Personal Injury Law Frequently Asked Questions

We know you have many questions.

We are available to speak to you 24/7 to help you understand your legal rights in an honest and straightforward way.

Before we talk, you may find it helpful to review some of the most common questions we are asked.

Frequently Asked Question Videos

How can a personal injury lawyer help me?

What questions to ask when selecting a personal injury lawyer?

What’s involved in filing a personal injury claim?

How do I know if an insurance company is offering me a fair settlement?

Are personal injury settlements taxable?

How do you determine what my case is worth?

What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims?

How do contingency fees work?

How long will I receive compensation for after settling a case?

How do insurance companies use Facebook and social media profiles against me in my claim?

How long does it take for a car accident claim to settle?

What kind of benefits am I entitled to after a car accident?

Why do insurance companies deny disability benefits?

How can a lawyer help me if my disability benefits have been denied?

What is required for a medical malpractice claim?

What’s involved in a medical malpractice claim?

What kind of compensation can I expect to receive following a slip and fall accident?

What should I do if I’ve been injured on someone else’s property?

More Frequently Asked Questions

How can a personal injury lawyer help me?

Our personal injury lawyers help accident and injury victims in many ways you might not even think of. 

At Howie, Sacks & Henry, we: 

  • Help manage your case against those who have caused your injuries
  • Handle claims against your insurance company for accident benefits
  • Work directly with your treatment team and make sure that you see the right specialists and treatment providers to improve your chances of making a full and good recovery
  • Take the time to understand the medical issues you are dealing with and assemble a team of highly specialized medical consultants to help present the best possible case
  • Help families with complicated housing situations, including finding the right place to live after the accident, if the injuries don’t allow them to move back home
  • Help those in financial crisis solve their financial problems until their case gets resolved
  • Assist you and your family in finding good counsellors to help with family issues often caused by the accident and serious injuries
  • Make sure you have access to financial advice to help understand how you can best use and protect the money that you receive from your case

What information should I have ready for my free consultation?

Thankfully we don’t require much information at our initial consultation, other than your memory of when, where, and how the accident happened; what injuries you’ve sustained and how it’s affected you. We use this initial consultation to have a open and friendly conversation to get a sense of whether you would like us to represent you and whether we believe that we can help with your claims.

How long do I have to make a claim?

You should consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident or injury. In some cases, you must send a notice letter within a few days after an accident. If you don’t, you may completely lose your legal right to claim compensation. 

How long do personal injury cases take to settle?

Personal injury cases can take time to settle, just as injuries take time to heal.

Some injuries, if they’re severe enough, can take up to two years before the full consequences of the injury are known. A good law firm shouldn’t try to settle your case before then.

More importantly, it takes two sides to arrive at a settlement. Often we ask an insurance company to settle for what we consider to be the fair value of your case, but they refuse. In those situations, the case must go forward until the insurance company agrees to pay an amount that is fair. And if they don’t, a trial is the only way to get a fair result for you.

It usually takes about four to five years after the case is commenced to get to trial. Unfortunately, a big part of that delay is due to the back log in all of our courts in Ontario and that back log can take up to two years all by itself. The good news is that at Howie, Sacks & Henry, over 95% of our cases settle, before a trial is necessary. 

Rest assured that at HSH, we will move your case forward as fast as possible, without compromising our work, to ensure you get a fair result. 

How do I pay my lawyer fees?

It’s simple. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.

If we’re not successful for you, we don’t charge you a legal fee, and if we are successful our fee is a percentage of what we are able to recover for you. This makes it very simple for you to calculate and understand our legal fees.

At Howie, Sacks and Henry our contingency fee agreement complies with all of the rules and regulations of the Law Society of Ontario.

Contingency fees provide seriously injured victims with access to justice. Many of our clients can not work. They need care, they need treatment. They don’t have any extra money lying around to pay a lawyer.

Contingency fees allow you to access some of the best personal injury lawyers in the province without adding to the tremendous financial stress that you are already under.

When we take on your case you can be confident that we believe in you and that we will fight using all of our resources and expertise to get you the best result possible and to get you the compensation you deserve.

What areas do our lawyers serve in Ontario?

Our personal injury lawyers help clients all across Ontario. 

Our main office is located in downtown Toronto adjacent to the Eaton Centre and we also have consultation offices in Markham, Brampton, Oakville, Kitchener, Georgetown, and Bobcaygeon. 

We are also able to meet with you virtually through the use of video conferencing technology. Whether you want to communicate by email, telephone or video conferencing, our communication is always confidential.

How can a medical malpractice lawyer help me?

Medical malpractice claims are some of the most complex claims to litigate. They require an in depth investigation and review of medical records, imaging, clinical notes and other technical information.  These cases require expert evidence from a multitude of experts in various specialties. A medical malpractice lawyer will know which areas of care to focus on and which experts to consult with, in order to build a strong case. A medical malpractice lawyer knows what questions to ask, and how to get the right answers from medical practitioners to help learn what role medical malpractice may have played in the outcome. A lawyer can also help ensure that the injured party has access to trusted medical and rehabilitation specialists while the case is underway. It is imperative that a plaintiff have the support and guidance of a lawyer to help them navigate the legal process from the outset of their claim to resolution.

How is negligence established in malpractice claims?

In order to succeed in proving negligence in a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant physicians and/or nurses breached the applicable standard of care; and (2) that the breach caused harm leading to compensable damages.

Generally speaking, standard of care is defined as the level of care that is required of a professional, with the same training, education and experience, as the defendant. In order to determine if a physician and/or nurse breached the standard of care, the plaintiff must adduce expert evidence, typically from a professional in the same specialty as the defendant(s).

Once a plaintiff overcomes the first part of the negligence test, then they must prove that the breach in fact caused physical and/or psychological harm. If a physician and/or nurse breached the standard of care but the breach did not cause any harm, then the plaintiff would not have any compensable damages.

How do LTD claims work?

If you become too sick to work and submit a claim to receive long term disability benefits, your claim can be denied even if you have been a hard worker who has paid into a health and disability insurance plan for years.

If your LTD claim has been denied, a disability lawyer can help by:

  • Sending your relevant medical information to your insurance company.
  • Ensuring you meet all timelines set out in your insurance policy.
  • Working with the doctors who are treating you (and other expert doctors, if necessary), to obtain the proper documentation needed to address to the specific provisions of your insurance policy. This is particularly important because often the forms sent to you by your insurance company can be very biased. Knowing what the right questions are to ask your doctor can often be the difference between having your claim approved, rather than denied.
  • Moving your case toward resolution through the settlement negotiations or, if necessary, the legal process.

How do you determine what my case is worth?

Cases are evaluated based on the evidence, the credibility of the people involved, and professional judgement.

Evidence comes in many forms, including your own description of how the accident happened and how it has affected you; medical records; tax, employment, insurance records; and more. Some of the evidence can only be provided by experts, often doctors, and this evidence is particularly important because it helps us understand not only how the injuries are impacting you now, but how they will continue to impact you in the future. These reports, that we will obtain for you, will help us answer key questions like “Will you need more surgery?”, “Will you be able to go back to work, and if so, when and under what circumstances?”, “What medical needs will you have in the future?”, and other important questions about your case.

The second important factor is credibility or believability – always an important consideration in any personal injury case. Everything the insurance company does is viewed through the lens of “How would this look to a Judge or Jury?” Even though most cases don’t go to trial, the value of the case is often shaped by the likelihood that whoever is making the claims will be believed.

And finally, there is professional judgement. Ultimately, our experience in handling thousands of cases over the years gives us the ability to know what damages to pursue, how to prove them, and how to maximize the recovery that we can get for you.

What is the difference between a mass tort and class action claim?

A class action is a type of lawsuit where a group of people with the same or similar injuries sue the defendant. The claim is commenced by a Representative Plaintiff who will effectively act as the face of the class.

Once the court certifies the class action, a notice is put out to all potential members of the class to ensure everyone with similar injuries are informed about the class. Keep in mind, however, that a plaintiff who does not opt out of a class action forfeits his/her rights to pursue an individual action.

When a class action is resolved – whether by mutual settlement or trial – everyone in that class is bound by that resolution. The funds from the settlement are then distributed according to the Court approved procedure.

Alternatively, sometimes it makes sense to pool similar cases together in what is called a mass tort action. This way of proceeding allows plaintiffs to bring an individual case against a defendant alongside what is often hundreds of other individual plaintiffs in the same situation.

Unlike class action lawsuits, where the representative plaintiff pursues the claim on behalf of the class members, mass tort actions allows for plaintiffs to pursue their cases individually. These plaintiffs may have different interests and assessments of individual damages may vary.

Both mass tort actions and class actions are generally funded through contingency fee agreements, which means a plaintiff to an action does not have to pay expenses related to the case out of pocket while it works its way through the legal system. Instead, legal representatives only receive compensation (a portion of the award) if the action is successful. This means there is substantially less risk for plaintiffs or class members and it can significantly enhance access to justice

I’ve heard that you cannot sue if you are injured in a car accident in Ontario. So why would I need a lawyer?

Unfortunately, many people are under the mistaken belief that they can’t sue the responsible person for their injuries. Innocent accident victims with serious injuries have always been able to get compensation in Ontario. Even less seriously injured victims may be entitled to compensation. You need a lawyer to ensure that you get fair compensation for your injuries.

Should I talk to the insurance company before I have consulted with a lawyer?

It is very important to seek legal advice before speaking to any insurance company about your accident or your injuries. Knowledge is power, and understanding your legal rights and responsibilities will provide you with the confidence to speak to an insurance company about the issues that are relevant to your case, or crucially, to make the decision to have your lawyer speak to the insurance company instead.

An insurance company cannot force you to speak to them on the phone. You should never feel any pressure to return the call of an insurance adjuster. It is advisable to communicate with an insurance company in writing (if at all), so that everything is well documented.

It is important to remember that in Ontario you have an obligation to report any accident to your own insurance company as quickly as possible. If you are not able to consult with a lawyer beforehand, you can simply give your insurance company the basics – where the accident happened, the people who were involved in the accident, and a brief description of the injuries to the best of your knowledge. It is important to then speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer before you provide any further information to your own insurance company, or to any other insurance company who may have an interest in the accident. Knowing your rights early on will make things much easier for you if you decide to bring a claim later.

If pedestrians and cyclists do not have insurance, are they still eligible for compensation if they have been injured?

Typically an injured pedestrian or a cyclist in Ontario can claim accident benefits from the driver of the vehicle that struck them, regardless of fault, if they don’t have their own insurance. However, if the driver of the other vehicle doesn’t have insurance or leaves the scene of the accident, then the injured party can claim benefits through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF). The MVACF is known as the insurer of last resort – it ensures that everyone in Ontario has access to accident benefits. If an injury victim wants to sue an at fault driver who doesn’t have insurance, again the MVACF responds. It should be noted that the maximum recovery for pain and suffering/lost wages etc. from the MVACF is $200,000 (the minimum limits of the province), whereas most insured vehicles have at least $1,000,000 in coverage.

What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

The Glasgow Coma Scale is a scale used to objectively measure a person’s level of consciousness after a brain injury. The scale assesses individuals according to three aspects of responsiveness: eye-movement, motor, and verbal responses.

Glasgow Coma Scale scores can range from 3 (completely unresponsive) to 15 (responsive).

I can’t work because of the accident. How will I pay for a lawyer?

We understand accident victims often have financial problems. In most cases, you will not have to pay until the end of your case. And at HSH, our initial consultation, in which we discuss your case and your rights, is always free. So you have nothing to lose by meeting with us.

The insurance company says that I don’t need a lawyer. Are they right?

Every person who has been injured in an accident should speak with a lawyer. If you can sue the person responsible for your injuries, you will definitely need a lawyer to help you. If you are entitled to receive no-fault benefits from your own insurance company, a lawyer will ensure that you are being paid the proper amount.

What is certification in a class action lawsuit?

Lawyers for the plaintiff in a potential class action in Ontario are required under s. 5 of the Class Proceedings Act to bring a “Motion for Certification” before the Court. The lawyers must submit materials and evidence to the Court in order to prove that the case has met the test for certification and that the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed as a class action. Once the class action has been “certified” by the Court, the Court will direct that a Notice be put out to all potential members of the class. This ensures all potential members are made aware that a class action has been commenced and that they now form part of the class.

What does standard of care and causation mean in medical malpractice cases?

In order to succeed in proving negligence in a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant physicians and/or nurses breached the applicable standard of care, and (2) that the breach caused harm leading to compensable damages. Generally speaking, standard of care is defined as the level of care that is required of a professional, with the same training, education and experience, as the defendant. In order to determine if a physician and/or nurse breached the standard of care, the plaintiff must present expert evidence, typically from a professional in the same specialty. For instance, if the plaintiff is trying to prove that an obstetrician fell below the requisite standard of care, then they would need to obtain evidence from an obstetrician. It is very important to note that the standard of care used to determine if a defendant is negligent is the standard that was required at that specific point in time. For example, in a birth trauma case, experts will comment on the standard required on the day the baby was born, not when the case is issued in court. Therefore, the plaintiff’s expert must be qualified to comment to the standard of care at the specific point in time of the alleged malpractice. This typically means that the expert was practicing at the relevant time and would therefore know the specific care required.

Once a plaintiff overcomes the first part of the negligence test, then they must prove that the breach in fact caused physical and/or psychological harm. If a physician and/or nurse breached the standard of care but the breach did not cause any harm, then the plaintiff would not have any compensable damages.

What is the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund?

The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF) provides medical and rehabilitation benefits (known as accident benefits) when a person is injured in a car accident in Ontario but no one involved in the accident has auto insurance coverage that can respond to their injury claim. The Fund will also pay the injured person’s tort claim (a claim for compensation for pain and suffering), if the vehicle that caused their injuries was uninsured or unidentified. However, unlike most private auto insurance policies, regardless of the severity of the person’s injuries, the maximum payment from the MVACF is $200,000, (which is the Province’s minimum liability limit). This could leave a person grossly under compensated for their injuries and/or lost wages.

What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?

Compensatory damages are an award of money designed to compensate an injured person for a loss they sustained as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing or negligence. When an injured person (or their family) sues a company or person for harm caused as a result of negligence, they are typically seeking compensatory damages. Examples of compensatory damages included money awarded for lost income, future treatment costs, housekeeping assistance or pain and suffering.

Punitive damages are an award of money designed to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are awarded by a court and are intended to penalize behavior that is harsh, vindictive, reprehensible or malicious in nature. Punitive damages are very rarely awarded in personal injury cases and, absent exceptional circumstances, they are not something that a plaintiff should expect to receive.

How long do I have to file my pedestrian accident case?

If you are a pedestrian who has been injured in an accident, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. Often, evidence needs to be collected and preserved immediately following the accident. This will give you the best possible chance of success if you ultimately decide to bring a law suit to recover your damages.

While injury victims generally have two years from the date of the accident to commence a law suit, there are a few other important considerations when dealing with a pedestrian accident case. If the injuries were due to a maintenance issue on a sidewalk or roadway, there are strict requirements to give notice to the road authority (usually the local municipal government) responsible for the area in question. Whether it is a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, or a trip resulting from a pot hole in a cross walk, it is crucial to give proper notice to the road authority within 10 days from the date of the accident. If the injury was caused by snow or ice on private property, the injury victim must give notice to the property owner/occupier, or the contractor who was responsible to remove the snow and ice, within 60 days from the date of the accident.

The notice should include the injured person’s name, the exact location of the fall/trip/slip, the date and time when the accident occurred, and the nature of the injuries sustained. The purpose of this notice is to permit the responsible party to investigate the condition of the area in question before the conditions change. Speaking with a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible after any pedestrian accident can help to ensure that these important notice period requirements are followed correctly.

Fortunately, if you do not comply with the notice periods, there is still a chance that you will be able to pursue a law suit. As long as you have a “reasonable excuse” for not providing the notice, a judge may permit your claim to continue. Therefore, even if you have missed the notice period, you should still speak with a personal injury lawyer right away, as they may be able to help you pursue a claim for your injuries and damages.

What is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (“HIE”) is a severe brain injury that can occur during childbirth when a fetus is deprived of oxygen and blood flow. HIE is typically diagnosed with a neonatal MRI. The longer and more severe the oxygen and blood flow deprivation is, the more extensive the brain injury will be. HIE can impact various parts of the brain, and can lead to both cognitive and motor deficits.

How do nursing home negligence claims work?

Nursing home negligence claims generally involve bringing a lawsuit against a nursing home or other long-term care facility for failure to properly care for a resident that results in harm. These claims can be related to a variety of incidents, including falls, assaults by staff or other residents, medication errors, improper wound care, dehydration, etc. Nursing home negligence lawsuits are typically brought by a personal injury lawyer on behalf of the resident who was injured (or their estate in the unfortunate situation where the resident passes away as a result of the negligence) and the resident’s family. Before a lawsuit can begin, a nursing home negligence lawyer will conduct a full investigation of the circumstances that led to the harm, including speaking to experts, reviewing documents from the home and hospital and reviewing any investigations done by the Ministry of Long Term Care. Once the lawsuit is started and the nursing home is notified of the lawsuit, the nursing home will hire their own lawyer to defend them. The case will then move through the court system like any other personal injury case, usually ending in negotiated settlement or in rare cases, a court judgment.

Driving safety tips for pregnant women

Most women find that they can drive safely and comfortably throughout pregnancy. By monitoring your symptoms and physical abilities, and making simple adjustments to accommodate your changing body, you can ensure that you and your baby will be safe and secure on the road. Here are some key safety points to keep in mind:

  • Seatbelt: Ensure that you can wear your shoulder and lap belt properly – if it gets to the point where you cannot wear a seatbelt comfortably, that should be a sign to stop driving.
  • Seat Positioning: Adjust your seat position to ensure that your belly is several inches away from the steering wheel while maintaining the ability to reach the pedals comfortably.
  • Agility: Ensure you can move around easily enough to see your blind spots or to reach for items.
  • Fatigue: It is very common to have sleep difficulties during pregnancy, or to find regular activities draining. Take note of your energy levels and avoid driving if you are too tired.

For more safety recommendations, see our Safety Tips for Driving While Pregnant blog post.

What is kernicterus?

Kerincterus is a severe brain injury caused by dangerously elevated bilirubin levels in an infant’s blood. Bilirubin is a byproduct from the breakdown of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Oftentimes newborns will have jaundice because they cannot remove bilirubin from their system. However, if this evolves into Kerincterus it is potentially very harmful. Kerincterus is a medical emergency and must be treated right away to prevent brain damage. If Kerincterus is not treated immediately, toxic levels of bilirubin will build up in the brain which can result in permanent brain damage.

What is tachystole?

Oftentimes labour will be augmented with a medication called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that is used to induce contractions and to assist in the progress of labour. However, sometimes when a patient receives Oxytocin it can lead to what is referred to as uterine tachysystole. Tachysystole is defined as having 5 or more contractions in a period of 10 minutes. When a mother experiences contractions during labour, the fetus will go through periods of oxygen deprivation. Usually, a fetus has the capacity to withstand the typical frequency of contractions during the delivery period. If however, tachysystole continues during the delivery, it can severely deplete fetal reserves by repeatedly depriving the baby of oxygen, which can potentially lead to significant complications.

When are class actions preferable to individual actions?

Class actions are often preferred in cases where the injuries suffered by class members are all relatively similar or uniform in nature. Class actions can also be a powerful tool in cases of systemic abuse, where class members may be reluctant to come forward and bring their own claims.

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