Each and every day, motorists not just in Toronto but across Canada take to the roads, rarely giving any serious consideration to the danger their chosen form of transportation may represent. While most trips end in an uneventful manner, serious accidents do in fact occur, leaving victims to contend with injuries, permanent disability and worse.
If you or a loved one have sustained injuries resulting from a car crash and wish to explore your potential legal options, one of our Toronto motor vehicle accident lawyers is prepared to help. An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist you in recovering damages and ensure that your claim is as strong as possible.
Common Causes of Serious Car Crashes
Automobile accidents can unfold under a seemingly endless array of circumstances. It behooves victims to gain a strong understanding of the sorts of negligence that may give rise to an actionable injury claim.
Some of the most frequently observed scenarios responsible for crashes in Toronto include, but are not limited to:
- Drunk and drugged driving
- Failure to react appropriately to changes in weather/road conditions
- Failure to heed traffic signals
- Texting while driving
- Traveling at excessive speeds
- Ill-advised lane changes
- Motorist fatigue
- Errors in judgment
- Inattentive/distracted driving
- Improper loading of cargo in large trucks
- Defectively designed or manufactured vehicles and/or components
No two accidents are the same. It is necessary for those who suffer injuries to seek the aid of a skilled lawyer who understands how to isolate critical evidence, make use of knowledgeable subject matter experts and build the strongest arguments possible in order to secure the financial resources victims are certain to require for their recovery.
Types of Injuries in Toronto Motor Vehicle Accidents
When it comes to the sorts of harm so often sustained in major car crashes, no amount of money can ever completely eliminate the anxiety, pain and other trauma experienced. The reason for this is that the types of injuries sustained by individuals impacted by the negligence of other drivers routinely encompasses:
- Severe bone fractures
- Disc herniation
- Torn ligaments
- Deep lacerations
- Skin burns potentially leading to permanent disfigurement
- Chronic pain
- Spinal cord damage/possible paralysis
- Damage to vital organs
- Internal bleeding events
- Traumatic brain injury/cognitive disability
Outcomes like these have the potential to produce massive medical expenses, lifelong disability and dependency on others, emotional trauma, lost wages, irreparable damage to relationships and other catastrophic harm.
As such, victims should assert their right to fair compensation from each and every negligent party responsible.
Ontario Auto Insurance Coverage
All vehicle owners within Ontario are legally required to purchase a standard policy of auto insurance. Minimum mandatory coverage under such policies includes third-party liability, direct compensation for property damage, no-fault accident benefits and uninsured motorist benefits.
You also can purchase optional benefits designed to boost coverage in the medical, attendant care and rehabilitation categories, and also to provide for greater levels of income replacement, housekeeping and maintenance assistance, caregiver benefits, death benefits and more.
Tort Claims for Accidents
While accident benefits can be helpful in recovering from a motor vehicle collision, there are times when the compensation available through such channels cannot cover the losses sustained due to someone else’s negligence.
When this occurs, a tort action against an at-fault driver may be the best available option, and an experienced Toronto motor vehicle accident lawyer can advise their client of the best course of action.
How much is my Toronto motor vehicle accident claim worth?
There are certain categories of loss for which it is relatively easy to determine fair monetary value. Medical bills, property damage repair bills, wage loss and the like can be ascertained by reviewing records, invoices and employment information to determine proper compensation levels. However, there are other areas in which the true harm sustained is far more difficult to peg.
Financial calculations related to physical pain and emotional distress common to tort claims require detailed analysis of the types of professional treatment needed to address them, the probable impact on the victim’s previous lifestyle, employment prospects and relationships, and other factors.
Establishing damages in the aftermath of an auto accident is an essential part of ensuring full and fair compensation. Collecting and assembling vital documentation is perhaps the most important task involved in obtaining maximum financial recovery, and it is useful for victims to understand some of the categories of evidence that can prove pivotal to their success.
In order to assess the true degree of loss and expense incurred as the result of an auto accident, it is wise for victims to seek and undergo any and all medical treatment necessary. Establishing a baseline condition from which future needs may be projected is essential to accurate valuation. Keeping records of all testing, prescriptions, treatment, and therapy received can be extremely helpful in securing a fair and appropriate level of benefits.
Income/Wage Loss Documentation
While it is likely medical costs will represent the majority of losses in a typical car crash claim, lost pay due to missed workdays can rapidly cripple family finances. Victims should assemble as much documentation as they can concerning their customary wage rate, average tips received and other applicable figures regarding income.
How An Accident Lawyer Can Help You Win In Court Whether It’s Your Fault Or Not
Being involved in any type of accident, such as a car crash, for example, can often be a harrowing experience. The moments directly afterward can be a blur of pain and injury, ruled by emotions like fear, anger, and frustration. Everything that needs to be done in the wake of such an accident, like speaking to the police and trading insurance and contact details, is easily overwhelming.
In instances like these, it’s easy to miss crucial evidence that can help prove you weren’t at fault for the accident or that even if you were, the other party’s actions contributed as well. You need someone on your side that’s ready, willing, and able to help protect your rights under Canadian law and to ensure that you’re treated fairly by insurers and the courts. In such cases, the best person for the job will always be a skilled and experienced accident lawyer.
The Moments After: Before the Accident Lawyer Is in the Picture
While this is a discussion about how accident lawyers can help you come out the other end of a car crash or other accident as unscathed as possible, there’s one fact that simply needs to be addressed: you’re unlikely to have a lawyer on hand at the scene. Even if you happen to have one in the vehicle with you, being involved in the accident means that there would be a conflict of interest in having them represent your interests.
Yet despite the fact that we have yet to perfect on-demand lawyer delivery technology, there are things that you can do in the immediate moments after being involved in an accident that will make it that much easier for your lawyer to support your case when it comes time to do so. These things are universal and apply whether you’re possibly at fault for the accident or if you are clearly the victim. These include the following:
- Never, ever leaving the scene: whether you’re driving, you’re on a bicycle, or you’re a pedestrian, if you’ve been involved in an accident you cannot leave the scene. Doing so may expose you to criminal charges! Even the best lawyer won’t be able to mitigate the kind of damage that can do to your credibility.
- Taking emergency steps: If anyone is seriously injured (including yourself), their welfare is obviously a priority. Try not to move anyone injured unless absolutely necessary, as this could inadvertently make their injuries worse. This obviously doesn’t apply if someone would be even further injured if left alone, such as trapped in burning vehicle.
- Calling the police: if there are any injuries or any kind, if there looks to be at least $2000 of damage done to all vehicles involved, or if you think one of the drivers may have been driving under the influence or otherwise in violation of the Criminal Code, your next step is always to call the police so they can fill out a police report. This step obviously takes place after ensuring the immediate safety of everyone involved.
- Securing the scene: if you’re in a vehicle, make sure you’re in a safe place before exiting whenever possible. This means moving out of traffic and to the side of the road. If your vehicle is too damaged to move, use your hazard lights, deploy road cones, or even use road flares if you have any.
- Begin documenting the accident: using your phone, begin taking pictures of as many different facets of the accident as you can. Document the damage done to all vehicles, any visible injuries sustained by you or anyone else (with their permission, of course), and also the roadway from multiple angles. Take note of any road conditions that might have contributed to the accident as well as contact info for any eyewitnesses to the accident.
- Collecting and exchanging driver information: recording this information as accurately as possible can be a challenge, especially if tempers are running high in the wake of an accident. Remember to never admit or even discuss fault while exchanging information and to keep as civil as possible. Not doing so can make it much harder for your lawyer afterward.
There are a few other things to keep in mind directly after an accident but before you speak to a lawyer. Most of these are highly situational. A good example is what you’re required to do in the event that there are no injuries and there’s less than $2000 in damages.
In these circumstances you are not in fact required to call the police; however, you are instead required to notify a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours. These police facilities, which were created specifically to aid motorists in reporting minor accidents that don’t rise to meet the threshold of a police reporting to the scene, facilitate documenting of the accident for both official and insurance purposes.
Accident Lawyers Help You Get the Facts Right
Making an accident claim — or defending against one — often comes down to how many facts you can collect to support your position. Accident lawyers are absolutely invaluable when it comes to this process, especially considering how easy it is to miss or overlook important evidence in the immediate wake of an accident as discussed above. When you need every fact in your favor to prevail, turning to a lawyer to help gather and interpret those facts is ideal. Here are just a few ways that accident lawyers help you get the facts right:
1. Receiving and Amending Official Reports
You’re entitled to a copy of any police report that’s been filled out in relation to your accident. The details of this report can play a major role in supporting your position with an insurance company or during a court proceeding, regardless of whether you’re at fault or if you were the victim. Unfortunately, if the report doesn’t reflect what really happened during the accident, this could have a negative impact that could lead you to be held more responsible for the incident than you actually were.
If you find that there are inconsistencies within that report, your lawyer can help you request a revision from the officer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the reporting officer is under no obligation to do so. If the officer refuses, your lawyer can also help you draft a letter that addresses the inconsistencies in the report. This letter will be filed alongside that report to support the version of events that is more in line with reality. Filing this letter shows you have been disputing the narrative of events from the very beginning, and this can support your case.
2. Dealing with Insurance Companies
When it comes to communicating with an insurance company in the wake of an accident, it’s never a good idea to do so without at least consulting a lawyer beforehand. Whether you’re at fault and you’re dealing with your own insurer or it’s the other driver’s insurance company you’re dealing with, it will soon become clear that it’s in the insurer’s vested interest to provide you as little compensation as possible, simply as standard operating procedure (more on this later).
Having advice on how to interact with insurers, or better yet having an accident lawyer handle all correspondence and interactions with an insurance company, means that there’s someone in your corner with the knowledge and experience necessary to navigate a landscape that’s likely quite foreign to you. This gets even more crucial when and if the insurance company’s own lawyers get involved.
3. Documenting and Categorizing Physical Injuries
There is no accident claim more hotly contested than that which needs to determine how much compensation a personal injury merits. Accident lawyers can help you gather the right type of evidence to support an accident claim as a victim by recommending the right steps to take in visiting doctors.
Accident lawyers also know how to categorize documented evidence like X-rays, cat scans, MRIs, and examination notes and present it in the best light to maximize your compensation if you’re a victim; likewise, if you’re defending a claim that relies on medical evidence, a good lawyer can point out inconsistencies in the collection of that evidence to cast doubt on their accuracy or even call on resources like medical experts that can further minimize your financial liability.
4. Dealing Directly with Opposing Counsel
If your accident claim progresses to the point where it may be decided by the courts, your lawyer becomes not just indispensable but an absolute necessity. The old adage that anyone that would represent themselves in a court of law has a misguided client is absolutely true in this case, as a regular person has no frame of reference for the sometimes Byzantine machinations of the Canadian legal system.
Accident lawyers know how to communicate with opposing counsel and other court officials in the most proper and efficient ways. They will protect your rights aggressively to the best of their knowledge and ability in ways that you simply wouldn’t be aware of, and in instances of considering settlement offers, they will be able to help determine if they’re a good deal for you or if you should continue to pursue a resolution in the courts.
The Types of Injuries You May Suffer — or Be Responsible for Causing
Accidents happen. Regardless of findings of fault, there are a number of different injuries that you may end up suffering from or end up being responsible for causing. A quick overview of these types of injuries and the impact they can have on an accident claim can help broaden your understanding of what you may need to deal with and how having an accident lawyer in your corner can benefit you in dealing with these sometimes debilitating injuries.
Minor injuries are just that: minor. They include superficial cuts and scrapes, bruises, muscle soreness, or anything that may cause mild pain or discomfort. Minor injuries are most common in fender benders or other low-speed accidents and are (usually) nothing to worry about, provided you or anyone else injured receives a full medical examination to ensure there are no hidden or more serious injuries. Also, minor injuries, which are usually gone within a few days or weeks at the outside, typically don’t interfere with your daily life enough to warrant compensation.
Broken Bones and Fractures
More serious injuries that often occur in car accidents include broken bones. Any bone in the human body can fracture, but in the case of vehicle collisions, you’re more likely to see those fractures occur in the extremities, such as in the legs and arms, because people that see a crash approaching tend to brace themselves. Regardless, the severity of the break determines how long it will take to heal, and the location of the break determines how temporarily debilitating it will be. While rare, it’s not unheard of for a particularly nasty or compound break to permanently reduce a victim’s range of motion or ability. These sorts of fractures can lead to moderate to substantial permanent losses of earning potential as well as pain and suffering.
Head and Neck Injuries
Injuries to the head and neck can be some of the most debilitating types to suffer in an accident. They can also be some of the most subtle as well. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash may not manifest at first glance but can prove serious if untreated. Concussions are likewise serious, though usually much more easy to spot due to symptoms like confusion or cognitive impairment. Damage to the spinal cord can likewise lead to partial or complete paralysis. In serious cases, such damage can be long-lasting or even permanent, which is both completely disruptive and life-altering.
Remember: Insurance Companies are Not Your Friends
As mentioned above, insurance companies are for-profit businesses. This means that their primary goal has nothing to do with safeguarding your rights as a consumer or a policyholder, and they could care less if you’ve suffered a simple broken wrist in an accident or if you’ve ended up in a wheelchair for life. Instead, their raison d’etre is to make as much money off of you as possible. This means two things: charging you as much as they can get away with for the policy cover you purchase from them and giving you as little cash as possible whenever you’re entitled to an award according to the terms of your policy. Yes, even if you’ve become paralyzed due to a traumatic spinal cord injury.
In other words, it’s in an insurance company’s best, vested interest to avoid payouts whenever possible. Insurers accomplish this by interpreting any accident claims as conservatively as they can. If you don’t bring your damaged vehicle into a Collision Reporting Centre within a proper timeframe, for example, this provides excuses for insurers to reduce any compensation from your claim or even refuse one altogether (though it won’t stop them from increasing your premium for getting into an accident, naturally).
Insurers get even more cagey when personal injury is involved; while benefits schemes such as Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (more on that later) controls much of how injured victims are entitled to compensation, interpreting the extent and impact of physical injuries leaves all too much wiggle room for insurers to interpret a victim’s injuries towards the less expensive end of the scale. This is, of course, just one more reason to ensure your accident claim is being handled by the type of informed and experienced accident lawyer that’s used to working with insurance companies — one that’s savvy to their tricks and that won’t let them get away with their usual attempts to minimize their own financial liability.
Sometimes You’re Going to Be at Fault
There’s any number of instances where you may find yourself being held responsible for any damage or injuries as a result of an accident. This could be due to you legitimately making a mistake and causing an accident with another vehicle or a bicyclist or pedestrian in a way that soundly places the responsibility for any property damage and/or injuries on your shoulders.
But this isn’t the only type of accident for which you could be held responsible. This most often happens in crashes where no one is involved besides yourself.
If your vehicle was the only one involved, such as crashing into a lamp post, a telephone pole, a fence or wall, or even the side of a building, you can’t exactly blame the property own your control such as mechanical failure may not be your fault. Otherwise, though, you’re going to be held responsible for any property damage due to the collision. If you or any passengers are injured in the crash, that could also be your responsibility as well.
For the most part, there are structures in place to help manage your liability when it comes to being the accidental cause of harm to others. Your insurance provider, while never being happy to pay out on a claim, is contractually bound to provide as much compensation as they’re legally responsible for. The negative outcome of this is that your premium payments are likely to skyrocket because your insurer will reclassify you as a higher-risk customer. However, most insurance policies are concerned with solving immediate problems and not long-term ones, especially those related to the consequences of serious injury.
Can I still Receive Compensation if I’m at Fault?
If you’re injured in an accident that you’re also responsible for, it’s obviously not a possibility to make a claim against any of the other individuals involved in your accident. In the past, this has led to some major hardship, especially when facing long recovery times from injuries that preclude them from working for weeks or months at a time. In the case of much more serious or even catastrophic injuries that could limit someone’s ability to earn a living, things could be even bleaker.
This has led to attempts by many jurisdictions to provide more robust social safety nets for the injured, regardless of whether you were at fault in the accident in which you suffered those injuries. In Ontario, this has taken form in specific legislation called the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), a universal compensation system that is managed by your own insurance company regardless of fault. Originally instituted in 2010, there are a number of different tiers that address the types of support someone in Ontario is entitled to in the wake of catastrophic injuries, non-catastrophic injuries, and also minor injuries.
The SABS has undergone a number of revisions over the years since its inception, with the most recent applicable to anyone who has been in an accident after June 1st of 2016. The SABS applies to anyone injured in an accident in Ontario. It also may apply to Ontarians that become injured in another jurisdiction either in Canada or in the United States, though this is not always a guarantee. However, the message that the SABS sends is clear: no matter who may be at fault in an accident, you deserve to have financial support in the wake of an injury.
Specifics of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule
The SABS is a multi-layered approach to injury compensation and one that deserves a specific and complete explanation. As mentioned above, there are three severity tiers for injuries — minor, non-catastrophic, and catastrophic — but there are also a number of different benefit categories that you may or may not be eligible to receive, based on the specifics of your injury. These benefits include the following:
Medical and Rehabilitation and Attendant Care
In accidents occurring after June 1st of 2016, there is a combined $1 million in benefits over your lifetime for both medical and rehabilitation care and attendant care in the case of catastrophic injuries. In non-catastrophic injuries, this is reduced to a combined $65,000 over 260 weeks. For minor injuries, this is reduced further to $3,600 for 260 weeks and only covers medical and rehabilitation care.
Housekeeping and Home Maintenance
In the case of catastrophic injuries, accident victims injured after June 1st of 2016 receive $100 a week over their lifetime to be spent on housekeeping and home maintenance services. Non-catastrophic and minor injuries do not receive any coverage for housekeeping and home maintenance.
No matter the extent of your injuries, SABS provides 70% of your gross income per week, up to a maximum of $400 per week, to offset any loss of income while recovering. In the case of injuries that permanently preclude you from working, or reduce your ability to work to the same standard as before your accident, this weekly income replacement could be indefinite.
If your injuries preclude you from caring for dependents such as children, SABS provides caregiver benefits to supplement this loss. While non-catastrophic and minor injuries do not qualify for caregiver benefits, catastrophic injuries do, to the tune of $250 a week to help provide care to a single child. If you have more than one, this benefit is increased by $50 per week per child. These benefits last until the child is no longer considered your dependent.
SABS provides weekly benefits even for those who were not earning a living at the time of the accident in which they were injured. This benefit is extended to those with catastrophic, non-catastrophic, and minor injuries alike, and is limited to $185 a week for 104 weeks. There is a 4-week waiting period before these benefits begin to be paid.
Costs of Examination Reimbursement
Up to $2,000 of the cost of any medical examinations and tests related to the injuries you received in an accident are covered. This maximum is per exam and is ultimately deducted from whatever your maximum limit is under your Medical and Rehabilitation Care benefit as dictated by your level of injury.
It’s important to remember that while you’re entitled to compensation under SABS, your insurance provider is the one administering these benefits and may be reticent to qualify your injuries as severe in an effort to reduce their financial responsibilities. This is why having an accident lawyer by your side during this process can be invaluable. Lawyers that work with clients regularly know how to ensure the benefits you receive from SABS are appropriate. Without an accident lawyer, you risk not getting what you’re entitled to receive.
Being Responsible Without Being at Fault
Ontarians have the advantage of having SABS on their side to supplement their incomes in the wake of an accident regardless of fault. However, when it comes to ultimately determining fault, in many jurisdictions in Canada (Ontario included) the concept of contributory negligence can have a major influence on determining responsibility in the wake of an accident, especially in civil cases. The concept behind contributory negligence is that, even if the accident occurred because of the wrongdoing of the other party, you might be partially responsible because your own actions — or inaction — contributed to the accident. In other words, you might not be at fault for the accident, but you might still bear some responsibility.
Contributory negligence is almost always used to determine how much compensation a victim is entitled to receiving in the wake of an injury. As such, it’s usually measured in a percentage relative to how much the victim’s actions contributed to their own injuries. Typically, victims that have been found to be guilty of contributory negligence can see their compensation reduced by that percentage; victims found to be responsible for 20% of their injuries would only receive 80% of the maximum compensation award.
Examples of contributory negligence would be a bicyclist that wasn’t wearing a helmet suffering a concussion after being struck by a vehicle. While the accident may still be the fault of the driver, the injuries suffered by the victim would have been reduced or even avoided altogether if the cyclist had been observing proper safety rules. However, it’s important to remember that neglecting something like wearing a safety helmet may not be considered contributory negligence for other injuries not related to head trauma; in this case, wearing a helmet wouldn’t have reduced the chances of the cyclist suffering a broken leg in the same accident. Those injuries would not be subject to having their compensation reduced due to contributory negligence.
Differentiating Fault and Contributory Negligence from SABS
Notice that contributory negligence and fault determinations are, again, independent of the compensation you’re entitled to under SABS. Since SABS is not dependent on fault, it’s also not dependent on any findings of contributory negligence and therefore will not be affected by any determinations that you bear a percentage of the responsibility for your own injuries.
Determining both fault and contributory negligence are attempts to ensure the burden of paying compensation for an injury are shared as fairly as possible when it comes to which driver’s insurance company will be footing the bill for property damage as well as injury, pain, and suffering. SABS, meanwhile, is a legal requirement that anyone injured in an accident receive a minimum amount of compensation directly from their own insurer.
This means nothing can jeopardize your ability to receive a basic entitlement to SABS benefits when it comes to determinations of fault or contributory negligence. Of course, your opinion on the extent of your injuries and your insurer’s opinion on the same subject can differ wildly, with your insurer typically attempting to lowball you. Again this is why having a lawyer by your side, no matter if you’re at fault, found to be contributorily negligent, or if you’re trying to maximize your SABS entitlement.
How to Manage the Impact of Contributory Negligence on Your Claim
It’s instances like sustaining injuries that would have occurred anyway, such as the example of a bicyclist’s broken arm regardless of whether they were wearing a helmet, that can make the difference when it comes to controlling the impact that contributory negligence has on your personal injury claim. Making distinctions between the types of injury you received and whether your actions truly did contribute to you sustaining those injuries can help reduce the amount of contributory negligence you’re assigned by either the insurance company or the courts, effectively maximizing the compensation you’ll receive for your injuries.
The problem, however, is that so few of us have both the knowledge and the experience to successfully minimize claims of contributory negligence or even defeat them altogether. In this instance, reducing its impact is best left to the professionals. That’s right — in the event that the at-fault party claims that you contributed to your own injuries, it’s crucial that you have a qualified lawyer advocating for your rights and ensuring that contributory negligence is only applied where it’s fair and reasonable.
The idea that not wearing a bike helmet can’t help protect against a broken leg is a clear-cut example of this, and it’s an argument that would be easy for a lawyer to articulate. Other innumerable instances might not be so straightforward, though. Meanwhile, if you are at fault for causing the accident, a good lawyer will be able to point out any instances of contributory negligence on the part of the victim. This, in turn, will act to reduce the compensation you will be required to pay in the end, sometimes by a significant amount.
A Word on Distracted Driving, Fault, and Contributory Negligence
One of the more common causes of accidents today, especially road accidents, is distracted driving. With the advent of mobile connectivity and the global reach of devices like tablets and cell phones, the use of mobile devices plays an increasingly important part of our lives. Unfortunately, this also means that mobile device use has also had a negative effect on our ability to remain focused on road and traffic conditions while driving. The result is that distracted driving, specifically because of mobile devices, has been on the rise in North America. To that end, distracted driving can come into play as a factor either in proving fault, having a role in contributory negligence, or even both in some instances.
Every province in Canada has at least one law on the books regarding distracted driving and/or cell phone use while behind the wheel. Breaking these laws all carry a fine of several hundred dollars, at least three or four demerits, and in some cases even licence suspensions. These penalties are in addition to what you might be liable for in a car accident claim. Proving you weren’t using your phone at the time of an accident can be difficult. It’s often an instance of one person making the claim while the other one denying it, with no real evidence, either way, being present. However, this is where an experienced accident lawyer can once more prove how invaluable they are.
Accident lawyers who have dealt with such issues in the past know the exact procedures to contact your mobile carrier and how to petition them for your phone records. This can reveal if you truly were on the phone at the time of the accident or not if you’re being accused of distracted driving. Such a revelation is something that can benefit you whether you’re accused of being at fault for the accident or if you’re fighting a claim of contributory negligence — and it can also help you avoid fines, demerits, and a suspension as well.
Other Ways to Combat Contributory Negligence and Help Support Your lawyer
Accident lawyers do an incredible job of supporting your position and protecting your rights when it comes to car accident claims. They’ll go the extra mile every time to ensure you come out on top, and that’s irrelevant of what your position is in regards to the other side; your lawyer will work just as hard for you if you’ve been accused of being at fault as they will if you’re the victim and you’re attempting to prove the other party owes you compensation for your injuries. That’s a lawyer’s job — to be your advocate, no matter what.
That being said, there are a number of ways that you can actually improve your lawyer’s ability to represent your interests, either to your insurance company or in a court of law. These methods, many of which require you to take steps before you ever get into an accident, can help minimize the chances that you’ll be accused of contributory negligence and aid in setting the record straight when there are conflicting eyewitness reports or driver’s statements.
In many cases, these actions can result in pivotal evidence coming forward that can either clear you of any wrongdoing, minimize the impact of any negligence on your part, or prove more definitively the extent of the other driver’s responsibilities. These steps include the following:
Vehicle Telemetry Data
Many late-model cars, trucks, and SUVs have complex computer systems running things behind the scenes. If you have a vehicle that’s been built in the past ten to fifteen years or so with capabilities like built-in navigation or similar functions, there’s a good chance it may have the ability to record telemetry data.
Much like the data a black box on an airplane collects, information can include things like rate of speed and acceleration, how hard the brake pedal is depressed, and similar data. This information, if it’s possible to be retrieved from your vehicle, can help support any claims you make about road conditions or how the accident played out. The data from the other vehicle can also disprove any claims the other driver can make.
Like the United States, Great Britain, and other major countries, the chance that you’re being recorded by video cameras while in public spaces in Canada is high. This includes not just highway cameras but also video cameras set up in the storefronts of commercial buildings but also footage from dash cams or even body cameras worn by police and other first responders, though this last instance can be rarer than the others.
While you can’t control whether you get into an accident where there’s a camera already in existence, you can help create an accurate record of events by having a dash cam installed in your own vehicle. Thanks to modern technology these devices are now smaller and more affordable than ever. Just make sure your camera is recording whenever you’re on the road — a lawyer can’t use nonexistent footage to support your case!
Finally, it would be remiss to not mention the role that witness testimony can play in supporting an accident claim in your favour — or in discrediting an argument that you’re at fault for the accident in the first place. Taking down the contact information for anyone that might have seen your accident happen because they were at the scene while it occurred can help your lawyer follow up with these individuals to see if their testimony will ultimately help your case.
When it comes to the ideal type of witness, only the most trustworthy and reliable should be used, especially because the subjective nature of human memory is often a bone of contention during accident claim cases. The best witness is one that independently documented the event somehow. A witness that took pictures or captured video on their smartphone is often the most compelling; your lawyer would know exactly how to leverage such a witness.
We’re often asked a lot of questions about the processes you’ve just read about here — and understandably so! It’s confusing for most folks. Toss in the psychological trauma that can sometimes accompany any kind of accident and even the simplest of things can seem completely overwhelming. That can slow down anyone’s decision-making process and make even the tiniest decisions feel like monumental hurdles.
That’s why we see a lot of the same questions repeatedly. Many of our clients are experiencing the same types of emotions, and have many of the same types of questions. And lets’ face it: is anyone deeply familiar with injury law except the people who’ve made it their career?
So with all this in mind, we’ve put together this Frequently Asked Questions section to help clarify some of the things we’ve covered here. Think of it as a quick reference in case you don’t have time to read through the rest of this guide.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from our past and current injury law clients.
Q: I’ve been in a car accident. Should I get a lawyer, even if it wasn’t my fault?
The first thing to understand is that when a claim is made after an accident, facts are invaluable. Whether you’re making a claim or defending yourself against a claim, facts are what will be used to settle your case.
And this is the first way that an accident lawyer can greatly improve your case for you: collecting facts. Lawyers who can gather the right facts and then interpret them for your case are truly going to be one of the biggest forces working in your favour.
So the answer is yes. An accident lawyer is usually recommended after an accident even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
The insurance company can also gather facts so what you say to them can often hurt your case. A lawyer can prevent this. Remember, many of the things you say may seem innocuous to you but in fact can jeopardize your claim.
Q: What is SABS?
Ontario law provides for a universal compensation system. Designed to provide a safety net for people who are injured in accidents. It’s called the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) and it’s managed by insurance companies. Basically, you are entitled to some support when you’re injured in an accident, regardless of whether or not you’re at fault. It covers three levels of support:
- Minor injuries
- Non-catastrophic injuries
- Catastrophic injuries
SABS applies to anyone who is injured in Ontario and sometimes to residents of Ontario who are injured outside provincial borders. The spirit of the law is this: you are entitled to some financial support even if the accident was your fault.
Q: I was in a car accident and I’m pretty sure it was my fault. Will I be able to make a claim against the other driver?
Well, you are living in lucky times because years ago, the answer would have been “no” and that would be the end of things. Under the current law, it’s no longer the end of the story for people who find themselves in this unfortunate position.
That’s because now we have SABS (see above). In the past, medical bills, recovery time, and lost wages put a hardship on most people who are at fault in a car accident simply because they couldn’t make any kind of claim. Now, however, SABS offers financial assistance.
Q: I was unemployed when I had a car accident. Can I still get SABS?
You’ll be pleased to learn that the answer here is “yes”. Even if you were not working at the time of your accident, SABS provides weekly income. It’s available for all three tiers of injury type (see above). There are some limitations to this benefit, however. The non-earner benefit is limited to 104 weeks and $185 per week at the time of publishing.
You may also qualify for an income replacement benefit provided your worked for 26 out of the last 52 weeks. If you were on Employment Insurance at the time of the accident, you may also qualify. Self-employed people have a different set of rules in order to determine whether they qualify.
Q: How much will I get as the victim of a car accident?
The amount of compensation you will receive as an accident victim will depend on a variety of factors. Consideration will be given to the type of injury you sustained, whether it be physical or psychological or both. However, the type of injury is not the sole consideration to determine how much money you will receive. Rather, the insurance company and more specifically, the Court will look at your level of impairment following the accident and how your injuries impact your ability to work or to perform most of your activities of daily living. The greater the contrast when comparing your level of function from before the accident to after the accident will determine how much you receive for your pain and suffering. Additional amounts can be awarded for your loss of income, both past and future, vocational retraining, future health care expenses, housekeeping or home maintenance expenses, home modifications and various other types of damages. A lawyer will help build these claims in your favour.
The amount of compensation you will receive as the victim of an accident is also determined by the degree to which you had responsibility for the outcome of the accident. This is the concept called contributory negligence, which means even if it wasn’t your fault, you may have borne some responsibility. Maybe you didn’t react quickly to the events leading up to the accident because you were tired. Or maybe you “froze” and didn’t react at all when taking some sort of action would have mitigated your injuries.
So, for example, if you are found to be 40% responsible for your injuries, you will receive 60% of the maximum compensation that was awarded in your case.
Q: What are some examples of contributory negligence?
We understand – contributory negligence is a mouthful and sometimes an example is the best way to illustrate the meaning of legal jargon like this. Here are a few examples of contributory negligence:
- No seat belt. Someone who doesn’t buckle up doesn’t cause a car accident but it sure paves the way for much greater risk of injury. In a case like this, compensation will most definitely be reduced if it has been determined that a victim was not wearing their seatbelt.
- Failure to look before crossing. Drivers who drive to fast in busy areas are breaking the law. When they cause accidents and hit pedestrians, the injuries that those pedestrians sustain can often be severe — if not fatal. Pedestrians are vulnerable on the streets, which is why they should always take care to heed that old warning: “look both ways before crossing”. If it’s found that a pedestrian didn’t check the traffic before crossing the street, they can be found to bear some responsibility for their injuries.
- Traffic violations. If someone crosses the median and crashes into you, the accident was their fault. But if you were speeding at the time of the accident, you may bear contributory negligence for making your injuries worse by speeding.
Q: Are there any preventive measures I can take to improve my chances of defending myself against future accident claims?
Yes, there are a number of things you can do to support any future accident cases you might be involved in. Here are a few:
- Drive a vehicle that records “telemetry data”. If you drive a late-model car, chances are you already have this capability. It’s like the black box that airplanes have and records driving stats and vehicle operation data down to the tiniest detail such as how hard brakes were applied and how fast you were accelerating. A good lawyer will be able to interpret this data to support your claim and help improve the odds of having a successful outcome for your case.
- Body cams, dash cams, and eye witness cell phone videos call all provide visual evidence that may be valuable in your case. There are also more and more security cameras in public areas these days, as well as private street cams in front of businesses who use the to monitor their property. All this footage can be collected by an experienced lawyer, who can then use the evidence to your advantage in a case that has been brought against you.
- Speaking of eyewitnesses, they can help your case, too. The trick is finding them and convincing them to help you. Again, this is what a good lawyer is for. A lawyer who has experience with eyewitnesses can also gauge the efficacy of each individual witness after interviewing them. Not all eyewitnesses are credible and reliable so it’s up to your lawyer to suss out those who will truly be helpful and those who may just be a waste of everyone’s time.
Q: Can an accident lawyer speed up the insurance process?
Yes, accident lawyers are trained to defend your rights not just in the court system or during negotiations with another lawyer but also in cases where you need help defending yourself against your own insurance company. That’s typically what happens when insurance companies try and dispute your valid claim. They often go to great lengths to minimize your payout and you’ll need someone knowledgeable on your side to defend you against their experienced legal team.
Q: Is there a time limit on seeking formal recourse after a car accident?
Good question: yes, there is! This is often a very difficult point for people to comprehend because their lives after an accident are turned upside down. While they’re simply trying to survive or manage their jobs while coping with the mental and physical after-effects of the accident, time can slip by very quickly. That’s a shame since you don’t have forever to seek legal recourse. Ontario law limits the time period during which you can pursue a negligent driver in court to two years.
Q: How does an accident lawyer get paid?
All law firms charge different prices and use different methods for determining their pay rate. However, it’s typically advised to look for a firm that can represent you in an accident case on a contingency fee basis. The means they will get paid after the case has been settled or a verdict has been handed down. Their fee typically comes as a percentage of the settlement amount. If you do not end up getting awarded any money, then the lawyer collects no legal fee from you.
The benefit of choosing a lawyer who works on contingency is that you would pay no money up front and out of pocket during the time that your case is being assembled by the legal team.
Q: How do I know if I have a car accident case?
There’s an easy way to find out whether or not you have a case. Some law firms offer free consultations with no obligation where you can talk to a member of their legal team and find out. You would typically initiate the process by filling out an online form and then have someone from the law firm give you a call at your convenience.
Q: How can I ensure that my responsibility in an accident isn’t exaggerated by the other guy’s lawyer?
You are on the right track with suspecting that there will be opposing forces in your case who would benefit by maximizing your contributory negligence! Here’s where the finest distinction between injury types and probably causes of specific types of injuries sustained in an accident can become distorted by the “other side”. It’s for this reason that an accident lawyer can be helpful. They can make sure the insurance company or the courts don’t assign to you too much blame for the outcome of the accident. In this regard, your lawyer will be not only defending your rights but also maximizing the total award amount that you will receive as compensation for your injuries.
Q: How will I be able to “prove” that I wasn’t using my smartphone while driving?
Sounds like you’re already aware of “distracted driving” laws. And you’re also aware that it sounds like a “he said, she said” kind of situation when comes to saying whether someone was texting while driving just before an accident. And many times it is just that: one side making unsubstantiated claims against the other, with the other side feeling unable to prove a thing.
But again, here’s where an accident lawyer can help. They are experienced with the procedures for extracting the right type of information from mobile carriers about when you were using your phone and how. They know how to petition for your records and to analyze and use the data they receive to defend your case. If you’re being accused of distracted driving, or if you need help with a contributory negligence claim or even when police fines are in question, getting these records can prove to be pivotal for your case.
The Final Word on How Accident Lawyers Are Invaluable
Your life can easily be turned completely upside down if you’ve been involved in a car accident. Whether it’s in the moments right after a collision to weeks, months, or even years down the line, the ramifications that an accident can have on you, your ability to earn a living, and your ability to care and provide for your family could be temporarily or even permanently disrupted.
Fighting to reclaim a semblance of normalcy in the wake of an accident is an uphill battle even in situations where you’re simply dealing with recovering from an injury. However, when you mix in things such as determining fault and examining factors of contributory negligence, this process becomes increasingly complex and stressful. Combined with the typical attitude of car insurance companies that simply want to minimize their exposure to financial risk, it’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to keeping your sanity.
This is why it’s always a good move to seek legal advice from a qualified accident lawyer in the wake of a crash, especially one that resulted in injuries. Accident lawyers with experience in dealing with insurance companies know what it takes to ensure you receive every last penny of your entitled compensation. They know how to build and support your case so that the insurance company understands your claim. A lawyer will use all the tools they have to manage the information gathering surrounding the nature of your accident, ensure that your insurance provider classifies your injuries correctly when paying out on SABS benefits, help show the extent of your fault or contributory negligence to make sure you’re treated fairly by the courts.
Don’t ever feel like you have to go it alone if you’ve been involved in a crash. Talk to a skilled and experienced accident lawyer today.
Contact a Toronto Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today
Upon first glance, it may seem as though the no-fault nature of Ontario’s auto insurance system is designed to ensure that everyone negatively impacted by a vehicle crash receives sufficient resources to fuel their recovery and compensate for their losses. However, all policyholders must bear in mind that insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims they believe to be excessive or abusive in nature, and they will do everything possible to diminish or even deny legitimate benefit amounts whenever possible.
There is absolutely no substitute for the insight and knowledgeable representation only an experienced Toronto motor vehicle accident lawyer can provide. Contact Preszler Law Firm today for a free case review.