Brian Goldfinger knows that picking a good personal injury lawyer isn’t easy. There are certainly a lot of options out there. How do you know who to trust? How will you know which personal injury lawyer will be right for your specific case. Does the personal injury lawyer have the requisite skill, understanding, empathy, experience and legal savvy to maximize your compensation and optimize your result?
For most people, picking a personal injury lawyer is the first time seeking out a lawyer for a litigation matter. Many people have retained lawyers for non contentious issues requiring a lawyer. These examples include common solicitor issues like buying/selling or leasing a property; drafting articles of incorporation, drafting a will, or dealing with estate issues.
Other common areas of law where people need to, or have retained a lawyer including family law cases (divorce), or criminal matters.
It’s not everyday where people need to retain a personal injury lawyer to commence civil litigation. This is why finding the right lawyer for you can seem like a difficult process.
With this instalment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post, Brian Goldfinger will share his thoughts on what you should look for when retaining a personal injury lawyer.
Pick a personal injury lawyer you are comfortable with. This cannot be over stated. The life of your personal injury case can take many years. If your personal injury lawyer can settle your case tomorrow for millions and millions of dollars, s/her likely would. But that’s just not the way which personal injury cases work. Insurance companies aren’t in the business of paying out millions and millions of dollars for one case; let alone doing that in a short frame of time. If an insurance company is going to settle a case, they will want sufficient information and evidence for their file to justify and substantiate the sum which they are about to pay. The process of getting authority to make a settlement offer takes time. These time lines also do not take in to consideration the delay which we personal injury lawyers see in Ontario for car accident and other injury cases. Insurance companies are well aware of the delays in having a case proceed from start to finish through the Court system.
To emphazise my point regarding scarcity of Court time, here are the words of the Honourable Justice I.F. Leach in the decision of Ismail v. Fleming, 2018 ONSC 6615:
As emphasized on its website, the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario is one of the busiest courts in the world. It has just 336 judges, (101 of whom have supernumerary or “part time” status, and 51 of whom are assigned primarily to the Family Division), available to service the more serious civil, criminal and family law needs of a province with a population in excess of 14 million citizens. Not surprisingly, limited judicial time in our court is therefore allocated very carefully to various locations and matters, extending across all lines of the court’s work, pursuant to regional and local schedules that are set well in advance. It may not be immediately apparent to litigants primarily interested in their own matters, but when a trial exceeds its duration estimate, the parties effectively and unfairly are appropriating precious judicial time that had been allocated to others. A judge unexpectedly tied up in a trial “over-run” self-evidently cannot hear other matters, or complete reserved decisions for other matters in a timely way when scheduled writing time is consumed by the ongoing need to be present in court. In the result, other trials, motions, applications, conferences, pre-trials and summary conviction appeals frequently cannot proceed as planned. They then have to be rescheduled with priority, which in turn delays the progress of other matters further down the court’s docket. In short, those who provide inaccurate trial duration estimates needlessly inflict serious frustration and disappointment on others whom they may not see, but whom the court very much has in mind. Moreover, such concerns and pressures now have reached critical dimensions, in the wake of R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27 (CanLII),  1 S.C.R. 631. That Supreme Court of Canada decision established a presumptive ceiling of 30 months for the completion of Superior Court criminal proceedings against an accused, failing which a charge may be stayed to remedy a breach of the accused’s right, pursuant to s.11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to be tried within a reasonable time. When parties provide inaccurate trial duration estimates that frustrate or endanger the timely progress of pending criminal proceedings, they therefore effectively threaten the important Charter rights of others. The court in turn is then put under extraordinary and sometimes very urgent pressures, (which could have been avoided by the provision of accurate trial duration estimates), to address and remedy such threats.
2. Pick a personal injury lawyer who know what they’re doing. You can find this out by asking your lawyer questions like how personal injury cases work; what to expect; what sort of trial experience they have; what sort of experience they have handing cases like yours; how many years they’ve been practising law and in what area of the law. Ask questions.
3. Don’t get a dabbler. If you’re having open heart surgery, you want a proper heart surgeon and not someone who moonlights as a heart surgeon. The same applies for personal injury cases. If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer, you want a proper personal injury lawyer who focuses exclusively on plaintiff side personal injury law. You don’t want someone who practices personal injury law for plaintiffs when it’s convenient as an aside to their other practice areas.
4. Hire a lawyer, not a consultant acting as agent for the lawyer/law firm. Many personal injury law firms hire non lawyers, “consultants” or “runners” to go out to hospital or someone’s home because their lawyers cannot make it out to meet face to face (or simply don’t want to meet with new clients outside of their offices). Their primary job is to be on the road, meeting new clients and signing them up. That first interaction with your lawyer is the most important one. If you hired a law firm without ever meeting a lawyer, you should ask yourself what you’ve gotten yourself in to. Hire a lawyer, not a consultant.