Contingency fees, explained

What is a contingency fee?

Contingency fee arrangements play an important role in the Canadian civil justice system. If you’ve researched personal injury lawyers in Ontario, you’re likely familiar with the term: contingency fee arrangements stipulate that lawyers will not receive payment until their client’s case has been successfully resolved.

Despite their prominent place in the legal system contingency fees are controversial and were prohibited in Canada until October 2004. Some critics believe contingency fees encourage lawsuits; others wonder whether personal injury lawyers should have a financial stake in the success of their clients’ disputes. Historically, contingency fees were banned in England, Scotland, Wales, and Canada due to the principle of ‘champerty and maintenance’: that strangers to a dispute should not fund legal costs as an investment for future rewards, according to a recent Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) article. In some jurisdictions, including the Australian state of New South Wales, contingency fees are still banned.

The OTLA and the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) allow contingency fees based on the belief that they expand access to justice. The decision to permit them in 2004 was motivated in large part by the legal relationship between motor vehicle accident victims and insurance companies. Prior to the decision, plaintiffs were at an acute disadvantage in legal disputes involving complex issues – very few Canadians have access to the resources necessary to fund a lengthy legal battle with an insurance provider. The new rules allowed personal injury lawyers to take on complicated, arduous cases without accepting payment at the outset.

So, how exactly do contingency fees work? Simply: the client agrees that their lawyer will recover a percentage of the final settlement or award as payment. The percentage depends on the complexity of the case but should not exceed 50 per cent; the LSO prohibits lawyers from recovering more from the settlement than their clients.

Complex personal injury lawsuits are expensive to pursue. Contingency fees allow lawyers to work without cost restrictions; encourage lawyers to secure the maximum reasonable compensation for their clients; and allow the client to fund their recovery without the financial burden of simultaneously funding a lawsuit. Will Davidson LLP’s team of Oakville personal injury lawyers offers contingency fee arrangements for complex cases and believes the system provides improved access to justice for Ontario’s most vulnerable injury victims.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team will assess the validity of your claim and provide guidance throughout the legal process.

Holiday Season Brings More Car Accidents

Holiday Season Brings More Car Accidents

A study done by All State Insurance shows that in the past 20 years, most car accidents have happened on three days: December 21, 22 and 23. The study counted insurance claims for car accidents in 50 separate communities in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick.

 A separate Global News study showed that December 23 is the worst day for car accidents in Toronto. An interesting chart showing the average amount of car accidents each day for 2001-2011 can be found here.

 

police at car accident scene
In Toronto, pedestrians accounted for almost 2/3 of all car accident fatalities in 2013.

Data for car accidents occurring on December 23 in Toronto shows that the top locations for car accidents were Scarborough Town Centre and Dufferin Mall. If you include the rest of the week, the top locations for car accidents also include Yorkdale Mall, Sherway Gardens and Fairview Mall.

Why the spike in car accidents? Clearly there is a link between last minute holiday shopping, rushing and car accidents. Other possible reasons include more people on the roads visiting friends and family, as well as poor weather conditions typical of the winter months.

In 2013, there were 63 total car accident fatalities in Toronto. Of those car accident fatalities, 40 were pedestrians, 7 were drivers, 7 were motorcyclists, 5 were passengers and 4 were cyclists. On a positive note, only 3 car accidents were attributable to drinking and driving.

The car accident fatality rate for Toronto is 2.26 deaths per 100,000 people, which is lower than Edmonton (3.30), Winnipeg (3.12), Ottawa (3.10), Calgary (2.86), Vancouver (2.85), Hamilton (2.62) and Montreal (1.76).

A large part of our practice is representing the families of loved ones that have been killed in car accidents while walking, jogging, running or cycling. More people have died on Canada’s roadways due to car accidents in the past 50 years than the number of Canadian soldiers killed in both world wars.

If a loved one has been died in a pedestrian or bicycle car accident, it is important that you contact a specialized lawyer immediately. The laws concerning pedestrian and cyclist fatalities due to car accidents and auto insurance are quite complex. For example, the Highway Traffic Act tells us the rules of the road and how to obey those rules, however, they do not mandate for or against pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled intersections. Also, when a pedestrian is hit by a car, the law imposes a reverse onus, meaning the driver must prove that he or she was not at all negligent – at all. Every motorist has a duty to be observant of the conditions surrounding them while operating their vehicle and this duty includes keeping a lookout for pedestrians. When the driver of a car ignores safety, there is negligence.

There are also certain issues that a specialized lawyer will be able to assist you with. There may be certain financial benefits available to a person who was hit or killed in a car accident to cover death and funeral costs. There is also the availability of a wrongful death claim which would seek compensation to all eligible surviving family members entitled to financial compensation and recovery for their loss. There may also be death and funeral benefits that a family may be entitled to, as well as financial income losses to help compensate the surviving spouse or child for financial losses they suffer due to increased family responsibilities or perhaps even the loss of a dual family income. Our Oakville car accident lawyers can provide you the specialized representation you need to bring claims for pedestrian or cyclist fatalities due to car accidents. Please contact us for a free consultation.

To see an old post about car accident statistics in Toronto, please click HERE.

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Please contact our law firm for representation in car accidents.

New Developments in Personal Injury Cases: Fitbit Now Being Used to Prove Personal Injury Losses

New Developments in Personal Injury Cases

 Proving Damages in Personal Injury Matters Using “Fitbit”

fitbit tracker
Source: www.fitbit.com

 In Calgary, new developments in personal injury law permit personal injury lawyers to prove their client’s claims with quantifiable data.

Fitbit, a popular fitness tracker, is being used by a Calgary law firm to show a client’s diminished physical activity levels in a personal injury claim. The client was a personal trainer who suffered injuries that prevent her from being as active as she used to be. This is apparently the first time that Fitbit data will be used in a personal injury case in Canadian court, or any other case for that matter.

What does this mean for personal injury law? A more quantifiable way to prove a client’s loss due to personal injury. However, it also means that insurers may attempt to get orders for the production of this information from Fitbit’s owner, Vivametrica, in order to show that a plaintiff did not in fact suffer the personal injury to the extent they alleged.

Read more about this interesting development in personal injury law here.

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury, whether it be from a car accident, slip and fall, or any other cause,  you have legal rights.

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Please contact our Oakville personal injury law firm for more information about bringing a claim for personal injury damages and scheduling a free consultation.

Wicked Winter Ahead: Safety Tips for Preventing Car Accidents

Winter is coming and with it, an increased risk of car accidents

Holiday season is fast approaching, and with it, winter weather and more car accidents.

Car accidents are common sights on our roadways during the winter. In an effort to reduce car accidents, we’ve put together this list of tips to keep you safe this winter.

 
tire on the snow

 

1. Check coolant levels: Coolant is responsible for making sure the engine warms up properly. Many people are unaware that coolant should be changed every two years. Reduce your risk of getting into car accidents by keeping proper levels of coolant in your vehicle.

2. Warm-up your car: Letting your car idle for a minute after starting allows fluids to move throughout the engine, ensuring that it is protected. This too can prevent car accidents.

 3. Check and change your tires: Winter snow tires should be placed on cars when the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius. Winter snow tires are important for preventing slippage on ice and snow, a major cause of winter car accidents. Check your tires for wear, as worn down treads increase the risk of car accidents.

4. Keep your speed down: While it’s always important to drive cautiously to prevent car accidents, in the winter it’s important to drive at an appropriate speed given the weather conditions. Speed is a leading cause of car accidents. Never use cruise control and accelerate with caution.

5. Keep ice off: Keep a window scraper and brush in your car to keep your windows clear of ice and snow. You may also want to consider keeping a small shovel in your trunk in the case your car becomes stuck in a snow bank. Snow and ice on the windshield, mirrors and windows can cause car accidents.

6. Keep your fuel tank full: In the unfortunate case you end up getting into one of the many car accidents that will happen this winter or other situation where you are stranded, having extra fuel in the tank can keep you idling and warm for hours.

7. Don’t be distracted: Texting and driving is a leading cause of car accidents anytime of the year, so put down the phone to lower your risk of car accidents. Nothing is as important as the safety of you and your passengers.

Claims for Car Accidents

Every driver in Ontario is required by law to have an automobile insurance policy in the case that they are involved in car accidents . If you have been injured in a car accident or multiple car accidents, you have legal rights to sue the at-fault driver. Contact our Oakville personal injury and car accidents law firm for more information and a free consultation about your claim. The statute of limitations to start a law suit, including car accidents lawsuits, is two years from the date of the car accident. If you miss this limitation period, you will not be able to bring a claim for injuries sustained in the car accident or car accidents. Our Contact our Oakville law firm respecting car accidents.
 

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When Poor Road Conditions Cause Car Accidents: What You Can Do

Poor road conditions, potholes and prevention

Have you been in a car accident caused by poor road conditions?

Poor road conditions cause up to 10% of car accidents.

Pothole Dufferin St Toronto
Pothole on Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario

While 90% of car accidents are caused by driver error, the other 10% are caused by poor road conditions such as potholes, erosion, shoulder drop-offs, missing guardrails, lack of maintenance and bad design. These accidents can cause car damage, serious personal injury and even death. In situations where poor road conditions led to a car accident, who is responsible?

In Ontario, responsibility for road conditions is shared between municipalities and the province. Municipalities are responsible for maintaining city streets. The Province of Ontario is responsible for maintaining provincial highways, such as the 400-series highways (401, 400, QEW, etc.) and smaller numbered highways (11, 35, 169, etc.). Provinces and municipalities are permitted to hire agencies and contractors to maintain roads and deal with poor road conditions. If your car was damaged or you suffered personal injury as a result of poor road conditions, it may be possible to bring a claim again the entities the city or province hired to complete the maintenance as well.

If you were involved in a car accident caused by poor road conditions a number of elements will have to be proven in order for liability to be found:

  1. First, it will be essential to show that the poor road conditions actually caused damage to the car and/or personal injury. In doing so, any arguments that the driver’s poor driving or other condition (such as weather) caused the accident will have to be dispelled.
  2. Second, it must be shown that the municipality or province (or the agency they hired) had a duty to maintain the road in question and keep it safe.
  3. Third, you must demonstrate that the municipality, province and/or agency were negligent in preventing and/or dealing with poor road conditions and maintaining the road. In some situations, it may also be incumbent on the plaintiff to show that the municipality, province and/or agency had a duty to warn drivers of poor road conditions where they presented a danger to drivers.

If you are considering suing a municipality, province or agency for damages for personal injury or damage to your vehicle due to poor road conditions, is very important to remember that there is a two year limitation period within which you must bring your claim. The two year limitation period generally starts on the day the car accident occurred. After this two-year period is up, you will not be permitted to make a personal injury claim.

One way we can all make the roads safer for everyone is to report poor road conditions to the municipality or province, as the case may be. Most municipalities have a 311 number people can call to report poor road conditions such as potholes, missing guard rails and road erosion. When calling about a pothole, be prepared to give the exact location of the pothole and a description of it. You can also report potholes to your local CAA branch or online at their website.

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury or damage to a vehicle in a car accident where poor road conditions are a factor, please contact our Oakville personal injury law firm for more information about personal injury sustained due to poor road conditions.

 If you’re curious, here are the Top 10 Worst Roads in Ontario (2014), according to a CAA poll:

  1. Dufferin Street (Toronto)
  2. Stanley Avenue (Niagara Falls)
  3. Kipling Avenue (Toronto)
  4. Finch Avenue West (Toronto)
  5. Burlington Street East (Hamilton)
  6. Bayview Avenue (Toronto)
  7. Carling Avenue (Ottawa)
  8. Markham Road (Toronto)
  9. Lawrence Avenue East (Toronto)
  10. Wilson Avenue (Toronto)

Source: CAA

 

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Have you been hit by a city streetcar or bus?

Have you suffered a personal injury in an accident with a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit, Brampton Transit or other city streetcar or bus?

TTC City Bus

If you were involved in an accident that resulted in personal injury with a vehicle owned and operated by a city, such as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit or Brampton Transit, you may have legal rights to seek financial compensation for your injuries. The legal process may seem daunting, but with the help of our personal injury law firm, you can get the just and fair compensation which you deserve. 

A personal injury lawyer can help you to understand your legal rights and the complicated process of obtaining financial compensation for a personal injury sustained due to an accident with a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit, Brampton Transit and/or other city streetcar or bus. Depending on the type of personal injury and your role in the accident, you may be entitled to statutory accident benefits coverage, which provides financial compensation for your personal injury. You may also have a civil personal injury tort claim against the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit, Brampton Transit or other city agency involved in the accident. A lawyer at our personal injury law firm will be able to give you more information about your legal rights to compensation for your injury.

If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury due to a collision with a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit or Brampton Transit city vehicle, please contact our personal injury law firm for a free consultation if you would like more information on your legal rights against the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Oakville Transit, Mississauga Transit or Brampton Transit.  You may have legal rights due to your personal injury.

 

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Taking on big companies in big ways!

Class actions vs. Mass Tort Litigation

judge gavelThere are many reasons why class actions may commence. The basic reason is that a group of people have all been harmed in a similar way. This could be, but not necessarily,  as a result of product, company, or environmental issues. All of these may require a class action or mass tort litigation for those impacted to receive compensation.

 

When a person purchases something, whether for medical reasons or simply “just because”, there is a certain trust we as consumers have that the product will not be defective. On many occasions, a defective product is not the end of the world. One may simply need to call the company and request a new product. On the other hand, there are times when a defective product can cause serious health, economic and psychological issues, in which the consumer deserves compensation accordingly, which is when a class action or mass tort litigation action may be necessary. A class action or mass tort litigation action can arise when it is not only one consumer that has been impacted by the defective product.

One of Will Davidson’s defective product experiences is with allegedly defective pelvic mesh devices, where hundreds of plaintiffs have come forward with claims. Will Davidson had to decide the best way to proceed for their clients and the claimants of this action. Therefore, the following is an important question: What is the difference between a class action and mass tort litigation?

In class actions, the plaintiffs involved need to fall under a strict “commonality” requirement, amongst other things. Remember that class actions are tried together-as one. An example of the consequences of this, is the following: When a settlement is paid out, it is split between the parties. Therefore, you may not get as much as you feel fair in class actions. In class actions, all plaintiffs are in it together and there are many restrictions and court proceedings that need to be followed to ensure a proper class action. Despite the complications, certification, which is the ability to begin a class action, is a lot less difficult in Canada than it is in the States. This is a positive reason to proceed under this umbrella.

Mass Tort Litigation: Mass tort litigation allows for individuality. The commonality requirement is not there as it is in class actions. Defective products, although they might injure many people, may not cause the exact injury and therefore, a commonality requirement is difficult to satisfy. This is one of the positive reasons why one should proceed under mass tort litigation.

In the end, individual circumstances are the deciding factor as to whether a case proceeds in a class action or individually with mass tort litigation. As courts get more and more comfortable with these types of cases, either the class action route or the mass tort litigation route, may come out as the winner. Despite the “newness” of these types of class action legal proceedings in Canada, do not be afraid to take on who you need to, to get the compensation you deserve! If you have sustained personal injury from a defective product, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm to find out about your legal rights.

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The Dreaded Pothole Situation

Car Accidents and Potholes

They seem to be everywhere. They cause bumps, delays and even car accidents. What are they? They are the dreaded potholes.

After the winter we have just had, it seems that the pothole situation is at an all-time high. They are causing damage to vehicles and causing car accidents if someone loses control when hitting a pothole.

If your car has been damaged in an accident caused by a pothole, or simply by the pothole itself, what are your avenues to seek compensation for such damage from the accident? Can you hold the municipality responsible for any damage that was caused to your vehicle due to a pothole? It is important to understand the standard of care for a municipality as it relates to potholes and any damage to vehicles or accidents potholes may cause.

Justice Leach of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice spoke to this issue in the recent decision of McLeod v. General Motors of Canada Limited et al., 2014 ONSC 134. This case was about a young woman who was driving her vehicle on a country gravel road when she lost control of her vehicle and had a car accident due to potholes on the road. She sustained serious and life-threatening injuries as a result of the car accident. The young woman began an action against the rural municipality.

Justice Leach determined that the action should be dismissed. This means that the municipality would not be held responsible for the accident caused by the potholes. For the municipality to be responsible, certain things must transpire. They are the following:

Potholes

  1. Official Complaints to the Municipality should be made.

This does not mean complaining around your city or town, but actually submitting formal complaints to the municipality about the potholes.

  1. The condition of the road must be in a state of disrepair.

A road that is in a reasonable condition, does not count! For instance, a gravel road is expected to have bumps and holes and thus it is not in a state of disrepair.

Additionally, these two points have to coincide. What this means is, even if the road is in disrepair, the municipality can rely on the defence that it had no knowledge of the defect and thus it is not held responsible for any accident.  The municipality has the responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent the defect from arising by having regular systems of grading and it must meet the minimum standards of inspection and pothole repair. If it does these things, it may not be held responsible for any accident and/or damage that may occur as a result of potholes.

Potholes are going to continue to be the bane of many peoples’ existence. They are something that we all have to live with, however they should be fixed as soon as reasonably possible by the municipality. You have the responsibility to avoid dangerous accident-causing situations, if possible and you must make formal and detailed complaints about potholes, so that if any damage occurs because that pothole has not been reasonably fixed, you will have avenues of recourse!

If you have sustained personal injury from an accident or car accident, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm to find out about your legal rights.

 

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Are you a Victim of a Hit and Run Accident?

Victim of a Hit and Run Accident? You Have Legal Options!

Picture this: You are driving your bicycle along the street carefully and prudently. You are using your hand signals and watching your surroundings. Despite this, a car comes behind you and strikes your bike causing you to have an accident. Even if the car only clips you, your balance is thrown off and you fall from your bicycle. An accident has happened.  Now picture another scenario: You are driving your car down the street carefully and prudently. You are using proper signals and watching your surroundings. Despite this, another vehicle strikes your car causing you to spin out of control and have an accident. These two accident scenarios I am putting forth have something in common: The vehicle that struck the cyclist and other motorist causing an accident, has fled the scene. Not only has the vehicle fled the scene, but the driver is never heard from again. This is not an uncommon situation, especially in busy cities such as Toronto.

As the victim in situations such as these, what are you to do? How are you expected to get compensation for any injuries that were sustained due to the hit and run accident?

When the other vehicle sticks around, usually it would be the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident that would be brought to court. However, if it is impossible for this to occur, the victim of the accident is forced to bring a claim forward against their own insurance company. The problem is, just because they are your own insurance company, it does not mean that they will easily compensate you for your injuries that you sustained in the accident. They become the Defendant in the case and you are the Plaintiff, thus you are put into an adversarial relationship with one another.

One of the major issues in cases such as these comes when there is a question of liability. Liability concentrates on who was at fault for the accident and how did it occur. A real situation occurred when a woman was driving her bicycle in Toronto and was struck by a car before it fled the scene, a witness also saw this accident happen. Despite the eye-witness, it would maybe be difficult to prove that she was indeed struck by a car causing the accident or if her wheels got caught in the streetcar tracks causing the accident. This issue with liability, does not necessarily mean you will not be compensated for your injuries, and you certainly always have the right to proceed to trial, but it may impact how much you’re awarded. It brings a risk factor, that would not necessarily be there if the unknown vehicle driver stayed at the scene and admitted to striking the cyclist.

It is for these reasons, that is important to have your lawyer bring forth all of the evidence, including your expertise as a cyclist and the eye-witness report, forward so that a settlement can be made in your favor or a judge or  jury will understand what really happened and you can be compensated for your injuries and other damages caused as a result  of the accident. When  hit and run occurs, cases can become difficult. However, do not think that just because there is no individual that you can bring a claim against, that you have no legal options to pursue…You do.

hit and run accidentIf you or a loved one has sustained personal injury from a hit and run accident, or other type of accident, not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm about your legal rights.

 

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Accident Benefits Denials 101

Accident benefits being denied? You can do something about it!

Denied DocumentIf you have been in a car accident you may apply for and receive accident benefits. Accident benefits can be in the form of income replacement benefits or a caregiver benefit, but accident benefits also can help with medical costs, treatments and attendant care costs. The insurance company will pay these accident benefits to the person injured in the car accident once the appropriate Auto Insurance Claim Forms are filled out.

However, accident benefits are not necessarily a long-lasting payment and it is important to understand what happens if you receive a letter denying your claims.  Take the following example: When you submit a form to the insurance company for a treatment plan, the insurer will often set up a medical examination to confirm the necessity and reasonableness of the proposed treatment plan. Depending on what the insurer’s medical examiner determines, you may be denied accident benefits for that treatment plan.

What happens next? It is important that you understand that this does not always mean accident benefits are no longer possible for you. You must apply to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). If your medical treatment benefit, or other benefit, has been denied  it is important you take action and contact FSCO for mediation. FSCO will then schedule a mediation, supposedly within 60 days of receiving the application for mediation, but this might take longer. At mediation, negotiations around your disputed accident benefits will take place. You can negotiate for yourself, or through your lawyer. These negotiations will ideally come to a resolution of the disputed accident benefit that pleases both parties.

If mediation fails, your plight is not necessarily over with. You may either file a Statement of Claim through the Courts, which will begin a court action, or you can apply for arbitration through FSCO. With both of these, a decision-maker will decide what, if anything, you receive. Like any court action, there are deadlines to submit a Statement of Claim or an application for arbitration. Make sure to educate yourself on these deadlines so you are not prevented from getting what you deserve! This is basic information regarding the process you can do if and when your accident benefits are denied. An important website you can check out for information/instructions and important forms is:

http://www.fsco.ca/en/forms/Pages/default.aspx

If you or a loved one has sustained personal injury from a car accident and wish to gain more information on accident benefits, accident benefit denials, and tort claims and legal options, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm about your legal rights!

 

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