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The most serious types of motor vehicle accidents in Ontario are referred to as “catastrophic“, or “CAT” cases.

Just because the accident is bad, doesn’t necessarily make that the accident is “catastrophic“.

Just because the injuries are serious, also doesn’t make the accident “catastrophic“.

The term “catastrophic” carries a very specific medico-legal definition. It’s a term of art. This definition has been tinkered with throughout the years, over and over again. That’s how important it is for any car accident case.

Currently, in Ontario, in order for your car accident case to be defined as “catastrophic“, your doctor or specialist must find on an OCF-19 Application for Determination of Catastrophic Benefits Form which certifies that your injuries meet one of the following criteria:

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Bad accidents happen all the time. Long Term Disability denials too.

It’s a common misconception that one’s case begins the moment that the claimant retains a personal injury lawyer. This is completely wrong. One’s case begins long before that. And, it’s important for a potential claimant to know that their actions will be scrutinized long before a Statement of Claim or Demand Letter has been prepared by your personal injury lawyer.

A Plaintiff’s job is to make a claim, and push that claim to trial. A Plaintiff is required to steer the litigation, and push the pace of the case. Like driving a car. If your lawyer doesn’t drive the car in the right direction, then nobody will.

A Defendant on the other hand can do the exact opposite and delay the action. Justice delayed is justice denied. A Defendant can conversely push an aggressive defence and proactively attempt to have the claim roadblocked before it ever sees a trial by way of motioning the claim to death.

A Plaintiff is required to do all of the asking,  pushing, document gathering and demanding. Think of the personal injury lawyer as the builder of a castle. They need all of the resources and materials to build a stable structure. Think of a defence lawyer as the party which seeks to tear the castle down, brick by brick. Which brings me to my next point.

Frequently, our lawyers get calls from injured accident victims and LTD Claimants who, even though they don’t have a lawyer, haven’t yet taken the very most basic steps to advance a claim which don’t require legal advice or counsel.

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Recently, the Ontario Divisional Court released their decision in Gilbert’s LLP v. David Dixon Inc., 2017 ONSC 1345. The Honourable Justice Nordheimer, speaking for the Court had some pointed commentary with respect to the Solicitors Act and its application in 2017. The Solicitors Act goes back to 1909 England. The language contained therein is antiquated, and hard to understand; even for the most astute personal injury lawyer or Judge.

The Solicitor’s Act governs how lawyers bill and collect legal fees. This decision is important as the story of lawyers’ fees, particularly in the context of personal injury claims, has been all over the news lately.

Here’s what the Honourable Justice Nordheimer had to say about the Solicitors Act:

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Today, the Federal Government called for tougher penalties, along with increased national uniformity when it comes to distracted driving. This call to arms was long overdue. Our personal injury lawyers can tell you that distracted driving has been a problem since at least 2004, if not earlier. Think of all of the car accidents that have happened since 2004 across Canada….Disturbing if you look at the stats. I suspect that a lot of those accidents were non-reported distracted driving accidents. Law enforcement just takes time to catch on to the trends. Distracted driving in many ways, is also more difficult to prove than drunk driving. More on that later.

Distracted driving is NOT drunk driving. Drunk driving is covered under the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s a uniform definition across the country.

Distracted driving on the other hand is defined and covered under provincial legislation. That means what’s described as distracted driving in one province, can be different in another province.

In Ontario, holding your mobile device, even if you’re not looking at it, while operating your vehicle can be interpreted as distracted driving:

In Ontario, it’s against the law to:

  • operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you’re driving
  • view display screens unrelated to your driving

Examples of hand-held devices include:

  • iPods and MP3 players
  • GPS
  • cell phones
  • smart phones
  • laptops
  • DVD players

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If you have applied for Long Term Disability Benefits with a private LTD insurer such as SunLife, Manulife, Great West Life, Industrial Alliance, SSQ, Co-Operators, Empire Life, RBC Insurance, La Capitale Insurance, BMO Insurance; and had your claim denied, then this is the article you need to read.

It’s important to know that in order to recover a Long Term Disability Benefit from one of these insurers, you first need to APPLY for it. Just sitting around and waiting for a cheque to roll in is a pipe dream. Insurers won’t pay a benefit, unless you’ve taken the time to complete the paper work (properly), and then submit it.

If don’t apply for the LTD benefit, I can assure you that you won’t get approved.

If you wait too long to apply for the LTD benefit, I can assure you that your claim will get denied for delay. Many LTD policies contain clauses that the LTD benefit must be applied for within a certain  period of time. Failure to make a timely application is grounds for an LTD insurer to deny your claim. If you take the time to read the fine print of your Long Term Disability Policy, you will see plenty of clauses which are drafted in favour of the large, deep pocketed insurer, instead of in the favour of the individual policy holder (a person like you and me).

None of this seems fair; but it isn’t intended to be fair. Keep in mind; an insurance policy is a product designed by an insurer to make money. If these policies weren’t profitable, I can assure you that insurers would not put them out there for the public to buy. Continue reading →

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Medical experts, along with their reports, are major pieces of evidence in any serious personal injury case in Ontario.

The testimony of a Plaintiff, and that of a Defendant, will likely be self serving.

The Injured Accident Victim Plaintiff will take the stand and provide evidence that the accident was not their fault, and as a result of the accident; that they are seriously injured and can no longer lead a normal life.

The Defendant in a personal injury case will say the exact opposite. The accident was not their fault, and that the Plaintiff did not appear to be injured at all in the accident.

With testimony which is so diametrically opposed; how is a Judge or Jury supposed to decide who is telling the truth? Certainly the credibility and likeability of the parties comes in to play. But there is another major factor as well.

That’s where medical experts come enter the scene. These are often doctors, hired by the Plaintiff’s lawyer, or the Defendant’s lawyer to provide expert testimony or evidence in support of the case, one way of the other. The testimony of these experts, along with the evidence which they tender in to Court can be very persuasive. It’s often the difference between a successful or unsuccessful case. The battle of experts is very real, and it’s very important in a personal injury case.

Medico-legal experts in the context of personal injury cases have come under fire in recent months. A National Post story entitled “Hired Gun in a Lab Coat: How Medical Experts Help Car Insurers Fight Accident Claims” is a fantastic read which sheds some light on how the business of medico-legal experts plays out.

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Personal Injury Lawyer Brian Goldfinger drew inspiration for the proceeding entry of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog from Nick, famous YouTube Star of wildly entertaining, and super high quality Pokemon GO! channel; Trainer Tips. Check out his channel if you haven’t already.

Shout out to Nick for all of the hard work he does uploading daily videos to his channel. The guy doesn’t mail in his entries. The production quality on his YouTube channel is top notch. While his channel deals with the game Pokemon GO!, he also covers such topics as food, travel and general life tips.

Nick has raised thousands of dollars for tsunami relief in Japan through his channel and has entertained/educated, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. He has close to 600,000 subscribers for a Pokemon GO! channel which is remarkable, even though he believes that his numbers are going down (through no fault of his own…that’s on Niantic!)

In addition, the makers of Pokemon GO! (Niantic) have been rather lame with respect to updating the game, and failing to release new content (Generation Two). This has resulted in a slow down of game play, and a slow down in interest in the game itself. But Nick is still finding ways to entertain daily, which is a testament to his creativity, positivity, perseverance, and talent. Love it!

So, how does Nick’s YouTube channel relate to personal injury law in Ontario Canada? Good question!

Recently, Nick had to go in for Jury Duty Selection at a downtown Courthouse. He was dismissed. You can check out Nick’s great take on Jury Duty at the 4:57 mark of his YouTube Video. 

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If you drive a car in Ontario, every year or so, your car insurance needs to get renewed. Come renewal time, your premiums may go up, they may go down, or just stay the same.

Ontario drivers need to purchase insurance in order to drive. This is a requirement under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act R.S.O., 1990 c. C. 25: which states:

Compulsory automobile insurance

2. (1) Subject to the regulations, no owner or lessee of a motor vehicle shall,

(a) operate the motor vehicle; or

(b) cause or permit the motor vehicle to be operated,

on a highway unless the motor vehicle is insured under a contract of automobile insurance.

In plain English, if you drive a vehicle; that vehicle needs to be insured. That means that you, or somebody else needs to pay money to an insurer to have that vehicle insured.

You see a lot of advertising from insurance companies on TV, the internet, at hockey games, even on billboards on our roads. There’s that Knight Mascot from Belair Direct. The “under five minutes” to start your claim schtick from Intact. State Farm has ads which feature different celebrities. They’re all fighting for you business as a consumer of insurance (car, home or otherwise).

But as consumers, insurance is one of the few products which in general, consumers don’t really understand. This is not like buying a pair of shoes or a loaf of bread. Have you ever read the fine print contained in those lengthy policies of insurance? Probably not. It’s all in legalese. Even the personal injury lawyers, insurers and judges don’t get it right sometimes!

Even more remarkable is that the majority of insurance consumers purchase these products without knowing what benefits come with the product. All people care about is the bottom line. How much will their insurance cost? They don’t bother asking the question; what benefits am I entitled to receive from this insurance product in the event of a car collision? How will my insurance protect me in the event of a serious car accident?

None of these questions are asked, or even thought of until it’s too late.

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If you have been injured as the result of a crime in Ontario, you may be entitled to compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB).

What is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board you ask? Good question!

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is a government body which assesses and awards financial compensation to victims of crime in Ontario. This is a nice thing that the Ontario Government has been doing for the public since around 1967 under the Law Enforcement Compensation Act (LECA) came in to force.

The law and compensation structure of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has changed a lot since 1967. But, the premise remains the same. The Ontario Government has set aside a pool of money in order to compensate injured victims of crime, for up to $25,000 per claim. This is a nice public service.

Our lawyers are asked why it’s important for the Ontario Government to do this. The answer is that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is often the only real method for innocent victims of crime to recover financial compensation for their injuries (not a piece of paper Judgment which is unenforceable).

Earlier this week, the @GoldfingerLaw Twitter Account tweeted out a CBC article regarding Judgment Proof Defendants. The article highlighted a Plaintiff who sued an immigration consultant for having done a poor job. The Plaintiff was successful at trial, and secured a Judgment against the Defendant. But, as it turned out, the Defendant legal consultant was judgment proof.

Being Judgment proof means that the Defendant does not have the money, assets or resources to pay for the Judgment. That’s not fair. I agree. The saying “You can’t get blood from a stone” applies here.

People often wrongly think that an inability to pay a Judgment will result in automatic jail time, or even worse.

That’s simply not true. If you can’t pay a Judgment because you don’t have the money, assets, or resources to do so, you don’t go to jail. You simply have a Judgment clouding your conscious and credit rating until it has been extinguished.

A judgment against a Defendant without money, resources, or any tangible assets is only just a piece of paper, as documented in the CBC article from earlier this week. But Plaintiff lawyers across Canada are taught this early in their law school careers. This is also a handy piece of business advice as well.

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The National Post recently ran an article which highlighted a study financially backed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) called “A Study of the Costs of Legal Services in Personal Injury Litigation in Ontario“. In case you didn’t know, the IBC is the industry or lobby group which represents the interests of large insurance companies. They are the ones who donate to political parties and influence the way the laws are shaped such that they sway in favour of large, deep pocketed insurers, rather than in favour of innocent accident victims (aka the general public who pay auto insurance premiums).

Here are a few examples of how those laws have been swayed in favour of insurers: It was at the request of insurers that catastrophic benefits were slashed in 2016/2017. It was at the request of insurers that accident benefits in Ontario have been cut year after year. It was at the request of insurers that a threshold and deductible which now sits around $36,920 was introduced for pain and suffering claims in Ontario car accidents.

I have NEVER met an individual who worked outside of the personal injury or insurance industry who was in favour of these changes to Ontario car insurance. I have never met an individual who worked outside of the insurance industry who actively lobbied their local MPP to slash accident benefits. I have never met an individual who worked outside of the insurance industry who was in favour of paying higher insurance rates, yet getting less coverage in accident benefits. But that’s beside the point. Let’s get back to this interesting report/study.

The report was prepared by Allan Hutchinson, of York University’s Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

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