the message is: resist the urge to make ends meet by cutting disability or other health insurance you have. In the event of a tragic accident, you would need every penny available. If not for yourself, think of the financial and emotional strain on your extended family if you coould not afford your own basic medical needs.

Second, speak up over the coming months when the insurance industry makes noise about cutting the no-fault benefits regime. Tell your MPP that this important safety net is not something you think Ontario should be without. I have relayed this message to my MPP. I hope you will do the same.

Ottawa Lawyer | Restrictions on Discovery in an Ontario Accident Case

When Examination for Discovery in an Accident Case Becomes Ridiculous

OTTAWA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER – Starting next year there will be greater restrictions in Ontario on the amount of time that is spent examining parties to a law suit for discovery. Examination for discovery is the part of a law suit where the people involved are asked questions under oath about the accident and, if they are a person claiming damages, the nature of the claims.

Not everyone is happy to see the discovery time reduced, but I am. I cannot stand watching my client angst over questions like: “Did you see the specialist before or after your elbow pain increased?”. Or “How many times in the year before the accident had you seen your family doctor”. What a flippin’ waste of time and money…

Sure, medical appointments before and after the accident are relevant. But, in Ontario there is a master print out of all medical services provided to an Ontario resident, a description of those services and the dates of those medical services. Plus, the defence lawyer either already has or will get copies of all the medical records.

A defence lawyer has no reason to ask those questions except to try to catch the plaintiff in a “lie”. What person on a jury is going to conclude that the plaintiff is a liar because he or she cannot remember the number or order of medical appointments the plaintiff attended 3 or 4 years earlier? My view is: none.

It is my sincere hope that this type of mind-numbing, time wasting interrogation will fade to nothing when the new discovery rules are in force and the defendants have to pick up the pace of their examinations or risk missing the important stuff. Here’s to change!

If you have been injured in Ontario and are interested in getting fair compensation from your insurance company, a top personal injury lawyer can help. For more information, contact the Ottawa accident lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or by phone at (613) 860-4529.

Next Page »