February 14, 2023
If you have been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, you are probably wondering “what do I do?” and “should I sue?”
This article assumes you have already filed a police report, reported the matter to your insurer, and sought medical attention. If you’re unsure what steps to take after an accident, we discuss some important things to remember here.
Contacting a Car Accident Lawyer
After you have taken some time to get over the initial shock of what happened, I suggest you contact a personal injury lawyer. If nothing else, that lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you decide what to do. You are not obligated to retain that lawyer.
Unfortunately, time is of the essence. In Alberta, you only have two years from the date of the accident to file your claim in the court (aka: to sue). But, your lawyer may also advise you of reasons why you might want to file the claim earlier.
Liability, Injuries, and Damages in a Car Accident
In order to “win” your case, you need to establish liability (that the other side was negligent), causation (that their negligence caused your injuries) and damages (that you suffered losses that can be compensated monetarily).
In deciding whether to commence litigation, your lawyer will discuss with you what happened and discuss your chances of establishing liability. Your lawyer will also talk to you about your injuries and their duration (when did you recover or are you still suffering?) and the impact those injuries had on all aspect of your life, including your ability to earn income and carry out your daily activities. You will also be asked questions about what medical treatment you have already received, are receiving, and expect to receive, and about your pre-existing medical conditions.
The Legal Process After a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you decide to proceed, you will need to file a document, called a Statement of Claim, with the court. This document sets out the key facts and allegations of your claim, and will also be provided to the person you are suing. If person had insurance, it is most likely that their insurer will be the one ultimately defending their action.
How things proceed varies from case to case. Typically, the insurer (or more likely, their lawyers) will file a Statement of Defence (a document to the court that defends the actions of the person you are suing), and both sides exchange with one another all relevant documents, including your health records.
Next, each side has the right to “question” the other party. Questioning is a step in the litigation process where each party has the chance to ask questions of the other party. The purpose of this step is, in part, for both parties to get all the information there is about the other side’s position. This way there are no surprises at trial (unlike what you see when watching Law & Order on TV) and this information helps you decide how to next proceed.
In most cases, we will also seek “expert evidence”. This means we find an independent medical professional to review your records and meet with you, and ultimately write a report that sets out the extent of your injuries, the cause of your injuries, your prognosis, and the impact of your injuries on your life. We use this expert opinion to help convince the insurer to pay you in settlement (or we can use this report at trial to convince a judge/justice of your claim).
In reality, very few cases go all the way to trial. Our goal is almost always to enter into a settlement agreement with the insurer to provide you with compensation.
Carbert Waite Personal Injury Lawyers
If you have any questions about this process, we are more than happy to meet with you to discuss further. Or, for more information, please contact any of Carbert Waite’s personal injury lawyers.