Many people ask Brian Goldfinger what it takes to build a successful personal injury case. Is it having the best personal injury lawyer? (not that any personal injury lawyer can ever say that s/he is the best because that’s against the law). Is it having the best client? Is it having the best back end data retrieval software? Is it having the best rehab team working on your case? Is it having the best looking business cards to intimidate the insurance company into submission? Is it having the best doctors treat you? Is it having your personal injury lawyer commission the best medico-legal reports from the best experts?
The truth is that building the best personal injury case is much like building the best home. There is no such thing as the best home. There are great, well built homes. But everyone’s opinion of what the best home is; is entirely subjective. The best home is the place which you lay your head to rest and call home. Some homes are fancier than others. Some homes can do with more. But we all get by with what we’ve got and we make the most of our situation.
A successful personal injury case is much like a well built home. A well built home requires a lot of advance planning, practical and sometimes unique design, quality materials, experienced and skilled labour.
A personal injury case requires a lot of advance planning, practical and sometimes unique design for the case; quality materials in the form of records/reports, along with experienced and skilled lawyers to optimize a superior result on behalf of the client.
One of the easiest things for clients to understand when making the analogy of a well built home to a well built personal injury case are the materials.
Wood, beams, bricks and stone are all materials used to build a home. These materials are tangible. You can go to any Home Hardware or Home Depot and buy them.
Believe it or not, personal injury cases involve materials too!
These materials aren’t as bulky as the wood, beams, bricks and stone to build a home. But they are of equal importance to a personal injury case.
The materials required to build a personal injury case comes in many forms of evidence upon which personal injury lawyers rely to establish a client’s cause of action, injuries and damages.
These materials start in the form of police reports, witness statements, officer’s notes, photographs taken of the accident scene, 911 recordings, accident reconstruction reports, the Crown Brief used to prosecute the at fault party, transcripts from the criminal hearing, newspaper articles describing the accident, cell phone records, text messages or emails, automotive repair records, the property damage file from the insurance company and the list goes on. These are the materials for the personal injury case largely dealing with liability. Think of liability as finding out how the accident happened, where it happened, who the parties to the accident are; and discovering who is at fault for the accident. Liability materials are the foundation for any personal injury case. Without establishing some form of liability, the injuries won’t matter very much. Like having a roof without any walls or a foundation to support that roof. The home that you’re trying to build, just like your personal injury case will be flawed without a stable foundation to support the structure.
Additional materials for a personal injury case will focus on the Plaintiff’s injuries. These materials can take form of the following records: ambulance call report, emergency records, hospital records, nurses notes, long term care facility records, clinical notes and records from the family doctor and other specialists, x-ray reports, digital imaging records like MRIs and Ultrasounds, records from the occupational therapist, physiotherapist, social worker, psychologist, chiropractor, the complete accident benefit file, medico-legal reports commissioned by your lawyer.
More materials to build a successful personal injury case will focus on quantifying the Plaintiff’s damages.In order to do that, the Plaintiff will need to prove their losses sustained as a result of the accident. If the Plaintiff cannot work because of the accident, and seeks to be compensated for their income loss, that Plaintiff must first establish that they were working and earning an income before the accident, and that they can no longer work since the accident. The materials required to quantify the Plaintiff’s damage include but aren’t limited to pre-accident and post accident tax returns (gotta file them even if you didn’t report an income), employment/personnel files, CPP File, ODSP File, OW file, EI file, collateral benefits file, Short Term Disability File, Long Term Disability File, pension file, union file, out of pocket expense forms, any receipts for out of pocket expenses related to the claim, pay stubs, cheques, deposit slips, actuarial reports, accounting reports/records if the Plaintiff ran his/her own business, along with an updated breakdown of accident benefits paid out to the Plaintiff from his/her own insurer. These documents will give the Defendant insurer an idea of what sort of income the Plaintiff was earning, or not earning prior to the accident.
There are other additional materials used to build a successful personal injury case which haven’t been covered in this edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog. The list is seemingly never ending. So long as the evidence helps to establish the Plaintiff’s injuries, damages, or assists on liability, chances are that it can be relied upon unless the Rules of Evidence and the Judge says otherwise. Keep in mind that evidence comes in many different forms; in different shapes, formats and sizes. A personal injury lawyer needs to be accustomed to handling and presenting all forms of evidence to the Defendant insurer, Judge and Jury in a trial setting in order to best present their client’s case. Often personal injury cases turn in to who can best present evidence at trial to get their version of the case across to best translate with a Judge or Jury. For many lawyers, this becomes an audio/visual exercise requiring many different outputs to get their points across.