“From Start to Finish, there’s a lot of work to be done in advancing your claim.”
The first stage in preparing your case is to collect all of the information relating to the accident and to the way in which the accident has injured you and affected your life. Obviously, the type of information to be acquired and the people from whom the information is to be obtained will vary from case to case. No two cases are the same and they should not be treated as such. The results of the accident upon you are unique to you and the way in which your claim is investigated must reflect this.
We will gather and preserve all evidence relating to the accident so that any issues of fault can be effectively dealt with as early as possible. This may include interviewing witnesses, obtaining photographs of the vehicles, the accident scene and consulting with engineers specializing in “reconstructing” the accident circumstances.
Once your injuries have improved or stabilized, we will obtain medical evidence, including reports from your treating physician and their charts, notes and records so that the extent of your injuries can be fully determined. If necessary we will refer you to leading medical specialists for an independent opinion on the seriousness of your injuries and the effect they may have on your daily living and employment.
It is impossible to place a proper value upon your claim, and it is most unwise to settle it, until the full extent of your injuries and losses are known. For this reason final medical reports cannot be obtained from your doctors, physiotherapists and other medical advisors until they can form a definite opinion about your injuries and their future effect. This may necessarily cause delay before the value of your claim can be known.
Further documentation is obtained from other parties, such as your employer, to support any other claims you might have, including loss of income and loss of housekeeping capacity. Other experts, such as occupational therapists, vocational consultants and economists are also consulted to evaluate your claim and provide us with reports that we use to value your claim.
Legal research is also undertaken in order that the most recently decided cases from across Canada are brought to the attention of the other insurance company or their lawyer. Almost all of our research is computer based with extensive use of the Internet.
Once the information gathering process is complete one or both of the following happens:
- A proposal for settlement is made based upon the evidence which has been obtained and is sent to the insurance company representing the person or organization responsible for your accident and settlement negotiations follow; or
- A Statement of Claim is issued which initiates your claim in Court. At that point negotiations may continue with the insurance company, or more likely, the insurance company will appoint their own lawyer to continue with negotiations and defend the lawsuit.
- The proposal for settlement may lead to negotiations resulting in a reasonable offer. If so, your claim can be settled at any time. If no settlement is negotiated the Court action will continue or be commenced.
Once the Statement of Claim has been issued and served, the lawyers for the insurance company will file a Statement of Defence. After this, each side has the opportunity to examine documents relating to the case in the possession of the other side.
Next, Questionings are held. There we will cross-examine the persons responsible for your accident if there is any disagreement on the issue of fault. In turn, the lawyer for the insurance company can cross-examine you. The process is informal and usually takes place in a conference room where the only people present will be the persons responsible for your accident, ourselves, the lawyer for the insurance company and the Court Reporter whose job it is to administer the Oath and to record the questions and the answers.
Often you will be asked to obtain information and, after the Examination for Discovery is over, to provide it to the lawyer for the insurance company. This information will be requested from various parties, such as your physicians, chiropractors, physiotherapists and possibly your employer. This may take a number of months to complete and we will assist you in tracking down the necessary documents.
The other side will often request an Affidavit of Records, which requires you to list all documents in your possession or control. This document must be sworn under oath by you and filed with the Clerk of the Court. Unless a document is disclosed in the Affidavit, it cannot be used at trial. We will always request an Affidavit of Records from the other side and review its contents to ensure we have seen all information the other side is relying upon in defending your claim.
Before your action goes to trial we must attend either a mediation with an independent Mediator trained to bring the parties together to resolve the claim; or a Mini-Trial before a Court of Queen’s Bench Judge who will review the evidence and provide a preliminary opinion of the claim so that the parties can settle the claim and avoid trial. If these steps still do not assist us, we use the Alberta Rules of Court to make Formal Settlement Offers, which may result in additional costs being awarded against the other side if they do not accept the Offer.
After all the above steps have been completed, we will advise the court that all steps have been taken and a trial date will be set.
If your action goes to trial it will take place in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta before a Judge and, sometimes, before a jury as well. If either side is dissatisfied with the decision of the Court and feels that it has grounds there may be an appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal. A further appeal is theoretically possible to the Supreme Court of Canada but the chance of this taking place is very slight. In practice, your case is most likely to be settled without going to trial. This cannot be determined, however, until after all of the necessary information has been obtained including medical and other expert reports.
When the parties have agreed upon a reasonable settlement figure, then the other side provides our firm with a cheque in this amount. Your settlement proceeds (the settlement amount less legal fees and taxable costs and disbursements) cannot be released to you until you have signed a Release (whereby you agree to conclude your claim and not take any further steps) and we file a Discontinuance of Action, which tells the Court your lawsuit has concluded.