What should I do if I've been in a car accident?

Being in a car accident can be scary and confusing. Most people aren't experienced with what to do. After seeking medical attention, if you're able to, you should get the names and insurance information of any other drivers. You need to report the car accident to police if anyone is injured or if property damage is significant. Within the next day or two you should report the car accident to your insurance company and visit your family doctor if you are injured.

What compensation am I entitled to if I suffer injuries in a car accident?

You are entitled to claim compensation for all your losses. What would you have earned that you can't but for your injuries? What have you spent out of pocket that you wouldn't but for your injuries? The compensation should attempt to put you back in the same position that you would have been in if the accident did not happen.

Accident benefits (also known as "section B" benefits) are intended to provide immediate help, including payment for lost wages and medical expenses. They are paid to you regardless of who is at fault for the car accident.

Regardless of how the accident happened and who is at fault, you are entitled to make an accident benefit claim against your insurer or the insurer of another vehicle involved.

If the accident was caused by the fault of another driver you can make a separate claim against that person and his insurer. This is known as the tort claim. Generally you may be able to claim money for pain and suffering and all past and future monetary losses and expenses. 

The insurance company told me that I don't need a lawyer. Is this right?

Insurance companies don't have your interest at heart. Your lawyer will. You should always speak with a personal injury lawyer if you've been injured in an accident. Most of these consultations are free. They will know if a settlement offer is reasonable. Experience in helping injured people give them insight into your particular needs. They may be able to help you with referrals to medical professionals.

To get a fair settlement that accounts for all your losses, or to bring a claim in court, you will most likely need an injury lawyer to help you. Even if no one is at fault, you may be entitled to certain "no fault" benefits. An experienced injury lawyer can help ensure you are paid the proper amount.

Should I provide a statement to my insurance company?

No. This is usually not required for you to receive benefits or compensation. You should not provide a statement to your insurance company without first speaking to a lawyer.

The insurance company told me that my injury claim is "capped". What does this mean and is it true?

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI have a cap on general damages for injuries that are considered "minor". It is important to know that this cap does not apply to monetary damages like loss of income. It also only applies to car accidents, not to personal injury claims such as slip and falls, assaults, and injuries resulting from product defects.

If the insurance company is saying your injury is "minor", it is very important that you contact a personal injury lawyer. Injuries of any kind, that affect your employment or activities of daily living are not capped. 

Do I have to accept what the insurance company offers for my injury claim?

It is in the best interest of the insurance company to settle the claim as quickly as possible. By accepting an offer from the insurance company the case is considered closed and you run the risk of releasing them from paying what you fully deserve. Before agreeing to settle your claim, you should always speak to a lawyer and make sure that you are adequately informed of your rights.

How soon after an accident or loss should I contact a lawyer?

Most claims have strict timelines wherein documents must be sent or filed. Because of this it is wise to consult a lawyer immediately after an accident or insurance denial to ensure that time deadlines are not missed.

Why should I speak with a lawyer who specializes in injury claims? Can't I just see the lawyer who drafted my will or the one who helped me sell my house?

Changes in legislation and developments in caselaw have made Canadian law much more complex in recent years. It is very important to the success of your case that you consult with a lawyer who has the proper knowledge and experience in dealing with the field of your inquiry. Injury law is no different. Experience and expertise matter and can make all the difference. 

I have become disabled as a result of my accident. How can I get help paying my bills?

This is particularly troubling, especially if you have a family. If you have sustained an injury and cannot work, it is important that you focus on your recovery so you can hopefully get back to work as soon as possible. Financial stress no doubt makes the situation much worse. Fortunately there are some that may be able to help you and your family through the difficult time. For example you may be entitled to:

  • Income Replacement Benefits from your insurance company ("section B")
  • Short-term or long-term disability benefits through your employer or private insurance company.
  • Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you access all of the assistance that is potentially available to you.

Does hiring a lawyer mean my case will go to trial?

Hiring a lawyer does not mean your case will go to trial. An experienced, competent injury lawyer typically settles all of his or her cases outside of the courtroom. Reputation matters. A skilled and respected trial lawyer will generally be able to settle for a higher amount.

How do I prove negligence?

On the surface it sounds easy. Someone is negligent if they don't meet, act or behave like a reasonable person concerned about the safety of others. However it is often more complex than this. The burden of proof in a tort case, as in most civil law cases, is lower than the proof required in criminal law cases. To win a personal injury lawsuit based on tort law, the plaintiff need only prove that the evidence shows that an injury was caused because the defendant likely didn't act reasonably.  This standard of proof is called "the preponderance of the evidence." The different burdens of proof between criminal and civil cases mean that a person or company might be acquitted of criminal charges stemming from its actions, but be found liable in a civil lawsuit stemming from the same actions.

How long will it take to settle my case?

This is a difficult question to answer because every case is unique. The timeframe often depends on the nature and complexity of your case. After reviewing the specific facts of your case, a lawyer should be able to provide you with some estimate of how long your case will take to resolve.