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A lot of our practice is focused on litigating short term, and long term disability claims against large insurance companies such as Manulife, Great West Life, Sun Life, Industrial Alliance, RBC Insurance, La Capitale Insurance, Co-Operators Insurance, Equitable Life, Canada Life etc.

These claims arise when a policy holder, of disability claimant; makes a claim on their Long Term Disability Policy (LTD), but their claim gets denied by the insurer. When that happens, people call our law firm and we’re able to help them get the benefits and justice which they deserve.

The area of Long Term Disability Law can be very confusing. Unlike a car accident, slip and fall or dog bite claim where we are able to clearly identify the wrong doing or negligence, a Long Term Disability Claim is purely contractual. That means if you don’t have an LTD policy, then you can’t have an LTD claim. It’s that simple.

The parameters of the claim are set up by the wording of the policy. Because every LTD policy is unique, every claim is very different.

Here’s a quick example. Some LTD Policies provide for benefits at 65% of your gross monthly earnings. Other policies provide for benefits at 75% of your net monthly earnings. Some policies provide for LTD benefits up to the age of 65 years old. Other policies provide for LTD benefits for just 5 years. The definitions of disability in each policy is also different and can vary dramatically from policy to policy. Some policies contain onerous exclusions for disability if based on a soft tissue injury or psychological illness. Other policies don’t contain those sort of exclusions.

The level and amount of coverage all depends on the policy, and how good (or bad) it is for the claimant. The claimant didn’t draft the policy. They were drafted by insurers, for the benefit of insurers to limit their potential exposure.

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Did summer hit, or is it just me? With a quick snap of the fingers, we’re already in June with some fantastic weather. I’ll take it after a long, cold winter.

When we get nicer weather in Ontario, people are more inclined to ride their motorcycles and bikes. The rules of the road and the way personal injury law works in Ontario for motorcyclist and cyclists can get a bit tricky…but it shouldn’t.

The purpose of this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post is to examine the law and how it relates to accidents involving motorcycles and bikes, and how this can differ (or be the same) from your normal car accident case.

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Did you know that your car insurance coverage for accident claims is changing effective June 1, 2016?

If you’re answer is “NO“, then you’re not alone.

To be frank, the only reason I know about these changes is because I’m a personal injury lawyer and it’s my job to do so. But if you’re reading this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post, chances are you’re not a personal injury lawyer like me, and these changes are new to you.

Why are these changes being introduced in the first place?Good question!

I didn’t ask for them…. You didn’t ask for them…..

The only people who asked for these changes were the car insurance companies and their lobbyist group in order to save them MONEY. These changes aren’t about you ,the consumer. They aren’t about protecting the public. They’re about making MONEY for those large, multi-national corporations who provide insurance services in Ontario.

The logic is that the savings for large, deep pocketed insurers are supposed to be passed along to the average, every day, Ontario motorist. These changes have been coming fast and furious to save insurers money.

Yet, in Goldfinger Personal Injury Law’s informal poll of 10 drivers asked in Toronto; 10 drivers asked in Peterborough; 10 drivers asked in London; 10 drivers asked in Kitchener; and 10 drivers asked in Vaughan; NONE OF THEM REPORTED ANY SAVINGS ON THEIR CAR INSURANCE IN THE PAST 3 YEARS!! The only savings that were reported were from those motorists who stopped driving, or instead of insuring 2 vehicles, they new only insured 1 vehicle. Conducting these polls was very easy for our law firm because we have offices in all of these Cities, with the exception of the City of Vaughan.

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Mediation is a popular tool used by lawyers to settle personal injury cases in Ontario. In some jurisdictions (Toronto, Windsor and Ottawa) mediating a personal injury case is mandatory before it can proceed to trial. The Insurance Act also contains provisions requiring mediation for an accident benefit dispute in Ontario. Some Courts have even found that a car insurer’s refusal to participate in a mediation is bad faith claims handling and awarded the Plaintiff damages in this regard.

Whether or not a mediation is mandatory; this does not change what a mediation is, and how mediation works.

If you have never mediated a case before, don’t worry. You’re not alone. 99% of our clients have never participated in a formal, legal, mediation before. BUT, 100% of our clients have participated in some form of informal mediation at one point or another in their lives!! Don’t believe me?

Ever had a dispute with your spouse or family member and you needed to call in a close friend to chat with the parties and help solve the problem? That’s mediation. When your Uncle Larry is talking to your Uncle Ned, did you need to call in Grandma to help cooler heads prevail? That’s mediation too!

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution. The nature of the dispute doesn’t matter. If there’s conflict; mediation can help resolve that conflict. Just because the dispute resolution technique isn’t labelled as a mediation, doesn’t mean it’s not.

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Personal Injury lawyers across North America widely advertise that they provide “free consultations“. It’s a widely accepted industry standard. I don’t know any reputable personal injury law firms who don’t provide a free consultation, or free consultations thereafter. You may be hard pressed to find another area of the law where face to face consultations are provided for free. A lawyer’s commodity is their time. Lawyers don’t have any dry goods to sell you like bagels, I-Phones or shoes. All lawyers have is their time, and the work product from that time which generally manifests in the form of thoughtful and meticulously prepared letters, pleadings and other documents which clients have requested or need for their respective cases.

So, when a lawyer provides you with a free consultation, it’s important for that consultation not to be a waste of time. How can we make these consultations as productive as possible for everyone involved.

Generally, the lawyer will already have done his/her research on you, the client, BEFORE you step foot through the door. A quick Google Search, or search on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter can tell us volumes. If the accident was a high profile accident that was covered on TV or in newspapers, then a quick internet search can give us a good starting point in terms of how the accident, where, and when the accident took place. It can also give the lawyer a starting point on the nature of the injuries, if these were reported accurately. Certainly, the client’s version of events will be more important than what’s been reported in the media as it’s not often accurate. But, it does give the lawyer a starting point.

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Depending on who you ask, Uber is either a fantastic service; or spells the death to hard working taxi drivers. Today, it was announced that the City of Toronto passed legislation which will regulate Uber and other private ride sharing services such that they can operate in the Toronto without further political controversy (we hope).

In case you’ve never heard of Uber before, it’s essentially a taxi dispatch service; only taxi drivers don’t necessarily make the pick ups. The pick ups can be done by every day motorists trying to make an extra buck. Sounds simple enough. The controversy lies in that the taxi regime in the City of Toronto is complex, and heavily taxed/regulated.

In order to operate a taxi, you need to have a special taxi license. These licenses are very expensive, and aren’t just handed out loosely by the City. There are a limited number of taxi licenses around. In addition, licensed taxis have to follow other regulations like how much they can charge per kilometre, what the set base fare charge is, insurance regulations, driver safety regulations, camera regulations etc.

UberX drivers didn’t have to follow any of that red tape. All they needed to do was download the app, and let Uber dispatch them to their next customer for a pick up so they could earn money. It was that easy, and that convenient. The reality was that it was and remains fantastic for consumers. But it undercut hard working taxi drivers who were just trying to earn a living and provide for their families. Fewer fares. Increased competition. Uneven playing field. It was a hard fight and became difficult to compete with effectively cheaper, more convenient and arguably faster and more pleasant Uber service drivers.

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Personal Injury, Long Term Disability and Car Accident cases across Ontario are built upon EVIDENCE. Our legal system doesn’t play out in such a way as a Plaintiff makes a claim, yells a lot that they’re entitled to compensation, and then they get what they want. If Courts worked that way, those with the loudest voices would always win. In order for your case to succeed, you need evidence.

Evidence can’t be made up or fabricated. In order to be persuasive and carry weight, your evidence needs to be pure, legitimate, and not tampered with or altered.

Evidence comes in a lot of different forms. Evidence can be oral testimony from an examination for discovery. It can come from testimony at trial while a witness or party is on the stand. Oral evidence can come from parties to the litigation, witnesses to the action, lay persons/character witnesses, or experts.

Evidence can also come in the form of documentary evidence. Police reports, medical reports, video surveillance, 911 recordings, photos of injuries etc. All of these items are forms of evidence as well.

Cases are made and broken based on evidence. How much weight evidence is given depends on the Judge/Jury.

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Our law firm handles a wide array of personal injury and disability claims. Many of our cases are against large, multi-national insurance companies who provide all types of insurance coverage. One of the most common sort of claims we see are Short Term, and Long Term Disability claims against such companies as SunLife, Manulife, Great West Life, Industrial Alliance, Canada Life, Co-Operators, RBC Insurance, Desjardins, SSQ etc.

One of the biggest eye openers for our clients is what happens when they take a look at the fine print contained in their respective long term disability policies. After all nobody other than a personal injury lawyer uses an LTD Policy as their night time reading material.

These LTD policies are written by insurers, to minimize the potential exposure of an insurer; while giving the appearance that you’re getting amazing coverage. For most group and individual policies, you get what you pay for. The cheaper the policy, the cheaper the coverage. But even the best, and most iron clad policies are riddled with loop holes which may minimize your potential claim.

The purpose of this week’s edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post is to examine your run of the mill LTD Policy, and examine those provisions therein designed to limit your claim.

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A few weeks ago, the Marco Muzzo sentencing grabbed national headlines. In case you don’t know about the Marco Muzzo case; here’s the gist.

Mr. Muzzo was driving drunk in York Region. His drunk driving led to a fatal car crash which killed 4 people. It was a tragic collision. At our law firm, we don’t refer to these collisions as “accidents“. Accidents are by their very nature, unintentional acts. You mean no harm, although harm may come from your unintentional negligence.

Drunk driving on the other hand is never unintentional. It’s a conscious decision to drink, and then another conscious decision to drive. Every person needs to know or ought to know that whenever you get behind the wheel after you’ve had a drink or two puts the lives and safety of other motorists at risk.

Mr. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He received 8 months credit for time spent in prison pre-sentencing. That means that he will only need to serve 9 years and 4 months in jail. Upon release from prison, he will be prohibited from driving for 12 years.  He will be eligible for parole and an early release. When that time comes is up to the Court. In my informal poll of criminal lawyers, the consensus is that if Mr. Muzzo is a model prisoner, he may get parole in around 3 years or so.

Think about that long and hard. If Mr. Muzzo, having made a conscious decision to drink and drive and kill 4 people is out on parole in 3-4 years, does that punishment/penalty fit the crime? Conversely, does 9 years and 4 months of jail time fit the crime?

Finding the right balance between penalty, punishment, deterrent and rehabilitation/reintegration of an offender is a difficult balance. This is one of the hallmarks of Canada’s criminal justice system. The goal of the justice system is not only justice, but it’s to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders so that they can become productive members to society.

This same delicate balancing act does NOT apply to the civil justice system. Nobody is doing jail time (unless they’re found in contempt of Court or in repeated breach of a Court Order) for having caused damage to others.

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When I first began practicing personal injury law, I quickly noticed how COMPLICATED Ontario’s regime of car accident law was. This was completely unnecessary.  Our government has made things so complicated, that lawyers need to specialize in car accident law in order to get results.

Car accident law should not be rocket science. In its purest sense, an innocent accident victim is seriously injured by another party who made a mistake or driving error. Rarely is there deliberate intent on the at fault party to cause a serious accident (save for drunk driving cases). There is no requirement for the parties involved to be sophisticated, knowledgeable of the law or wealthy. The at fault party should be responsible to compensate the injured party for the losses and pain and suffering. This sounds easy enough.

At Goldfinger Personal Injury Law, we have always engaged in making the law easy to understand for our clients. We want to break things down, so that people understand how things work, and how their case works.

This task has been made exponentially more difficult since April 1, 2016. The Ontario Government has moved all accident benefit disputes to a new Tribunal. New rules. New forms. More forms. More expensive to start the process for the injured. NO ACCESS TO THE COURT.

It used to be when you had a problem getting paid accident benefits, that you were able to apply for a FREE MEDIATION to the Financial Service Commission of Ontario (FSCO). FSCO was a Ontario Government body responsible for hearing all sort of accident benefit disputes between insurers and injured accident victims. There was a rich body of case law and detailed rules of procedure which had evolved. Insurers, paralegals, lawyers and even some members of the public knew how the system worked. There was familiarity. It was tailored specifically for accident benefit claims. And if matters didn’t pan out of FSCO, it was within the claimant’s power to keep pursuing the claim via Arbitration at FSCO, or leave FSCO entirely and sue instead before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. There was a level of flexibility and control there which allowed the claimant to control the process to some extent. There were also many opportunities for settlement along the way.

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