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Controversial calls in the Superbowl and Personal Injury Cases

Last night, like millions of others, I sat down to watch the Superbowl with my family. We had our traditional Superbowl Party, with all the fun food, snacks and beverages you might expect. We were all excited for the game, for the commercials and of course; for Rhianna’s return to the public eye for the Halftime show. And Rhianna did not disappoint.

The game had it’s fair share of controversial, or questionable calls.

There was a play in the first half, when the Eagles Tight End caught a pass heading out of bounds. He bobbled the pass, but still got both feet in bounds. Was it a catch? Was it not a catch because he bobbled the ball? I could have sworn it was not a catch because the bobble was clear as day. Yet, the referees ruled it a catch.

In the second half, the Eagles receiver caught the ball, got tackled after taking a step or two, fumbled the ball and it was returned for a touchdown. The ruling on the field called it a touchdown. Upon review, the call was overturned. The referees ruled that despite catching the ball, the receiving did not make a clear football move, and therefore, it was not ruled a catch or a fumble. The call was overturned and the points were taken off the board. It was baffled to say the least.

The final odd call was the holding penalty which ultimately decided the game. The Eagles defensive player made contact with the Chiefs receiver in what looked to be a normal football play. The referees called it a hold, the balls was advanced; and we all know what happened from there. The Chiefs kicked the game winning field goal with seconds left on the play clock. And there you have it, the Superbowl champs were decided.

I don’t proclaim to be a Football expert. But on each call, I thought it would go one way; and yet, the referees decided it another way. I’m not alone. Many others say things one way; yet the calls went the other way. It just goes to show, not matter how confident you are in what you’ve seen; you never know the outcome until it is decided.

The same applies in personal injury law.

I have been practicing personal injury law since 2004 (19 years). If you count articling, that’s 20 years! In my time, I’ve seen a lot of cases come through my office doors.

Some cases which come through my doors look to be clear “winners”. Yet, they don’t turn out to be such clear cut victories.

Other cases which come through my doors appear to be a complete dog’s breakfast, or a total mess of a case. Cases that nobody would ever fathom touching, let along investing countless hours and dollars into. Yet those cases sometimes turn out to be complete victories!

My point is, you never know until you know.

And how do you know?

That’s a very good question. For starters, you can’t be afraid to try. Those who don’t try, don’t succeed.

And if you are good at what you do; and if you approach the case the right way and do the right things to build a case up; chances are that you will “win” more cases than you “lose“. That’s not to say that you won’t lose a case, or that you will win every case that you have. But, more often than not, if you know a little thing or two about the practice of personal injury law; and how personal injury cases work; you will be able to get your client the results which s/he deserves.GoldfingerLogo

It is impossible to put a dollar figure on what a client deserves at the outset of a case. When a client walks in the door (or enters the Zoom), it’s very hard for a personal injury lawyer to put a definitive answer on the value of a case. While a personal injury lawyer might be able to assess the range of damages, it’s impossible to assess the case with any certainty at the case’s infancy. The reason for this is because so much can (and does) change in the life of a personal injury case.

What a personal injury lawyer can do, is evaluate the case in terms of thinking whether or not the case has any monetary, or intrinsic value. If the Plaintiff is not interested in money, then that’s a different story. Unfortunately, “justice” is  very expensive in civil litigation in Ontario. Where a case is being taken on a contingency fee basis, there is no monetary incentive for the lawyer for a percentage of justice on a civil claim unless it is a pro bono, charitable or human rights cause (which is a different story all together). There is nothing wrong with this at all. But we are not talking about the provision of pro bono legal services for the purpose of this exercise.

The personal injury lawyer will also evaluate the case in his/her head to determine whether or not, on a balance of probabilities it will succeed. This is a hard exercise which requires skill, expertise and experience. It’s not always clear that a case will win, or a case will lose. The personal injury lawyer is taking a big risk in investing his/her time and money into a case without any guarantee of recovery. It would be most unfortunate if they invest countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollar in to a case which has no chance of success.

Finally, the personal injury lawyer needs to make an assessment of his/her prospective client. Is the Plaintiff trying to pull a fast one here so that they get a lawyer on a contingency fee basis? Is the Plaintiff being completely truthful? What information is the Plaintiff omitting or not sharing with the lawyer (either intentionally or unintentionally). Will this Plaintiff present well to an insurer, defense lawyer, Judge and Jury? Will this Plaintiff be seen as credible and likeable, or not?

The answers to these questions are all difficult! Just like in the controversial calls in the Superbowl, you never know until you know. But if you don’t try, you will never find out.


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