Dealing with an injury is a daunting experience, especially following an accident. Unsure of where to begin, many individuals unknowingly lose the chance to pursue financial compensation due to a lack of knowledge. And by the time they do seek to start a claim, lost time may hinder their cause.
For these reasons, it’s important to know the steps you should take following an injury. In legal terms, building a case involves working with a lawyer to identify, gather, and preserve evidence necessary to support your personal injury case. Throughout this piece, we will be outlining what the process of a personal injury case looks like from the immediate steps following the accident to the long-term measures you should prepare for the duration of your case.
While no case is the same, knowledge is and will always be an asset if you choose to pursue damages for an injury. Following these steps may be useful in strengthening your credibility as a plaintiff, and may ultimately end up resulting in a higher settlement.
Without a report, starting a case in the future is far more difficult. Should an accident-related injury worsen in the future – let’s say a year – a report substantiates your claim. It provides you with the documented proof you will need to support and validate the details of the accident.
If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident, report it to the police or a Collision Reporting Centre; for drivers involved in property damage collisions, you must report the accident to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours. Following your report, a police officer will inspect the damage inflicted to your vehicle, while you complete a simplified government collision report that is later evaluated by a police officer. Collision Reporting Centres exist to encourage timely reporting of the collision to an insurance provider and pave the way for the claims process.
If you don’t go through a Collision Reporting Centre, you should report the accident to your insurance company within 7 days.
If you experience a slip and fall at an establishment, report the incident to the store or business right away.
And if you have sustained an injury, report the event to your doctor. The details you disclose will ultimately be recorded in your medical records. By the time a case makes it to litigation, it could be years after the fact, and without proper documentation, you could run into a he said/she said situation.
Although you may not be sure whether or not you wish to make a claim at this point, we still encourage injured individuals to report the incident in order to preserve your limitation period. If you wait to report the accident, and thereby exceed the reporting time limit, it is much more difficult to start a claim.
In line with reporting, you should also be keeping any evidence that pertains to your case. Some pieces of evidence you should think about preserving are photographs (time and date stamped, if possible), videos, and physical evidence.
As an emphasis on the above point, it is absolutely crucial that you report your injuries to your family doctor. A doctor is able to properly examine your injuries, and therefore help you understand what your injuries are, how they may affect your day-to-day life, and what a treatment plan will entail.
Your health comes first, which is why seeking medical help is a crucial step. Furthermore, seeing your doctor is a constant throughout the life of your claim as you follow up on treatments, or as the circumstances around your injuries change. From the day you initiate a lawsuit to the day you go to trial, your legal team needs to know the state of your injuries at all times.
After you receive a diagnosis and corresponding rehabilitation plan, it is in your best interest to follow the medical guidance you receive, not only from your family doctor but also from any specialists or other practitioners you see throughout your treatment.
A family doctor may recommend that you seek care from a variety of specialists, including physiotherapists, psychologists, registered massage therapists, orthopedic surgeons, and occupational therapists, to name a few. Furthermore, a medical professional may recommend you use an assisted device, prosthetics, or other rehabilitation tools. Following sound medical recommendations is important because a plaintiff must show that they are making a significant effort to help themselves; disregarding the advice of a doctor could be damaging to a plaintiff’s credibility.
If however, you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t comfortable with taking medication that is recommended to you, tell your doctor why you have such reservations. Many individuals may refuse medications or treatments due to a variety of reasons, including conflicting medications, undesirable symptoms that may be linked with the prescribed medication, or allergies. If you communicate your concerns with your doctor, they should look into an alternative way to mitigate your injuries. If you are still unable to follow these recommendations due to external circumstances, make sure you are communicating these reasons to your doctor, and that they are being recorded in your medical records.
After you have taken the necessary steps with a medical professional, consider seeking legal counsel from a personal injury lawyer.
If you have suffered from an accident – that has resulted in injuries – a lawyer can act as your guide to getting you the compensation you deserve. No two accidents are the same, and therefore no two cases are the same. Though we can establish important steps to take when pursuing a claim, this advice is not one size fits all. In order to best understand your situation and the financial support you could be entitled to, a lawyer is a person who can accurately evaluate your file as a whole, help determine whether you have a case, and from there, advise your next moves.
If an accident affects your ability to work, you may have to look into resources such as Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits (CPPD), as well as other income benefit resources. These resources may help as you pursue your personal injury case.
As a rule of thumb, it’s important to first utilize the resources already available to you before you seek damages from a tort claim. Showing that you are taking all measures to help yourself is key in establishing your credibility as a plaintiff.
One of the most important things a plaintiff can do is commit to staying updated throughout their case.
Over the span of your case, you will be in contact with your lawyer, your family doctor (and other medical specialists if applicable), as well as your employer if your injuries affect your ability to work. You will constantly be receiving new information; as such, it’s important that you know the changing status of your injuries, your circumstances, etc. For instance, an injury could change drastically over the course of a few months. It could heal, or it could worsen, and either will inevitably affect your life, your job, or your family.
A big part of staying updated is relaying any new information to your lawyer. You never know what could affect your case, which is why you want to always be transparent and detailed when speaking about your situation. For example, you need to keep your employer or school informed of your changing circumstances. If you’re a student who can no longer navigate campus properly, you need to let your school know that you need accessibility accommodations. Another example: maybe you need to modify your work set up due to a leg injury. Or perhaps you need a different workspace because your injury has rendered you sensitive to light. There are a variety of circumstances to consider and must be communicated to those who need the information. Legal cases are built upon an accumulation of evidence and information; the smallest detail could make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
And remember, if you are ever confused about a particular process, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Ultimately, you are responsible for what you know and what you don’t know.
Any document related to your injuries or claim is evidence that can be used to strengthen your case.
Over the course of the lawsuit, try to collect all relevant documents. Relevant documents include anything pertaining to your injury, financial statements, medical prescriptions, employment documents, videos, signed documents, and essentially any other evidence that supports your case. If you have been corresponding with any contacts involved with your case, keep those communications on file – any email, letter, or attachment. Having these documents on hand could alleviate a variety of issues that would otherwise derail your case or credibility. Verbal statements are merely hearsay, while written or digital communications are evidence; saving this information may later help you avoid instances of he said/she said.
Furthermore, ensure you are keeping your documents arranged in chronological order. Establishing a timeline can work very well to your advantage – it keeps your information relevant, organized, and easily accessible. A diary is a useful tool for keeping the details of your case organized, and has proven helpful for many of our clients.
Rather than the last step, this is a guideline that, ideally, should be applied throughout your case. With anything in life, the organization is an asset. From the moment you decide to pursue a case, you should strive to stay as organized as possible to smoothen the entire process and give yourself your best chance.
So what does this mean during a case? What are the actionable steps you take to be organized?
During a case, you will be called to speak and provide information about yourself and the events of the case. Make sure you are staying informed, are ready to answer extensive questioning, and readily know your biographical information. Being prepared and up-to-date will speak to your credibility as a plaintiff or claimant, which will ultimately work in your favour.
Keeping an accurate timeline of events is crucial; evidence and specificity speaks loudly. Additionally, disclosing relevant information to the defence counsel in a timely fashion will go far. In fact, providing important information well in advance has often resulted in higher settlements; processing documents can often take a long time, which is why it pays to get a head start whenever possible.
As you can see, there are a number of steps and general practices an individual can employ to support their personal injury case. If you have suffered from an accident and are looking to pursue compensation, call Gosai Law to learn about your options. We are here to help.