The adage “accidents happen” unfortunately rings true: without warning and when you least expect it, you or a loved one may find yourselves faced with injuries, financial loss, and other consequences flowing from a motor vehicle collision, a slip and fall, or other accident caused by someone else’s negligence.
Your immediate need in these situations is for medical care and support to help you with your physical recovery, particularly if your accident was a serious one. At the same time, there will be other issues to deal with – insurance claims, for example, as well as determinations of liability for the accident, and financial compensation that you may be owed for injuries that it caused. To help you navigate these issues, the guidance of good legal counsel can be invaluable.
The decision about who to hire to represent you is an important one. How should you go about finding the right lawyer for your claim?
Starting your Search
Recommendations and referrals can be a great way to locate a lawyer who might be able to help you. You may find a good recommendation by asking around among friends, family, or people in your community.
If you don’t have a personal connection, or you are referred to someone but need more information to decide whether that person is a good fit for your case, a basic internet search should be your next step. Using search terms like “personal injury lawyer” coupled with the type of injury you have (“ head injury,” “spinal cord injury”, “back injury” etc.) should provide you with a list of law firms you can review. Be aware that Google will serve up local search results as the search engine algorithm assumes you are looking for firms that are close by. So, if you are looking for a lawyer in a specific place, you may want to add the geographic location (e.g., Edmonton, Fort St. James, Calgary).
Established firms will have websites that provide information about the background and experience of their lawyers and the types of claims and injuries they handle. You may also find helpful information about what to expect about the claims process and your type of injury. The law firm website may also include testimonials from clients who have used their services, or your may find other online reviews that can help you identify lawyers with proven experience or a client-focussed work ethic.
For example, all of our lawyers have extensive experience with personal injury claims but also experience previously as defence lawyers in these types of claims, giving them a very helpful perspective in dealing with injury claims. You will see on our website and on Google reviews many excellent reviews and testimonials from clients we have served in the past recommending our lawyers to others. As well, we handle claims involving all types of injuries and for any geographic location in Alberta.
What Questions Should You Ask?
The first time you speak with a lawyer, there will be many things you will want to know to help you decide whether to engage him or her to represent you. Whether this first conversation is in person, online, or by phone, making a list of your questions ahead of time can help you collect the information relevant to your decision.
Here are some topics to cover during your first conversation with your potential legal counsel.
Look for the Right Experience
We have previously discussed the qualities that make a good personal injury lawyer in this post – things like trustworthiness, compassion, thorough preparation, and the skills and determination to really champion your rights. It is also critical –particularly if you have suffered a serious injury – to find a lawyer who has experience dealing with claims for your type of injury.
Injury claims are not one-size-fits-all. Just as different injuries require different medical care, so too different injuries present different legal problems. For example, if your accident caused you serious head trauma or a spinal cord injury, you will want to work with someone who is able to understand your complex medical issues and has experience dealing with medical evidence and the kinds of specialized professionals involved in treatment for that type of injury.
In addition, there may be different legal considerations at play depending on the severity and duration of your injury, and different types of damages to evaluate. A lawyer who has worked with people in situations similar to yours will be able to understand the challenges and losses you are facing. They will also be in a better position to connect you to the recovery resources that you need and put forward a well-developed case aimed at securing appropriate compensation.
Ask Questions About the Injury Claims Process
It is common to picture courtroom trials when you think about pursuing a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. However, in Alberta most accident claims are resolved through settlement negotiations. In fact, this is often the preferred outcome. Settlements offer a number of advantages over a trial – for example, they are likely to be less costly and can provide resolution more quickly, which allows you to get back to focussing on your recovery and the rest of your life. When picking your lawyer, ask potential candidates about their negotiating experience.
To enter settlement discussions with confidence, look for a lawyer who has experience with the process and can explain what types of evaluations and preparations need to be done to assess the strength of your case ahead of time. Settlement is typically the result of much back and forth between the parties, or it may result from a mediation or arbitration process. You should feel comfortable with the lawyer’s communication style and having this person speak on your behalf. Whatever route you end up taking, your lawyer should have the skills to guide you through each step of the process, advise you of your rights and options, and advocate on your behalf throughout.
In addition, as part of reaching a settlement, especially in cases with high damage awards, it may be desirable to set up a payout scheme designed to address tax considerations, manage a large capital fund, or otherwise protect the settlement from depletion. If you have serious injuries that could generate a significant damage award, you may want to be sure to choose a lawyer with experience in these matters or who can put you in touch with financial professionals who can help you with these issues.
Our lawyers have the experience in the areas described above and would be pleased to assist you with your claim.
Ask About Fees
An important question you will want to ask is how much it may cost to pursue your claim. Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency. That means you pay nothing upfront to start your lawsuit. In a contingency fee arrangement, instead of charging by the hour, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the total amount of your damages award or settlement. This usually means that legal fees are dependant on obtaining a successful outcome to your claim. Contingency fees therefore are generally not payable unless and until you obtain a judgment or settlement. Some law firms require you to cover ongoing expenses and disbursements incurred by your lawyer as your case progresses so be sure to ask about this so there are no surprises. At CAM LLP we do not do this. Instead we cover all expenses and disbursements until the matter is settled. That way our clients are not burdened with additional expenses while they are trying to focus on recovery.
Ask What Compensation you can Expect to Receive
The lawyer you speak to should be able to explain the standard (no fault) accident benefits you are entitled to under your Alberta motor vehicle insurance policy. They should also be able to advise you on whether your injury might be affected by the Alberta Minor Injury Regulation (“MIR”). The MIR caps general damages payable for minor injuries. For more information on the “cap” review our post: Alberta Minor Injury Cap – Update 2023.
In terms of other damages that may be available, don’t be surprised if you don’t get a precise answer, particularly if your injury is serious. Your lawyer should be able to explain the factors that go into calculating compensation. But, they should also caution you that meaningful estimates will need to wait until your injuries resolve to a point where your doctor can say with confidence that you are fully recovered or your recovery has plateaued (you are unlikely to get any better). Once it’s clear that your injuries have resolved as much as they are going to, then more accurate calculations and estimates of compensation can take place. Since it is impossible to predict exactly how your case will unfold, the lawyer’s experience with similar files may allow them to estimate a range that may apply.. For more information review our post: How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth.
At CAM LLP, our lawyers have many years of experience working with accident victims suffering from a wide range of injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury and are looking for an experienced and caring personal injury lawyer, please CONTACT our office for a free consultation.