Do I have to attend the "Independent" Medical Examination arranged by the Insurance Company? Steps in a car accident or Long Term Disability Case (Ontario)

March 26, 2014,

You've been involved in a car accident, or you're involved in a dispute against your Long Term Disability Insurer. The adjuster for the insurance company tells you over the phone, or in an incomprehensible letter that they want you to attend a medical examination with a doctor you've never heard of.

You don't know who this doctor is.

You don't know where their office is located.

You don't know how you'll ever get there because transportation has been difficult for you since your accident or disability.

You don't know why you have to attend the examination.

You don't know what the examination is for, how long it will last, what tests will be administered.

You have about a million and one other questions about the examination, and you have nobody to turn to.

Enter a Personal Injury Lawyer.

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How Ontario is cracking down on distracted driving & preventing bike accidents (dooring)

March 19, 2014,

A psychiatrist friend of mine innocently teased me for a Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post back in October 2013 on "dooring" epidemic that was facing cyclists in many of Canada's largest cities (and the smaller ones too!).

Here is a link to that Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post, along with a video to Peter Mansbridge explaining on The National exactly what dooring is, and how it's putting cyclists at risk of injury.

If you've never heard of "dooring", basically, it's when a car door opens directly in to the path of a passing cyclist, thereby causing the cyclist to hit the door or swerve out of control and result in serious injury.

I guess I was ahead of the curve. Recently, the Ontario government introduced the "Keeping Ontarios' Roads Safe Act" (what a name!). One of the significant provisions of the Act was to increase fines for dooring from $60-$500, up to a range of $300-$1,000. It would also see demerit points raise from 2 to 3 points.

Imagine that, getting hit with a $1,000 fine and 3 demerit points for just trying to get out of your car and accidentally dooring a passing cyclist. You weren't even driving! Your car was likely off, with keys in hand for such an offense. It's not just motorists who drive that cause accidents. They're caused in all sorts of ways.

In any event, to my psychiatrist friend who teased me over a year ago for writing about dooring and advocating for increased cyclists' rights, I say eat my words (in a friendly tone of course). Always a trailblazer on these issues.

But, there's much more to the Keeping Ontario's Roads Safe Act which you should know about. In particular, when it comes to fines for distracted driving.

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Why insurance companies don't like fibromyalgia clamaints (LTD & Car Accidents)

March 12, 2014,

It's an unscientific fact that insurance companies don't like fibromyalgia claimants. It makes no difference of the context of that fibromyalgia claim. It could be for your short term disability claim, long term disability claim, slip and fall or car accident.

Don't take it personally. It's not YOU they don't like. It's your symptoms, injuries, and what they stand for.

Here's the harsh reality about fibromyalgia. It won't show up on an x-ray, CT scan, MRI or any other fancy objective scan. There are trigger points but those don't show up on computer tests. Insurance companies LIKE those sort of tests. It puts your injuries in to a black and white context. If it's there on the scan and visible to the naked eye on a computer screen, then you have it and you're likely suffering from it. If your injury doesn't show up on the scan, then it doesn't exist. It's probably a figment of your imagination, or a way for you to lie in your attempt to deceive the insurance company.

It makes it much easier for an insurance company to lump your claim in to a simple formula that an unskilled, and untrained adjuster can follow. If the claimant has an ankle fracture, then he/she is entitled to "X" amount of dollars. If the claimant has a broken femur then he/she is entitled to "Y" amount of dollars...And so forth. I hope you get the picture.

The moment that your injuries cannot be put in to a simple mathematical and easy to understand equation is the moment that the insurance company needs to think and take a better look at your claim. When the insurance company has to slow down its operations for your claim, it hampers their productivity and profits. This is NOT good for their business.

The problem is that fibromyagia cannot be put into a simple mathematical equation and cannot be looked at from a "black and white" perspective. There's a lot of grey area when dealing with these types of claims.

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Ontario government to introduce drastic changes to how car insurance claims work yet again and YOU weren't consulted

March 6, 2014,

Our office's Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog has been a huge success at educating the general public about how car insurance works, how the Courts work with respect to personal injury claims, and all sort of other helpful information for accident victims, disability claimants and their families.

Our law firm prides itself on using easy to understand language to get the message across. We know that not everybody is comfortable reading hard to understand legal terms or "legalese" as we call it.

This has been a big week for car insurance law in Ontario. So much of the law involves politics. Believe it or not, politicians through our government create the laws we live by.

We vote for politicians, who in turn, have the power to make, break, or change laws. We often write about politics in the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog because decisions made at Queens Park have a major impact on personal injury law.

A few months ago, the Provincial Government introduced some radical changes to the Insurance Act. This is the piece of legislation which deals directly with how car accident law, and accident benefit law works. The changes were brought in very quickly, without any prior notice or debate. They were just passed through without the general public really knowing. You can read our previous blog post here posted on December 18, 2013.

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Fines for Distracted Driving Set to Increase to $280: Just a slap on the wrist

February 27, 2014,

Ontario's Chief Justice, Annemarie Bonkalo recently signed an order approving the fine for distracted driving to increase from $155 to $280 effective March 18, 2014.

Want a copy of the Judicial Order? Here you go. Short, sweet and to the point.

This fine increase for distracted driving in Ontario has made provincial and national headlines. I really don't know why as I think the fine being set so low is an embarrassment and an insult to the families and accident victims of distracted drivers.

Presently, the fine for distracted driving is just $155. That's it. Minimum wage in Ontario just went up to $11/hr. That's under two days of work over a 7.5 hour work day to pay off a distracted driving penalty for almost killing somebody or rendering them a quadriplegic.

So, what's the big deal and why be so hard on distracted drivers? I mean, everybody seems to do it. It's just a phone call, a quick text or a simple email; right? I've seen a Kardashian send out a VINE Video while driving, so it's gotta be cool to do it!

Distracted driving is just as bad as dunk driving. Yes, I made the comparison. Shocked? Bold words, I know. But, our law firm sees the realities of distracted driving every day. To give you evidence of how serious the problem is, the US Government has its own OFFICIAL WEBSITE DEVOTED TO THE DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING. If you didn't take the problem seriously before, maybe you will now that Barack Obama, the world's most powerful world leader, got his own country to design a website and set up an agency devoted to increasing awareness.

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Hurt in an accident? Don't count of getting the treatment you need says Globe & Mail

February 19, 2014,

While Canada was glued to their TVs watching Latvia play their version of a prevent defence in American Football, or an ultra conservative soccer defence, another story creeped up which caught my eye.

Today's front page of the Globe & Mail had a story about Canadian Doctors being urged by 8 medical societies to reduce medical tests in order to save money.

Here is a copy of that Globe & Mail article.

The gist of this article states that Canadian doctors are wasting their time and money on unnecessary tests. All of these tests are a burden to the Canadian health care system. Imaging for complicated headaches, and lower back pain are seen as some of those unnecessary tests. Treatment for "minor" head injuries is also on the list. Just ask Sidney Crosby. No head injury is minor.

Tell that to some of my car accident and chronic pain clients. It would likely make them sick to their stomachs. Ever wait for an MRI? The wait period is months long (unless you get really lucky), and the time you get is very firm. Miss it, and you're sent back to the bottom of the wait list. Months and months more of waiting around. The best is when they call you in for an MRI at 2AM or some other absurd time.

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The Long Term Disability Appeal: Worthwhile or a waste of your time?

February 11, 2014,

We receive many calls every week from people who have been denied their Long Term Disability Benefits, by private disability insurers such as Great West Life, SunLife, Manulife, Standard Life, Industrial Alliance, SSQ, Co-Operators, Empire Life, RBC Insurance and others.

People want to know what to do after they've been denied.

Denial, or termination letters are often lengthy detailed letters which include the provisions of your LTD policy, the definition of the term "disability" based on the policy, excepts from medical records or medical reports, along with the insurer's reasoning to deny or terminate benefits.

After these long winded reasons are provided, the insurer will also then include ways that you can appeal their decision. Statements like you have 90 days from the date of this letter to appeal this decision through our Appeals/Investigation Committee are common. People call our law firm in an absolute PANIC stating that they're under the gun and that their opportunity to appeal the claim is fast approaching.

What I tell these people is NOT TO WORRY, and NOT TO PANIC. These internal reviews or internal appeals are often a waste of time and energy. Here's why

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Right at Law but Wrong in Life: A lesson in personal injury law from the Toronto Police Service

February 5, 2014,

This week I had the pleasure chatting with a kind Detective from the Toronto Police Service in the lobby of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The CICB is where victims of crime can go to get compensation for their injuries resulting from a crime. So, if you've been shot or stabbed, you may claim compensation from the CICB. Our office can assist you with the hearing. Hearings take place in a majority of these case. That means you need to go to Court.

If you were to sue the wrong doer, chances are you wouldn't be able to recover very much money because most wrong doers are judgment proof (unless the wrong doer is a known multimillionaire). That means that they have no quantifiable assets. A stack of money under a pillow doesn't count. The CICB awards victims of crimes with real money for their injuries, making these cases worth pursuing from a financial perspective.

Back to the story of the Detective and I. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

We were sharing war stories, chatting about the hit TV Show "The Wire", along with some of the crazy situations we've both encountered.

It was an absolute pleasure hearing the perspective from a Detective. Did you know that it's the police officers who prepare the warrants and all of the legal paperwork which is later relied on by the Crown to prosecute a case? Unlike in the United States where the Attorney General and their lawyers and law clerks prepare this sort of paper work; here it's the officers themselves who do it.

These officers have no substantive legal training. They're trained to be cops, not lawyers/paper pushers. Yet, their paper work is legal, and it's scrutinized by Defence Lawyers and Judges alike. Their paperwork is so important to advancing the Crown's position. Seems like an unfair fight having paper work prepared by a police officer torn to shreds by an experienced Defence Lawyer along with their legal team. But I'm no expert when it comes to criminal law. Personal Injury Law is what we do best.

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Pre-Trial in a car accident case: Should I be nervous?

January 28, 2014,

Pre-Trial is one of the last steps in a personal injury case before it actually goes to trial.

The Pre-Trial, aside from the actual trial itself, is the most important step of your case which requires judicial intervention. That means that the Court is actively involved in this part of your case, unlike other parts of your case.

An examination for discovery does NOT require Judge. A mediation does NOT require a Judge. An independent medical-legal examination does NOT require a Judge.

But a Pre-Trial requires a Judge. Without a Judge, a Pre-Trial can't happen. (save in Toronto/Ottawa and Windsor where Masters can conduct Pre-Trials in Simplified Procedure cases).

So, you might be wondering. What exactly is a Pre-Trial?

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Municipal Politicians teaching us what NOT to do in our personal injury cases

January 22, 2014,

You know which stories made HUGE headlines in 2013 and which continue the trend in 2014?

Municipal Politics!

In Peterborough, Mayor Daryl Bennett was suspended from the Peterborough Lakefield Police Services Board for conduct unbecoming a Board Member. He was accused of all sorts of shenanigans involving hiring and the funding for the police. He was suspended even before he had a hearing, which I found rather odd.

In London, Mayor Joe Fontana was charged with FRAUD by the RCMP! This had to do with allegedly using City funds for his son's wedding. Yikes! In addition, a number of municipal Councillors held an alleged covert backdoor meeting at a bar called Billy T's which cost City of London tax payers around $100,000 in legal fees.

And who can forget Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who was all over the news with his crack scandal, Sandro Lissi trial, drug tape, and now the Steak Queen Patois drunken rant. Amazing stuff!

To say that it wasn't a good year for local mayors is an under statement. Or, perhaps it was a great year for them?!?

When you think of a mayor, you want to think that person is honest, intelligent, hard working and credible. You want to think that they're in municipal politics for all the right reasons: to help people and help the city/municipality with its daily affairs. Above all, you want that person to be trustworthy.

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Judge rejects NFL Concussion Class Action Law Suit: the serious business of brain injury

January 15, 2014,

In around August 2013, the personal injury bar, along with the sports world was shocked that the NFL and its former players had reached a $765 million dollar settlement in a concussions class action law suit brought against the league.

The former players argued that the NFL knew or ought to have known of the dangers of concussion and hid these dangers from their players; often not providing them proper treatment and expecting them to play through the brain injury. The dangerous playing conditions and expectations put on these players led to significant long term cognitive and psychological damages. Just do a Google search for Junior Seau or Jovan Belcher and you'll see what I mean.

Seems like a very plausible argument on the part of the players. But, then again, I'm a plaintiff personal injury lawyer so I tend to side on the part of the little guy accident victim.

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Things you should know about your Long Term Disability Policy

January 11, 2014,

We received quite the response from a recent Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog post dealing with trends in long term disability claims. The response was so overwhelming, we thought that we would futher explore those new trends in long term disability law and policies, along with other things which you ought to know when advancing your claim.

The first thing which you should know about making a long term disability claim is that with the exception of a bad faith claim, a claim for mental distress, along with a punitive/aggravated damages; these claims are essentially claims for your BENEFITS. The amount of what those benefits are is defined by your policy of insurance. This means that if your policy sets out that your monthly disability benefit amount of 66.67% of your pre-disability net income (which amounts to lets say $2,100/month), then your monthly disability benefit is $2,100/month.

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Fibromyalgia: The Disability which nobody seems to understand (LTD Claims)

January 2, 2014,

When we think of injury or disability, the first thing which comes to mind are objective injuries. These are the sort of injuries which are obvious to the naked eye.

Often, a picture of a person in a cast, a person in a wheelchair, or using a crutch comes to mind. We think of broken bones, lost limbs, blood and gore.

What we don't think about are the injuries we cannot see.

We don't think about depression, anxiety, chronic pain, loss of memory, fatigue or any of a number of other countless symptoms which are subjective.

The distinction between what is a subjective injury, and what's an objective injury is crucial to understanding many long term disability claims. Why is this distinction important?

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Additional Insight/Thoughts on the Ice Storm

December 28, 2013,

The calls and queries continue to roll in following the ice storm. The anger and frustration around the GTA has been quite remarkable. People are upset for a variety of reasons: lack of power; lack of information; duplication of information; useless information; lack of timely repairs; a certain deputy mayor going to Florida and the list goes on.

A colleague of mine forwarded me his thoughts on the ice storm. His thoughts were spot on, and thought provoking. He's allowed me to share these thoughts with you. I'm sure that you'll find them interesting. Here you go:

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Toronto's Ice Storm: I want to sue everyone and I want to sue everyone NOW!

December 26, 2013,

The first wave of calls have come in following Toronto's Ice Storm of 2013. Lots of angry and frustrated people out there. But who can blame them?

The ice storm has been called the most devastating storm to hit the City of Toronto and the surronding area in decades. Some call it the worst storm EVER.

Our thoughts go out to the thousands of families who remain without heat or power around the GTA. Our Toronto Office at Yonge and Sheppard was without power for 3 days. Business came to a stand still. But having not power at our law firm pales in compairison to all those without heat or power in their homes for the holidays.

This is where COMMUNITY comes in to play. Be a good neighbour and check up on the elderly, disabled, or those who live alone. Don't leave fires unattended. Don't use a generator inside of your house. Make sure that the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector are working. 9V battery? put your tongue to it. If your tongue burns; then your battery is good. No burning? Then no power. That's some caveman advice for you.

One of the biggest misconceptions during the storm were the reporting numbers of the amount of people left in the dark. The Hydro Authorities and Municipalities identified the number of "customers" without power. The term "customers" does NOT mean people. This means buildings, houses, businesses etc. Reporters in the media didn't seem to understand that customers didn't mean people. So, when they heard customers, they confused that number with people.

Toronto Hydro estimated that each customer represented around 2.5 people or so. Accordingly, 1 customer = 2.5 people according to their estimates. So, when Toronto Hydro indentified that approximately 315,000 "customers" were without power at one point in time; that meant that 787,500 people were without power (or MORE according to their estimates). This distinction between "customers" and people is SIGNIFICANT as the multiple increased by 2.5x.

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