In the age of social media, you may hear many myths and contradictory stories about what it’s like to pursue a personal injury claim. It can be hard to figure out what is true and what is false, which can be distressing if you or a loved one have been involved in an accident.
Unfortunately, car accidents are a daily occurrence on Alberta roads. In a previous blog post, we discussed 10 Myths about Car Accident Claims in Alberta. In this post, we tackle some additional misconceptions people may have about the personal injury claims process in Alberta.
Myth: You must settle your claim within two years.
Reality: To preserve your right to make a personal injury claim, you must file a statement of claim within two years from the date of the accident.
Myth: You can only receive physiotherapy for 90 days
Reality: Only certain injuries are subject to a 90-day limit for treatment. Certain minor sprains/strains and whiplash-associated disorders (sometimes referred to as WADs) fall within the Alberta Diagnostic Treatment Protocols Regulation. For injuries that fall within the protocol, the insurer is directly billed for physiotherapy treatments. The protocol expires 90 days after the accident occurred. You can receive physiotherapy for more than 90 days if your injuries do not fall within the protocol or your treatment providers determine that further treatment is necessary. However, you may have to pay out-of-pocket and seek reimbursement. Any extended health benefits you have may help cover the cost.
Myth: You can only receive a maximum of 21 physiotherapy treatments
Reality: Twenty-one physiotherapy treatments are the maximum number of treatments available if your injury falls within the Diagnostic Treatment Protocols Regulation. You may receive more than 21 physiotherapy treatments if your injuries are outside the protocol or if your treatment providers determine that you require further treatment, but again you may have to pay out-of-pocket and seek reimbursement.
Myth: Hiring an injury lawyer is too expensive
Reality: Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. This means they receive a percentage of any money you recover for your claim to cover legal fees and disbursements. Disbursements are costs associated with things like the preparation of medical expert reports and fees paid on your behalf to file court documents. In a contingency fee situation, you usually do not have to pay any money upfront to hire a lawyer. You should ask any lawyer you consider hiring to explain their contingency fee agreement.
Myth: Hiring a lawyer will mean it takes longer to settle, and you will come away with less money
Reality: Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, so they only get paid a percentage of your claim if you recover money. It is important to remember that an experienced personal injury lawyer has knowledge on how to move claims through the process efficiently. They will also be adept at negotiating settlements with adjusters and insurance lawyers and may be instrumental in getting you a settlement or award that properly reflects the totality of your injuries and losses. How long getting to a settlement takes has less to do with having a lawyer than things like the nature of your injuries and whether liability issues are in dispute.
Myth: You will have to go to court to get compensation
Reality: Most personal injury matters settle without going to court. Hiring a lawyer who is experienced in negotiating personal injury claims can make the process of obtaining compensation smoother and can assure you are offered a fair settlement for your injuries. A personal injury lawyer also understands the processes that need to occur and time limits applicable to personal injury claims and can navigate them for you to make sure none of your rights are lost or compromised along the way.
Myth: You can only get compensation for physical injuries
Reality: In the past, claims focused on the physical injuries a person sustained in an accident. Courts now recognize that accidents can lead to significant psychological consequences as well, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, and have awarded damages for those consequences. An experienced personal injury lawyer will obtain the medical evidence necessary to support claims related to both your physical and psychological injuries.
In addition, you or your family members may suffer other losses related to an inability to earn income, to engage in normal household tasks, or to provide the same level of support and companionship that existed before the accident. All of these types of losses are compensable injuries that you can pursue as part of your claim.
Myth: You don’t need a lawyer for minor injury claims
Reality: Even for a minor injury claim, hiring a lawyer may simplify the process and assist in resolving your claim for appropriate compensation. It is also important to remember that sometimes the severity of your injuries may not be immediately obvious. While there is a minor injury cap for damages (see our blog post Alberta Minor Injury Cap – Update 2023 for detailed information), the cap may not apply to your circumstances, and it does not apply to all damages you might have incurred, such as loss of income or out-of-pocket expenses. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help assess your unique situation and injuries and help determine if the cap applies.
Myth: A personal injury claim will take years to be resolved
Reality: As mentioned above, how long it takes to resolve a personal injury claim can depend on many factors, but the most important are the severity of your injuries and the length of your recovery. It is critical to have a complete understanding of the scope of the injuries you have suffered and your future prognosis so that your claim can be properly assessed and compensated.
However, this doesn’t mean that your claim can’t be resolved more quickly if your injuries are less severe or if a medical diagnosis is relatively uncomplicated. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you may also be able to navigate the process more efficiently.
Myth: You can’t get a lawyer once you’ve started talking to an adjuster
Reality: You may hire a lawyer at any time, even if you have started talking to an adjuster. Once you have hired a lawyer, the lawyer will communicate directly with the adjuster on your behalf.
Myth: You can’t change lawyers
Reality: You are entitled to representation of your choice. That means you can change lawyers at any stage of the process. Your new lawyer and your former lawyer will work out the details related to the transfer of your file, including any medical evidence or reports already received, and what compensation will be payable to your former lawyer.
You may also find it helpful to review our answers to other Frequently Asked Questions.
CAM LLP – Experienced Car Accident Injury Lawyers
Being involved in a car accident can cause many distressing changes in your life. Having the right counsel to guide you through the legal steps involved in seeking compensation for your injuries can make the process easier. If you have questions about your claim, contact one of our experienced lawyers at CAM LLP today for a free consultation to discuss your claim.