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It all Comes Down to the Facts in Personal Injury Cases

This is not the first time which the Personal Injury Law Blog has declared that it all comes down to the facts in a personal injury law case (or any case for that matter).

It’s nice to see Judges articulate what we have been saying all along in our blog entries.

The case of Veerasingam v. Licence Appeal Tribunal, 2024 ONSC 3730 has little to do with personal injury law. There was no accident. Nobody was personally injured. This has to do with a person’s application for a salesperson license, and the appeal process throughout.

But even before the background, facts or the law is discussed, the case starts out like this from The Honourable Justice Myers:

The facts matter.

Many lawyers graduate from law school thinking that their cases will be won with erudite advocacy concerning esoteric questions of complex jurisprudence intertwined with contemporary ideals of public policy reform.

Statements like “the facts matter” and “cases are primarily won or lost on their facts” ring so very true; and is what we have been saying here at the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog for years.

How a litigant feels about his/her case is unfortunately, pushed to the side. A Judge and Jury examines the facts. They push the feelings of the litigants to the side. That’s the cold, hard, truth. A Judge or Jury’s interpretation of those facts is paramount, because they are the ultimate decision makers in a case.

Some facts are agreed upon, entirely objective, and undisputed.

Other facts are not agreed upon. They are contested, subjective, or subject to interpretation. One party’s recollection of the events might be completely different than another party’s recollection. This is not uncommon. The way that people see, and remember events is different. You also have to keep in mind that memories fade over time. This is completely normal, but it does not make the job of the lawyers, or the judge any easier.

Sometimes facts are crystal clear, like the date of the accident, the location of the accident, or the parties involved in the accident.

Sometimes facts are far more murky, like how the accident happened, the speed of the vehicles and the overall mechanics of the accident and the aftermath following the accident.

When there is a dispute over the facts, it’s up to the Judge and Jury to determine which version of the facts they accept as the truth. This is a hard exercise.

It’s for these reasons that it’s important for a party or a witness who is presenting evidence to be both credible and likeable. If the party or witness is neither credible, nor likeable, chances are the judge/jury will neither accept their version of the events as the truth, or place much weight on their evidence. This is particularly important when there is a dispute over the facts. At trial, disputes over the facts are common. If the parties agreed on the facts, then there wouldn’t be much need for a trial in the first place other than the need for a Judge in either interpret the law, or provide an assessment of damages.

In a personal injury case, if the evidence does not go in your favour, then your case will be lost. We often see this when it comes to liability and damages. These are two separate headings at trial which are completely different. Liability is how the accident happened, and establishing who is at fault for the accident.

Damages are the resulting injuries and damages caused by the subject accident.linkedin-2-300x300

A Plaintiff can have a strong case on damages. Meaning, their damages are objective and very significant.

But, if a Plaintiff cannot establish that the Defendant is at fault based on the evidence, then the Plaintiff’s case will fail.

In a slip and fall case where a Plaintiff breaks his/her ankle and requires surgically implanted hardware; those injuries and the resulting damages are clear and objective.

But, a slip and fall in and of itself does not establish liability.

If the evidence does not support a finding of liability against a Defendant (negligence); then the Plaintiff won’t have much of a case, irrespective of the strong case which they have on damages. This is why evidence is so important in a personal injury case, or any case for that matter.

It’s important for Plaintiffs to understand that a stand alone injury of great significance does not automatically translate into a winning case. There has to be evidence which supports a Plaintiff’s claim against a Defendant for negligence.

Personal injury cases have become increasingly more complex because laws have been introduced to keep awards down in the favour of large, deep pocketed insurance companies. But, at the end of the day, regardless of how complicated the law has become, personal injury cases depend on the facts. The stronger the facts, the stronger the case.

I will end this edition of the Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Blog with some more words from the Honourable Justice Myers which I believe are very important for lawyers in all areas of practice to keep in mind:

The primacy of the facts in advocacy leads to two very important and related canons of civil litigation.

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