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Articles Posted in Access to Justice

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My articling principal was called to the Bar in 1978. For the first decade or so of his practice, he was in Court nearly every day. He was in Court for motions, pre-trials and trials. Because he was in Court so often, it was absolutely necessary that his office be downtown so that he could be close to the Courthouse. The Courthouse was an extension of his office.

I want to be clear that my articling principal managed a very successful civil litigation law firm; and did not have a criminal law practice.  Criminal lawyers are in Court far more often than their civil litigation counterparts. In 2022, civil litigation lawyers are not in Court everyday. But, they used to be.

Trials back then could be as short as a half day, or as long as 2-3 days. Running a week long trial (5 days) was seen as a ultra marathon! Accessibility to the Courts existed! You would not have to wait years and years for a Pre-Trial or for a Trial date. You could call the Court and get a motion date and have your motion heard by a Judge in a very reasonable period of time.

The Court was there to serve the important public function of the administration of justice. Court staff could afford to take the time to get on the phone (or even speak to you person!) with lawyers  about what to do if documents weren’t accepted by the Court and what needed to be done so that the materials would get accepted.

The lawyers knew the name of the Court staff and vice versa. It was an amicable and symbiotic relationship. Both sides needed each other to make the system work so that justice would flow efficiently.

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I was recently at a kid’s birthday party. It was my son’s first “real” birthday party. He hadn’t been to a “real” birthday party in around 2 years or so due to the COVID Pandemic.

It was great socializing with adults from his class. It was great seeing my child interact with his classmates at a birthday party. It was great to be out and about after such a long period of on and off again lockdowns, fear and uncertainty.

One of the adults at the party told me that he kept up with the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog. He wanted to know how we came up with so many topics to discuss; week after week.

Here are some secrets from behind the curtain about how we come up with topics.

Many would think that personal injury law is a limited topic. But it’s not. Personal Injury Law encompasses so much which people can relate to.

People drive cars, ride transit, walk or ride bikes to get around. Once you participate in any or all of these activities, you open yourself up to a potential claim. Who amongst us hasn’t seen a car accident; or the aftermath of a car accident? How many times have you drove on the highway or passed an accident scene with flashing police lights, firemen and paramedics.

We all know or have heard of someone who has been involved in an accident; whether it’s serious or not. We all likely have someone in our lives who is sick, ill, or disabled from working. They likely require, receive or have applied for either government assistance, or insurance benefits from a private insurer.

In order to drive a motor vehicle you require car insurance. It’s the law.

Who hasn’t done something “risky” like bungee jumping, sky diving, skiing, put their kids in a bouncy castle; or some other action sport which requires the participant to sign a waiver?

Who hasn’t seen a vicious dog or been afraid of a vicious neighbourhood dog? Perhaps that dog got off leash and bit someone?

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Do I have a personal injury case? You be the Judge.

Once upon a time there was woman who was walking in a public park.  It was winter and cold and icy. In the middle of the park stood a large snow covered hill. There was no visible path up the hill because it was covered in snow and ice. The hill had been used by children for tobogganing, but there was nobody tobogganing on that particular day.

There were signs along the hill from the City/Municipality stating “Hill and Paths not maintained in the Winter. Use at your own risk“.

The hill was both high, steep, snow covered and slippery. But it was also very tempting and mysterious for the woman in the park who was standing at the foot of the giant hill. What could be on top of the hill? What could be on the other side of the hill? Am I strong enough to climb the hill and make it all the way to the top? Do you think that I would set a record for being the first person to climb the hill in the winter? If I climbed the hill on my own, would I win a prize? Perhaps I would be on the news for climbing this glorious hill….

So many questions, so little time; and such a tempting hill.

The woman could not resist. Her curiosity got he best of her and she proceeded to climb the hill. Slowly but surely, she summited to the top of the hill. But when near the top of the hill she lost her footing and twisted her ankle. She was not able to walk properly for days and needed some physiotherapy.

Now the woman calls a personal injury lawyer and shared her story of the giant hill in the public park. She wanted to sue the hill and sue the City/Municipality for not making the hill safe for people to climb in the winter. She wants to sue the manufacturer of her boots for not making the sturdy enough for the climb atop the hill.

It begs the question: Do I have a personal injury case?

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When most people think about lawyers, they think about fancy offices, fancy suits, and very expensive hourly rates. It can all be very intimidating.

When I first started practicing law, I worked in the downtown Toronto core on Bay Street. Bay Street is synonymous with big banks, big finance and the big law firms which represent those large institutions.

What was really odd was that the law firm I used to practice act acted for neither the large banks, or large commercial entities. We acted for seriously injured and disabled people; many of whom did not live in the City of Toronto and if they did rarely ventured into the downtown core. Having our clients come into the office was a chore. They were scared of venturing to downtown Toronto; even if it was to meet with their own personal injury lawyer.

The law firm was accessible on the subway or streetcar, but there was no easily accessible parking which didn’t require a 5+ minute walk through an underground maze (The Path System). And once you got off the TTC, people often got lost. Navagating the elevator bank was also an experience in and of itself. Odd floors servicing certain levels on one side; even floors servicing other levels on another side. If you weren’t there everyday, or weren’t familiar with all of the commotion; it was an intimidating and scary sight.

Keep in mind that the bulk of our law firm’s work at that time was devoted to Plaintiff side personal injury law. Our clients had very real and very visible disabilities (wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, casts) or invisible disabilities (anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, chronic pain). Things weren’t easy for our clients simply getting to our law firm and that didn’t sit right with me. Seeing your own personal injury lawyer shouldn’t be a chore or an anxiety inducing event.

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Lock Down Life has been no fun for anyone. Regardless of your socio-economic background, political views, or religious beliefs, this Pandemic has been difficult for everyone for so many reasons. Unless that is if you’re a high profile cabinet minister taking some time off for a vacation to St. Bart’s. Sounds nice. If only we could all be Minister of Finance and depart for St. Bart’s in the midst of a global pandemic where non-essential travel is barred.

Speaking of non-essential travel, our new favourite website during the Pandemic has been the Arrivals log on the Pearson International Airport website. 

Why, just today, international flights have come in from all over the world including Istanbul Turkey; London UK; Shanghai China via Seoul Korea; Toucumen Panama; Lisbon Portugal; too may American cities to mention, along with multiple other domestic arrivals. Not to mention the departures to such exotic locations as Mexico City, Mexico; Doha Qatar; Sao Paolo, Brazil; New Delhi India; Lima Peru and the list goes on. But you need not worry. We’ve all been promised that none of these people flying have COVID, and all travellers pinky promise to quarantine for 7-14 days depending on who you ask as it’s clear as mud. While all of these travel plans go on to this day, Ontarians are on a strict lock down such that they can only leave their homes for essential purposes, but you are kinda free to fly wherever you like. And if you’re a politician who makes up the rules for masses, then these restrictions are completely arbitrary and likely don’t apply to you. Go figure. The Government “For The People” continues to be the most ironic term ever. More like Government for Me (and by “Me” I’m referring to the political ruling class and their buddies; everyone else really doesn’t matter).

As a personal injury lawyer, we’ve seen a lot of changes to behaviour during the Pandemic. The purpose of this Toronto Injury Lawyer is to examine those Pandemic trends which have really made us shake our heads.

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Recently the Ontario Government increased the cost of many Court filing fees. Notably, the cost of filing a Trial Record in the Ontario Superior Court doubled from $405 to $810. Like a cruel and ironic April Fool’s joke, the increased fee schedule will be implemented on April 1st,  2019. I cannot recall any form of debate or consultation that went in to increasing. If are seeking out the legislation with the increased court filing fees, you can find it by clicking the link here. 

Imagine that: $810 just to have your case placed on the trial list. This does not take in to consideration the cost of filing a statement of claim ($229), the cost of filing a motion record ($160) , the cost of a Jury Notice ($130), or the costs of any summonses to witness ($30 each).

So: If you want to have a civil jury trial in a personal injury case, whereby you bring 2 motions, the cost in court filing fees alone for a Plaintiff would be $1,359 plus the costs of summonses at $30 each. This does not take in to consideration the filing costs for a Defendant; nor does it take in to consideration the cost of legal fees, HST on legal fees, or disbursements (faxes, photocopies, medical records, police reports etc.)

Lesson: Litigation is expensive and access to the Courts is reserved for the wealthy.

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