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

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Slip and falls can happen anywhere, at anytime.

Unlike a car accident case, the police don’t come to the scene of a slip and fall to record what happened; or to ticket the at fault party.

That’s very important because in a car accident case, the information regarding liability (the who, where, what, when and why) is recorded by the police. This information is later used by the parties and the Court to place the particulars of the accident in to context. The accident report is relied upon and generally weighed upon by the Court to understand how, where and when the accident happened.

The same cannot be said for a slip and fall case. There is no accident report. There is no recording by independent third party witnesses. There is no accident reconstruction.

Somtimes where a slip and fall happens in a monitored private space (like a supermarket, or a shopping mall) an employee or security guard may record an incident report. Sometimes a video camera may capture the fall itself. But more often than not, this doesn’t happen. And when it does happen, these incident reports are taken by employees, agents, contractors or servants of the defendant property owner. They have an inherent bias towards their employer or contractor to absolve them of liability. Those incident reports won’t favour the accident victim. They will be prepared in such a way as to favour the property owner which isn’t good news for the injured Plaintiff.

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You know what people hate? Jury duty.

Civic duty? Yes.

Sense of national pride and feeling like you’re contributing to society? Sure.

But there are likely 1001 things you’d rather be doing other than sitting on a jury. Particularly for a personal injury case.

As stated previously in the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog; most jurors want to sit on a high profile murder or drug case. Nobody every wants to sit jury duty for a personal injury case hearing all day how a Plaintiff’s neck; back and shoulders hurt them.

Insurance companies know this.

So as a reflex, they file Jury Notices simultaneously with their Statements of Defence knowing that an angry jury; a bored jury; or a day dreaming jury is going to relent the Plaintiff and it will reflect in their decision.

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Many of our Long Term Disability clients want to know how long term disability cases settle. By this question, what they are really asking is how do they as the client, get paid.

Is it a lump sum payment?

Is it a monthly benefit that the client will receive for the rest of their life?

Are there additional damages for pain, suffering, punitive damages, or damages for mental distress?

Does the client have to pay any tax on the settlement amount? If so, then how much?

All of these are valid questions because there are so many ways which a long term disability settlement can be structured outside of Court.

For starters, in order to achieve any sort of award in a long term disability case, the Plaintiff needs to be disabled. This seems so simple, but for so many clients, it’s hard to understand.

Granted; each policy of insurance carries a different definition of disability. But at the end of the day, if the Plaintiff does not meet the definition of disability under the long term policy, there is a very good chance that the insurance company won’t want to pay out any award.

Under most policies, the definition of disability is loosely defined as over the first two years, the Plaintiff is so injured/sick that s/he cannot perform the regular duties of his/her “own occupation“. This first two years is commonly known as the “own occupation” or “own occ” period.

After the first two years, the definition of disability generally changes to the Plaintiff cannot perform the regular duties of “any occupation” commensurate with their education, training and experience. The availability of work is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that there aren’t any jobs out there for you. If you can do any job for which you have the education, training and experience, then you won’t meet the test for disability. This is commonly known as the “any occupation” period.

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OCF Claim forms can be a big headache.

Car accidents litigation should be simple to understand.

But in Ontario, it’s far from simple.

The forms are intimidating, long, and hard to understand.

It’s scary; especially after you’ve been left seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident when you’re at your most vulnerable.

Goldfinger Injury Lawyers are there to help you every step of the way.

Let’s get started with a quick primer on what to expect.

First, let’s remove from the equation the damage to your vehicle, the interviews with the police (or lack thereof); along with any interactions with your employer, ODSP, or OW case worker.

Let’s just focus on the car accident and the accompanying injuries.

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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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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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People want to know:

Should I talk with my insurance company about my personal injury or long term disability case“.

The answer to this question may surprise you.

You may hear some personal injury lawyers tell you that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should an injured accident victim or disability claimant ever speak with an insurance adjuster about their case.

There is nothing wrong with this school of thought. What you don’t say, cannot hurt you. What you don’t say also can’t be recorded and used against you down the road to defeat your claim and credibility. Silence is golden.

But what happens in the situation where you can’t lawyer up in a timely manner? What happens if the insurance company calls you and has a few very simple and basic questions to ask of you which you can certainly answer (address, location of accident, date of birth, what hospital you are currently staying at, whether or not you’re employed or retired). Keep it very simple and basic. You should not share any further details with the insurer without a lawyer, as you will read below.

Your claim, personal injury or long term disability has to get opened so that the benefits can begin to flow. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for the insurer to open their file, assign an adjuster, and hopefully pay for the attendant care, med/rehab and income replacement benefits you need. If you wait to retain a lawyer, this may delay you getting the benefits you need. There is nothing wrong with you calling the insurance company to simply open up a claim and get things started. But when doing so, be cautious of the amount of information which you disclose. Keep things simple and short.

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Winter is coming.

The North winds are blowing.

We the North.

Snow. Sleet. Ice and everything in between.

Some smile at the prospect of negative temperatures. They love the winter!

Others cringe. Count me in on team cringe. I would much rather have nice and pleasant warm weather any day over the ice, cold and darkness that winter brings. I think it’s the darkness and cold that gets me down the most.

Some people have a hard time transitioning from warm weather where one can get away wearing flip flops everyday, to cold weather where winter boots and indoor shoes are more appropriate. Flip flops certainly require less effort to take on and off, and you can wear them inside; so I kind of get it. But, when one makes the conscious decision to ignore the elements; one must live with the consequences….

You would have no idea the number of winter slip and fall cases our personal injury lawyers have seen on account of people who wear flip flops, Crocs, or other non winter footwear outside on icy or snowy surfaces. It’s mind blowing!

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The Ontario Government announced (this week or last, it’s not clear because it came out of nowhere) that they are planning to amend the Occupiers Liability Act.

For those of you who don’t know, the Occupiers Liability Act sets out the laws for slip and fall cases on private property.

The Occupiers Liability Act describes who an owner is (“occupier“) what their duties are and so forth. It also sets out what an (“invitee“) is, and sets out their rights as well. An occupier has a positive duty both in statute and in common law to ensure that their premises are safe for invitees to their premises. Failure to uphold that duty will result in liability to the occupier. The result is that an insurer will respond to the claim to cover the occupier and indemnify the invitee. If the occupier did not have insurance on their premises, then they will be responsible to pay for the cost of litigation and pay out on the case out of their own pocket (whether that’s a personal or corporate pocket depends on the ownership structure).

The standard limitation period for slip and fall cases is 2 years from the date of loss. Failure to commence a claim within that period of time, will result in a limitation period lapsing. Limitation periods, unless otherwise specified in another act, are set forth in the Limitations Act, 2002.

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