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

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Twitter has it that close to 4,000+/- Ontario lawyers tuned in to an on line professional development program called the Mental Health for Legal Professionals Summit 

That’s a lot of lawyers for one on-line conference; and there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, there are a lot of positives to so many attending. It helps shine a light on mental health; it shows that lawyers aren’t invincible and will give those participating some coping strategies. It’s encouraging that during these difficult Pandemic and Lock Down days which have grinded on all of us, that lawyers are open to and receiving help. This is very reassuring and comforting. We all need support systems around us; particularly when isolated away from the workplace; so that we can feel connected and fulfilled.

While we are seeing this with lawyers; we don’t see this in every workplace. This has resulted in what we believe to be a spike in depression and mental health disability related claims.

Unlike a physical injury where an insurer, judge or jury case see the injury; we cannot see mental health injuries.

There are no band-aids, crutches, wheelchairs or canes for depression and anxiety. The co-worker who you see on Zoom may be suffering a lot on the inside; but you can’t tell over your weekly video meeting. They are likely struggling a lot on the inside. Reaching out to them to make sure they’re ok is great; but it doesn’t amount to professional help like counselling, CBT or medication.

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Long Term Disability claims are not claims for pain and suffering or general damage claims.

They are claims for a defined monthly disability amount based on percentage of your pre-disability earnings and last  for a pre determined period of time. Under most policies, that period of time is the age of 65; although some policies have provisions whereby benefits last shorter, or longer. It all depends on what it says in the policy.

When you are receiving long term disability benefits, chances are you won’t be made entirely whole. That means that you won’t be earning as much on long term disability; as you would if you were working and earning an income.

Some policies provide that long term disability benefits are taxable. Some policies state that long term disability benefits are not taxable. Again, it all depends on what the long term disability policy states.

Many people want to know what is the best possible outcome in a long term disability case. This can be a difficult question to answer; given that everyone has different ideas on what the “best” outcome for their case is.

For starters, nobody from the insurance company will be going to jail for having not approved your long term disability benefits; or for cutting you off your claim. In addition, a personal injury lawyer cannot seize the home, car or bank accounts of the person(s) responsible at the insurance company for not approving your claim. These forms of relief simply don’t exist. Although I do suspect if these forms of relief did exist that insurance adjusters would be extra cautious and careful when handling your claim. Not all insurance adjusters are bad people. They do make mistakes from time to time. But that’s no excuse. They aren’t the ones who have to live day to day without being able to work and try to make ends meet.

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Even personal injury lawyers don’t talk about personal injury law 24/7. Check out Brian Goldfinger’s appearance with Zarar Siddiqi on the Raptors Republic Vlog where they discuss the current Raptors season; where the team is going; and where the team has been. It was a fun and enlightening chat which we hope you enjoy. A link to the Vlog can be found here. 

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Our law firm is approached by countless prospective clients regarding sexual assault claims.

The courage and strength the survivors have to step forward and speak with a personal injury lawyer about what they’ve been through is truly remarkable. I can’t begin to tell you about how difficult it can be for people to speak up and speak out about what they’ve been through. Even if all conversations with our lawyers and confidential, it still takes a lot for anyone to dig deep and recount to the events which have haunted their lives. Our hats off to all of the people who have opened up to us in the past; and continue to do so to this day. We appreciate the confidence and trust which you have put in out law firm to handle such meaningful and emotional claims.

We have been proud throughout the years to represent survivors of sexual assault in their claims against institutional defendants such as schools, hospitals and religious institutions. We have also been proud representing sexual assault survivors against various professionals such as doctors, dentists, teachers and religious figures.

Unfortunately, the law has a way of dehumanizing claims. The people who step forward to advance their claims are simply referred to as “The Plaintiff“; and the abuser is simply referred to as “The Defendant“. The law then takes the next step of examining one’s pain and suffering not but what a person may say on the stand; but by what’s contained in their medical, treatment or counselling records. If it’s not contained in the records, then it may not ring true in a Court of law.

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The majority of insurance adjusters I have spoken to during the COVID Pandemic are all working remotely from home. I know this because I speak with, or correspond with insurance adjusters every day. It goes with the territory being a personal injury lawyer.

In phone calls, or Zoom calls I can see their children or pets whistling by. Their attention is divided between parenting, insurance adjusting, and surviving. And that’s ok. We’re all walking on egg shells and doing our very best to manage day by day during these difficult times.

The fact that so many insurance adjusters are working remotely from home tells me something. The insurance companies respect the Stay At Home Orders and warnings from the Government and medical officers across the land.

It also sends a message that these insurance companies care about protecting their employees from COVID. Having hundreds of employees work from their offices, cubicles or in a call centre isn’t ideal towards curbing the spread of COVID. Allowing their employees to work for home is a strong signal that they care about the health and well being of their work force.

It’s unfortunate this same degree of care, understanding and compassion which the insurance industry has shown to their employees hasn’t trickled down to its customers.

What do I mean by that?

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The purpose of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog is to deliver news and views on the field of personal injury law in Ontario.

But we’re not tone deaf.

Writing about the stories of a personal injury lawyer can be off the mark in the times we’re living in. We don’t want to be blind or naive to what’s happening around us.

This COVID Pandemic we are living through is pretty messed up.

We’re told that in order not to get COVID, you need to distance and isolate from people.

And once you get COVID, you need to further distance and isolate from people.

So either way you cut it; you’re distancing and isolating; thus making COVID; and living during this Pandemic a very lonely and isolating period of our lives. It doesn’t have to be, but it is.

I know from experience.

My 7 year old daughter tested positive for COVID a few months ago. She caught it from a classmate at school. She had not symptoms but needed to get a test because a classmate had tested positive. It turned out that she tested positive as well.

Where the classmate contracted it from is unknown and irrelevant. The school followed all the precautions you hear about. Students are distanced, masked, plexiglass work stations etc. Didn’t matter. These variants are nasty and super catchy.

It’s really hard for a 7 year old to deal with having COVID. I can only imagine all of the emotions and questions she was going through.  Can I be cured? Will any of my friends want to speak with me again? Will any of my friends still be my friends once this is over? Will I be shunned at school? What did I do wrong? Are my parents mad at me? Have I disappointed them? When can I go back to school?  Will COVID spread to my family or to my beloved hamster? Why me? Why did I get COVID and not somebody else? Am I going to be ok? Am I going to die?

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Lawyers are held to a higher standard. We are. Because the profession demands it. The general public demands it. Our Rules of Professional Conduct command it.

So, when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, the legal profession adapted. A general acceptance of Zoom for Trials, Pre-Trials, Examinations for Discovery, Mediation, Hearings etc. Acceptance of more emails, electronically executed documents and a large pivot towards accepting new technology.

Courts on the other hand were a bit backwards. In person hearings and jury trials were off; then they were on; then the Courts took a wait and see approach. Important and urgent criminal matter trucked ahead. Compelling jurors to leave their homes in the midst of a Pandemic; risking their health to hear a civil matter about money seemed then; and still seems today like a huge ask. But the Courts continued to make that ask of the public irrespective of the health of jurors or others they would come in contact with.

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Slip and fall accidents resulting in serious injuries can be very difficult on the innocent accident victim; particularly when it comes to making ends meet.

How and when will lost wages be paid?

How and when will treatment costs not covered by OHIP be paid (physio, massage, chiro etc.)?

Will attendant care services be available and if so; who will pay for those services?

How do my out of pocket expenses get paid?

What about my damaged glasses or clothing? Will I be compensated for that; and if so; when?

These are all valid questions and concerns which a number of our slip and fall or trip and fall clients have expressed to our personal injury lawyers.

In a car accident case, all of these items are covered through Ontario’s no fault accident benefit coverage. That’s means that so long as you meet the disability test(s) for these benefits; and they are deemed to be reasonable and necessary, these benefits will be paid out to the accident victim.

In a trip and fall case, or slip and fall case, accident benefits are NOT available to the innocent accident victim. There is no interim insurance (unless privately purchased) which will cover these heads of damages. The Plaintiff will have to wait until the end of the case in order to get compensated for these damages.

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Identifying the correct party to sue in a slip or trip and fall case can be tricky.

In a car accident case; it’s a bit more straightforward: You sue the at fault driver. You also sue the owner of the vehicle as well.

In an dog bite or dog attack case identifying the correct party to sue is straightforward was well: You sue the owner of the dog.

How about an assault case? That’s sounds pretty straight forward as well: You sue the assailant.

How about a long term disability case? That’s easy: You sue the long term disability insurer.

Things get a bit more complicated in a slip and fall; or trip and fall case.

First you need to identify where the fall happened. Knowing the exact location of the fall is very important. A few inches to the left or to the right can change the identity of the owner. And getting the correct identity of the owner is of paramount importance for a slip and fall or trip and fall case. Suing the wrong owner won’t get a Plaintiff anywhere.

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Congrats to Goldfinger Injury Lawyer’s very own Afsoun Amirsolaimani on winning a contested motion seeking the removal of a lawyer for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund for acting in a conflict of interest. The decision is below and has yet to be reported, but we share it with you now. 

CITATION: Riley et al. v. Director of MVAC, et al., 2021 ONSC 2123 

COURT FILE NO.: CV-20-00000101 

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