A Step-By-Step Guide to the Personal Injury Claims Process
When a person is injured in an accident in Ontario, a personal injury lawsuit can provide financial compensation to cover medical costs and address damages. However, the path to compensation is far from simple. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the personal injury claims process, including information on how an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you in your time of need.
The first thing to do after an injury is to seek medical help. Not only is this imperative for your wellbeing, but the reports compiled by your doctors can also assist with your lawsuit. If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it’s also important to notify your insurance provider as soon as possible.
Following these steps, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of filing a claim. Many law firms, including Will Davidson LLP, offer free, no-obligation consultations to assess the viability of your case. Wherever possible, try to find a law firm that works on contingency and has experience with your specific injury.
Once you’ve hired a lawyer, the personal injury claims process will begin.
Step 1: Building Your Case
Your personal injury lawyer will begin building your case as soon as they agree to represent you. This process involves reviewing evidence – photos and videos of the accident scene are helpful, as are police reports and medical records – and speaking to witnesses. Your lawyer will also review relevant case law to identify precedents and value damages.
Step 2: Filing the Statement of Claim
Once your lawyer has reviewed the evidence and built an argument, the lawsuit will be initiated by filing a Statement of Claim. This document describes the facts relating to your case, states why you, the plaintiff, are entitled to compensation, and lays out how much compensation is being sought.
Under Ontario law, the Statement of Claim must be filed within a certain time limit. In most cases, the limit is two years – but there are exceptions. Learn more about time limits in personal injury law here.
Step 3: The Statement of Defence
In response to your Statement of Claim, the defendant in the case will issue a Statement of Defence. This document outlines the defendant’s argument and explains why they are not liable and do not owe compensation. At this time, the defendant may also decide to file a counterclaim.
Plaintiffs have the right to reply to the Statement of Defence if they choose.
Step 4: Mandatory Mediation
Under Ontario law, participants in civil claims are required to go through mediation prior to taking their dispute to court. A mediator will review both sides of the dispute and attempt to resolve the issue, often through a settlement.
Step 5: Discovery
If mediation fails to produce an acceptable resolution to the dispute, the lawyers for both parties will agree on a discovery plan. This agreement sets out timelines for the discovery process and sets the stage for the ‘affidavits of documents’ and the ‘examination for discovery.’
Both sides of the dispute submit an affidavit of documents, which is a list of documents relevant to the case to which the other party will have access. Items may be added to the affidavit throughout the claims process.
In the examination for discovery, lawyers from both sides of the dispute will sit down with the other party to ask pertinent questions. If the interviewee doesn’t know the answer to a question, they can agree to provide the answer at an agreed-upon time following the examination.
In some cases, discovery may take place prior to mediation.
Step 6: Preparing for Trial
Assuming mediation is unsuccessful and following discovery, the parties will ask that the matter be placed on the trial list. Prior to heading to trial, the parties will attend a pre-trial conference, sometimes referred to as a settlement conference. During this meeting, a judge will listen to the parties’ positions and attempt to find a resolution. If no resolution is found, the matter will head to trial.
During the period before trial, lawyers for both sides will consider whether expert testimony is warranted and work to retain reports from expert witnesses.
Step 7: Trial
If all else fails, your case will head to trial. Trials are costly and risky – they prolong the claims process put both parties at risk of losing the case.
At trial, both parties will present evidence and expert opinions and may call witnesses. Once both sides have stated their case, a judgement will be delivered. If one of the parties is unsatisfied with the judgement, they have the option to file an appeal.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer to Learn More
The personal injury claims process can be lengthy and complex, but it can also help seriously injured accident victims access compensation for the damages they have incurred. If you or a member of your family has suffered a serious injury, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.