Brian Goldfinger has been practising law long enough to have seen some very good practices from personal injury lawyers in Ontario; along with some very bad practices from personal injury lawyers in Ontario.
When bad things happen to people; they often turn to Brian Goldfinger to right the ship and turn things around.
In this instalment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog, we pick Brian Goldfinger’s mind to find out some not so good stories from clients he has seen in the past in terms of what not to do when retaining a personal injury lawyer in Ontario.
- Meet with your personal injury lawyer: All too often, Brian Goldfinger has been approached by prospective clients with personal injury cases who are being handled by other personal injury lawyers or paralegals. When Brian asks them who their lawyer is; the client cannot say. When asked whether or not they have met with a personal injury lawyer, spoken to one, or corresponded with one in relation to their case, often the answer is a firm “no”. When pressed further, the truth comes out that they never met a personal injury lawyer before. Instead, they met with a non lawyer who called themselves a “consultant” or a “client care specialist”, or some other fancy non-legal title. These people are not personal injury lawyers. They are people who give themselves fancy titles. These people may act as agents or servants or employees for the law firm they work for or represent whose sole job is to run around the City or Province and get clients and sign up clients. Never meeting with or speaking with your personal injury lawyer from the start is recipe for disaster. When you hire a real estate agent, do you meet with that agent or do you meet with his/her agent or secretary? When you need to get surgery, do you meet with the surgeon ahead of time to discuss the procedure, or do you meet with the surgeon’s agent? The same applies when it comes to your personal injury lawyer. Know who you’re hiring.
2. Lawyer Up from the Get Go! After a serious car accident, the insurance company will by hyper aggressive to meet with you, collect all of your personal information, get you to sign forms and have their own “specialists” come to your home and meet with you (OT, PT, Chiro, etc.). There is a good reason for all of this. In addition to wanting to assess your claim and better understand how to serve you, they want to start the claim off on the right foot FOR THEM. They want to limit their exposure from day #1. That means getting their own experts to see you FAST so that they can frame your case in a light which suits THEM BEST (and not you). Do you know who will be able to protect you from having your case start off on the wrong foot? A good, experienced and knowledgable personal injury lawyer; that’s who! Failing to lawyer up from the get got, or at the very least consulting with a personal injury lawyer (not an agent, runner, clerk, client care specialist etc.) will help you get the answers you need to better understand your rights and to protect those rights as well.
3. Who is handling your case? Once you’ve found a personal injury law firm to handle your case, it’s a good idea to find out specifically which lawyer will have carriage of your file. Is it the lawyer you met? Is it a team of lawyers? Is the file being passed along from client care specialist, to a paralegal, to a clerk, to someone who was at the law firm today, but gone tomorrow? These are important questions. Your personal injury case is your one shot at getting the compensation which you deserve. And you deserve to have answers to these questions. You don’t want your case to go slipping through the cracks.
4. Make sure your personal injury lawyer practises in the area of law which they purport to practice. A lawyer without files is just a person sitting behind a desk, waiting for the phone to ring. Lawyers are nothing without files. And some lawyers will stop at nothing, or say anything to get a file. Even if they know nothing or have no experience in the practice area forming the nexus of the claim/file. Take the example of say a real estate lawyer who isn’t very busy. But a potentially lucrative personal injury file comes across his/her desk. Instead of referring the file to one of their colleagues who practices exclusively in the field of personal injury law; they opt to handle the case on their own with limited resources, knowledge or experience in this area. What could have been a $1,000,000 file has now been downgraded to a $50,000 file on account of the lawyer’s lack of experience. You don’t want to have to retain another lawyer, to sue your first lawyer because they messed up the case so badly. Unfortunately, these things happen and it’s the client who gets hurt twice.
5. Doing nothing will get you nothing. There isn’t very much which lawyers can guarantee. But, Brian Goldfinger can guarantee that if you do nothing about your case, you will get nothing out of your case. Insurance companies aren’t in the business of paying people out gratuitously. If you sit on your hands and don’t report a car accident, don’t file a claim, and don’t hire a personal injury lawyer; then don’t expect money to fall from the sky or for your case to get resolved (because your case won’t even get started). Waiting is the kryptonite of many personal injury cases. No action on your part will result in no award. Picking up the phone and consulting with a personal injury lawyer is free. You don’t even need to pick up the phone. Consults can be done via email, online chat, Skype etc. Sometimes it’s hard to find the courage or strength to reach out and talk about your case. We understand. But once you’re able to find the strength and courage to do so, you’re heading down a righteous path. The first step is the hardest. But it gets easier thereafter.