As a personal injury lawyer for the last 5 years, I see significant disparity in what ordinary people are first offered for personal injury settlement before they obtain legal advice and what they are offered after they go through at least part of the legal process. It has not been uncommon for me to see final settlements both in or out of court that are at least twice as much as originally offered and often many times more than that. This is not necessarily because of any bad faith on the party making what is sometimes referred to a “low ball offer”. My view is that it is simply because they do not understand 3 very important things:
- This is an adversarial system of justice. Our system of justice has, as one of its pillars, that truth will most likely be revealed through the adversarial process. The assumption behind this is that both sides of an issue will be evenly matched in the rules of evidence and understanding of the law. There is no obligation of the other side’s insurance company to teach you how to prove what you already know is true or how to research the law behind your position.
- There is power in the rule of law and in researching cases similar to yours. All members of the Law Society of Alberta must complete legal training at a recognized law school. A major component of this legal training is the ability to read long and sometimes complex case law and to summarize the key elements. After your evidence has been sufficiently gathered, a personal injury lawyer consults case law across the country to find cases that are similar so that he or she can advise you on what at an appropriate range of damages is for your particular type of injury. These key cases can then be persuasively presented either to the other side (during the negotiation stage) or to a judge for ultimate determination.
- A dispassionate cost-benefit analysis is invaluable to good decision-making. In order to obtain an appropriate result, you must be able to look objectively at what your likely result is if you have a Court make the ultimate decision on an appropriate amount. You must therefore understand the rules surrounding costs, rules of court and presentation of both evidence and law. These issues can sometimes be quite complex especially when coupled with your physical and emotional pain and financial consequences of an accident.
Free Consultation. If you would like to know more, I would be happy to meet with you either in person or by telephone to discuss your personal injury situation and how legal advice might help you.
R. Travis Bissett BSC. LL.B.