Injury, Liability and Insurance
Injuries can be devastating. Besides the initial shock and pain, the medical treatments, the expenses, the loss of work and your enjoyment of life they entail, there can be very serious long-term consequences: permanent disability, possibly the loss of employment or income, even the loss of a business. Some times the injury proves to be more extensive or severe than your initial assessment of it or can affect you in unexpected ways.
If you’ve been injured, get a legal assessment as soon as you can. Get the facts and have your questions answered. If an insurance company is involved, always get legal advice before agreeing to or signing anything – they make money by getting you to settle a claim quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Injury and accident law can be complicated. Current case law has to be considered and your personal situation taken into account – there are no “one-size fits all” answers
Michael Welsh is a respected British Columbia personal injury lawyer with more than three decades of courtroom experience dealing with injury cases and insurance companies. Clients have come to count on his legal expertise, knowledge of the law regarding injuries and accidents and his insight in difficult situations.
If you’ve been injured, you have a legal problem in addition to your medical problems and you need a solution. You need answers about your legal rights and options.
Personal Injury – Here’s what you need to know
When you are injured by the fault of another, you often lose a lot. You may have to take time from work and lose wages or salary. You will have expenses to go to the doctor or physio, to buy prescriptions, to replace clothing and perhaps to pay for assistance at home. You also lose a huge part of your enjoyment of life.
While you will never make back that lost enjoyment of life, you are entitled to be repaid all your losses and to compensation for your pain and suffering.
Most times, there will be an insurer involved, whether it is ICBC in an automobile accident or a liability insurer for a homeowner or store if you slip or trip and fall. Insurers hire people called adjusters to “adjust” the claim. This is another word for settling it as quickly and cheaply as possible. Often times, the adjuster will claim that you are wholly or partly at fault and try to deny or reduce your claim.
Always, the adjuster will offer you much less than you are entitled to receive. This is why it is important to obtain a lawyer who is a specialist in personal injury claims. That lawyer can “call” the adjuster on these games to reduce what you receive and can assist you in obtaining all the information and medical and other expert reports necessary to fully document and present your claim in settlement discussions and if necessary in court. The lawyer also knows what you are entitled to receive and can forcefully and knowledgeably present your claim to its full extent. So you should get legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Here are some important things you need to know meantime.
Firstly, you have two years in most cases in which to start a legal action to enforce your claim. If you wait any longer, you lose your claim. If the party at fault is a town or city or other local government body you may have far less time. Notice of the claim has to be given in writing to the local government within 60 days and a legal action may need to be started within 6 months.
Next, you need to ensure right from the time of the accident that you do not say or do anything that may prejudice your claim.
Here are some things to keep in mind
1. Never admit fault. Even if it is your fault, don’t come out and say it. If you blew the stop sign and rammed into the car that didn’t, taking the blame could mean that your insurance is picking up 100% of the claim. As one knowledgeable insurance representative has said, “Let it all get figured out. If you’re moving, even if the other guy hit you, you still have a degree of fault. The insurance companies will determine what that is.”
2. Don’t give your opinion. More times than not your opinion of a situation is not totally accurate and it could hurt you more than help you.
3. Never leave the scene. Even if you’re at fault, stay until the police come. It is an offence to leave the scene and you could be charged. Also, the other guy could exaggerate the degree of accident or say you just drove away recklessly and that could lead to more problems down the road. People are more honest when other witnesses are there too.
4. Make sure the other guy gets the ticket. If you’re in an accident where the other guy was clearly at fault, make sure the police get it down in writing. Your rates may go up if the other party doesn’t get the ticket. It’s proof that it wasn’t your fault.
6. Avoid using “whiplash” to describe that pain in your neck. Muscle injuries don’t show up on X-rays so insurance companies are on alert when people claim they have whiplash. In fact just describe factually where you have pain and elaborate as little as possible. Say you need to see in consultation with your doctor what your injuries are. Never give an opinion of how serious they are or when you may be recovered.
Insurance companies have many ways and lots of resources to getting down to the truth and if they think you’re not being exactly honest with them, they will go far and wide to prove it.
7. Consult with a lawyer before you give any recorded or detailed statement. It can be used against you later on. You want to control your case and the release of information. Insurance companies must ask you for your permission in order to record an interview. You may wish to have a lawyer retained and present when it is done.
8. Do not make friendly conversation with the adjuster. Stick to business and only tell them the “who,” “what,” “when” and “where.” Don’t even tell the adjuster the “how” at this point.
9. Do not give out any information about your family.
10. Do not sign a medical release without first getting legal advice. Provincial law protects your medical records. The insurance companies may use this release to dig through all your medical history, even things not related to the car accident.
11. Start a daily journal immediately detailing your visits to doctors and and other healing professionals such as physiotherapists, massage therapists and chiropractors. Also record how you are doing day to day. This journal should be kept completely confidential and only shared with your lawyer. It may be months or more before your case resolves and this gives a detailed history that will help in its presentation.
12. See a knowledgeable lawyer at the first opportunity. Most will take cases on for a fee that is a percentage of whatever the lawyer recovers for you at the end of the day. If you don’t recover anything then you don’t pay any legal fees. Discuss the percentage with the lawyer at the first interview.