COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

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There are few moments in life where a person receives a million dollar lump sum of money. Here are but a few which come to mind.

A good investment.

Winning the lottery.

A very wealthy family member who left you a sizable inheritance.

Cashing in stock options which have appreciated over the years.

Sale of a real estate asset.

A successful personal injury claim.

In all of these scenarios, except for ONE; the money is yours to use as you please; notwithstanding applicable taxes.

The lone exception are the personal injury cases. There is fine print behind those million and multi million dollar settlements which we would like to share with you today.

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Toronto’s new initiative to provide safer streets for cycling and walking is a step in the right direction but
will require a cooperative effort from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, says Toronto personal injury lawyer
Brian Goldfinger.

As part of its ActiveTO program, the city is transforming some major roads into “quiet streets,” giving
people space to be physically active while observing social distancing protocols.

This is a great idea, especially for an urban environment,” Goldfinger notes. “As a result of COVID-19,
there are fewer people taking mass transit. People are getting around on bikes a lot more these days,
whether it’s to commute to work, or for pleasure. It’s not a war on cars, but more of an evolution of our
roadways.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city will soon have more than 50 kilometres of quiet streets, including
areas like Kensington Market and Havenbrook Boulevard, reports CP24.

Signs and temporary barricades will be placed on neighbourhood streets to allow local car traffic only and
open up space for people who walk, run, use wheelchairs and bike, states the city’s website.

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Living through COVID sucks.

Living through COVID in pain from a serious car accident sucks even more.

How are you going to see your doctors?

How are you going to get your medication?

How are you going to get to your physiotherapy appointment?

How are you going to communicate with your personal injury lawyer?

When will my case get to trial given that the Courts are closed?

How am I going to participate in a medico-legal assessment during a lock down?

All of these questions are not only valid, but they are also pressing questions which have caused personal injury clients across Ontario grave concern. And those concerns are justified given that we are dealing with unprecedented times.

There are no right answers. The only right answer is to do what’s best for you given your health, surroundings and the financial position which you are in.

Here is an interesting example:

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Life is hard. Don’t kid yourself. Everyone has their own unique set of challenges and obstacles which they have to overcome.

Some are able to cope. Some aren’t. That’s just the way it goes.

In the past decade, there has been a concerted effort on the part of politicians, courts, employers, athletes and social media influences to recognize that mental health is a real issue. It’s not some made up thing in one’s head. It’s very real and can have a devastating impact on a person’s life.

COVID lockdowns have managed to put fuel on that mental health fire. If you were struggling with mental health issues before COVID lockdowns, one can only imagine how much more difficult things are dealing in a world locked down.

No more in person therapy. Now you need to have video counselling which is effective, but not likely as effective as the real thing in person.

The same concept applies to group therapy or group counselling sessions. That nice feeling of relief seeing your group and socializing (which is healthy) simply isn’t the same over ZOOM or over the phone.

Imagine needing to get medication from your pharmacy. Instead of a normal trip, it’s now like an army tactical mission trying to figure out the best time to go when it’s least busy, the route which will expose you to the fewest people, getting all of your gear in order (mask, gloves, face shield).

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My 3 year old son has a song he sings in nursery which hits home for practicing personal injury law in the age of COVID. It goes a little something like this:

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

We’re going to the moon

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

We’re going to the moon

If you wanna take a trip; climb aboard my rocket ship

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

We’re going to the moon

Here’s the harsh reality of practicing personal injury law in Ontario in the age of COVID. Plaintiff lawyers are trying to make things happen and push cases along. Some defence counsel are as well, while others are not. Why would defence lawyers push to have a case move forward? Justice delayed is justice denied. It might be in their best interest to enjoy this slow down given that there aren’t stiff penalties or functional courts to adjudicate disputes. Courts and tribunals are closed save for “urgent” matters along with some non-urgent over the counter matters. Non-Jury Trials, Jury Trials, contested motions/applications, unopposed motions/applications without the consent of the respondents are simply not being heard.

It takes two to tango. If your dance partner isn’t stepping out on to the dance floor, there isn’t much you can do; particularly when the Courts are closed down.

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Many lawyers are boasting from the peaks of the tallest mountains of their ability to work remotely. It’s almost a way to claim intellectual superiority over their peers.

If you that lawyer does solicitors’s work which doesn’t require any litigation or the co-operation of the Court or an Administrative Tribunal, the transition from normalcy to COVID lockdown may be seamless.

If you are a litigation lawyer where there Courts are necessary to adjudicate a dispute; then it’s a completely different story.

There are many unique difficulties which personal injury lawyers across the board are facing. Let me take you behind the scenes so that you can have a better appreciation of what’s taking place.

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One of the most depressing things about living through COVID is that we don’t know when it’s going to end (if ever). The number one question which my clients, staff and lawyers want to know is when and how or even will we ever get back to our normal lives?

I can’t answer that question. None of the experts can.

It’s that uncertainty which drives us all mad on the inside, despite putting our best foot forward; along with our best face for the social media hives to which we belong.

I exchange many pleasantries over the phone with fellow lawyers, insurance adjusters, clients and prospective clients. We are accustomed to saying standard, pre-programmed responses during these exchanges part out of common courtesy, part out of custom.

These exchanges go something like this:

Lawyer: Hello. Its (insert name of personal injury lawyer here) calling from (insert name of personal injury law firm here). How are you?

Insurance Adjuster: I’m doing well. How are you?

Lawyer: I’m fine thanks for asking. I’m calling you about the (insert name of personal injury client here) file…..

And thus the conversation flows regarding the specifics of the case.

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As tough as it is for most people to navigate the challenges associated with the current pandemic, it’s even more challenging for those dealing with injuries as the result of an accident, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Brian Goldfinger.

After someone has been injured, they are often assessed by an occupational therapist to see if any modifications need to be made to their living space to accommodate their new situation, he says. They also might be receiving treatment by a physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist. None of that is happening right now.

“These people are certainly feeling the impact. They’re at home getting no treatment or care, and it’s not helping their physical health or mental wellness. It’s putting them at grave risk to be alone when they need some form of attendant care or supervision,” Goldfinger says.

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Many lawyers boast about being virtual, paper free and 100% remote. This is fantastic and something which we should all strive for given the current climate brought on by the COVID19 global pandemic. If COVID19 has done anything for the legal profession, it’s opened the legal community’s eyes that we as a profession are desperately behind the times when it comes to incorporating technology in to the general practice of law.

I place the majority of the blame on our inept Court system along with our archaic filing practices. Lawyers CANNOT file a majority of materials with the Court electronically. Process servers for in person Court filings are required, otherwise you will face the wrath of rejected materials. Courts have never wanted to hold teleconferences for mundane consent or unopposed matters. Courts still require personal attendances at the expense of everyone’s time, money and resources. I hope that all of this will change when we reach the light at the end of the COVID19 tunnel.

I can go on and on about inefficiencies of our Courts and legal practices along with how we can all improve with technology; but this is a topic for another day.

The purpose of this week’s instalment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog is to focus on the daily activities of a personal injury law practice which have been impacted by COVID19. For today we will let you in behind the curtain of Goldfinger Injury Lawyers to understand what goes on behind the scenes to keep our law firm running in a time of crisis.

The lawyers who I recognize boasting online that their practices are 100% remote are mostly those lawyers who earn a salaried wage. They are not business owners. They are in large part removed from the day to day, nitty gritty which go hand in hand with operating, managing and running a law firm. Such lawyers are employees or contractors of a legal operation of some sort. Think of in house lawyers, associates or even partners of a larger law firm.

Some may be “partners“. But the term “partner” can often be misleading. There are equity partners vs. non equity partners. Equity partners have skin in the game. Non equity partners can exist for name recognition only, and don’t have any skin in the game compared to their equity partner counterparts. A non equity partner can walk away from a sinking ship without any real consequence. At the same time, even equity partners can find a way to buy out, walk away or totally collapse the firm if things aren’t going well without significant personal loss. See Goodman & Carr or Heenan Blaikie

An owner of a law firm is responsible for paying rent, office supplies, making payroll, paying for professional membership dues, operational overhead, marketing overhead etc. These are great responsibilities which feed family and fuel many different industries (legal, office supply, marketing, telecom, tech, furniture, security, cleaning and the list goes on).

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The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the way lawyers serve their clients, with many opting for remote meetings through phone calls and videoconferencing rather than in-person, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Brian Goldfinger.

In Ontario, across the country and around the world, governments have declared states of emergency, advocating that people work from home where possible and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We’re not conducting any in-person meetings,” Goldfinger says. “We’re doing as much as we can over the phone and on email. We have cancelled all meetings that required an appearance, including examinations for discovery and mediations, if we can’t do them over the phone or using videoconferencing. We don’t want to put anyone at risk.”

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