December is a busy month for many; Christmas, holiday parties, family gatherings, holiday shopping, and preparing for a few extra days off of work. Often, we are distracted, rushed, and topped with Alberta winter driving and ever-changing weather conditions, accidents of all sorts can happen, especially car accidents. When you are involved in an accident for which you need representation to receive compensation for your injuries, it’s natural to not think of the important information your personal injury lawyer may need from you. If you have been injured in an accident and are considering legal action, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Make A Phone Call To A Personal Injury Lawyer
A timely call to a personal injury lawyer in the unfortunate event that you are hurt or injured due to the negligence of someone else could make all the difference in how you are compensated for that harm, and whether or not you will have what you need going forward to get back (as close as possible) to living the life you had prior to the injury.
You may have heard (and will likely find unsurprising) that there are significant backlogs in courts across the country. These pre-dated the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada admitted in his 2020 year-end statement:
Yet long before COVID-19, Canada’s courts were plagued with deficiencies such as backlogs and delays. They required resources and upgrades. Courts were slow to adopt modern methods and tools for working.
The fact that courts may be slow to finally resolve matters in no way relieves parties to litigation from their obligations to follow the rules regarding the deadlines for bringing an action and moving it forward. There is often nothing that even the best lawyer can do to get you the compensation that you deserve following an injury or harm if steps are not taken to get the wheels of justice moving as soon as possible.
In Alberta, most civil cases (matters outside of the criminal justice system) have a two-year limitation period, meaning that court documents must be filed and served within two years of the date of the event that resulted in an injury (Limitations Act, s. 3). There are exceptions to this limitation period for certain people (like children) or circumstances (an injury that resulted from an accident or medical negligence that did not cause symptoms until later). There are parties (like municipalities) that are entitled to immunity from a lawsuit upon the lapse of a shorter period of time. The best way to make sure that you are moving forward with a possible claim in a timely way is to make a call to your lawyer as soon as you can.
Write Down Accident And Injury Details
Many court cases are won and lost in the details. An understanding of the law is what trained, experienced lawyers who specialize in personal injury cases bring to the table, but without the vital facts and evidence to back up a claim, which will not be enough to win a lawsuit. You can help your personal injury lawyer bring forth the best possible case on your behalf by making sure you gather all the relevant facts, particularly when they are clear in your mind, and ideally, in writing.
Lawsuits can come down to an assessment of the credibility of the parties. A plaintiff being able to clearly tell the story of what happened is often a key factor. In personal injury cases, where pain and suffering and the ability of an injured person to continue with the activities that they did prior to being hurt determine the award, there is no evidence more important than yours about what you did before and how you are feeling now.
Do you keep a diary? No, we are not talking about a small, hardcover book with a tiny lock and key where all your secrets are hidden (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The notepad feature on your phone is a great tool to use on the go, or in the moment, to record crucial details as they happen or even as you remember them later. You might consider using a calendar to document how you are feeling on a particular day or in doing a specific activity. There is no right or wrong way to document. Electronic and written records are equally useful and can have more weight if they are made by you as soon as possible after an experience occurs. Your family and friends, and other people in your life who might be called upon to provide evidence about your injury and the impact it has had on your life, can also help in making good notes about what they observe.
Another significant way you can contribute to building a record of evidence from your case is to ask for records from the professionals involved. You have a right to your medical records, for example, and in injury cases, these are key pieces of the puzzle a court will hope to put together in coming to a decision.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
Undoubtedly you are familiar with the expression “honesty is the best policy”? In your relationship with your personal injury lawyer, a trained professional who is duty-bound to keep what you say private and confidential, honesty is not just encouraged, but it is vital to ensuring that you are able to achieve the best outcome, regardless of the nature of the legal matter that brought you together.
Solicitor-client privilege is a term that refers to the confidential nature of the communications between a client and their lawyer relating to seeking and receiving legal advice. It is important to remember that the right to have communications kept private belongs to the client, and according to the Supreme Court of Canada in Lavallee, Rackel & Heintz v. Canada (Attorney General) “must remain as close to absolute as possible.” There are very few circumstances under which your lawyer can be compelled to disclose what you have said to them in the course of seeking their advice.
In addition to the duty of your lawyer not to disclose your private conversations relating to your legal matter, all lawyers are bound to a duty of confidentiality in relation to their clients. This is a professional responsibility that requires lawyers to keep safe and secure all information they learn about you in the course of serving you, whether they learned the information from you or from another source. In Alberta, the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Professional Conduct sets out the confidentiality duties of lawyers:
A lawyer at all times must hold in strict confidence all information concerning the business and affairs of a client acquired in the course of the professional relationship and must not divulge any such information unless: (a) expressly or impliedly authorized by the client; (b) required by law or a court to do so; (c) required to deliver the information to the Society; or (d) otherwise permitted by this rule. (Rule 3.3-1)
In the past, closed office doors, hushed voices, locked file cabinets and paper shredders were the main protocols used to ensure that confidentiality was maintained. Over the last several decades, as the use of electronic communications media has become increasingly common, lawyers have, like all professions with a duty of confidentiality, have developed new ways of ensuring privacy is protected. And everyone who you interact with at your lawyer’s office, whether an associate lawyer, paralegal, assistant, or other staff members, has a duty to know and follow their firm’s policies and procedures to keep your information safe and secure.
Contact Calgary Personal Injury Lawyers For Advice If You Have Been Injured In An Accident
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident this holiday season contact Calgary personal injury lawyers Cuming & Gillespie LLP to obtain legal advice and guidance with your personal injury claim. Cuming & Gillespie LLP has been recognized as one of the top personal injury firms in Canada and a timely call to 403-571-0555 is your best first step. Our team wishes you a safe and enjoyable holiday season.