Being involved in a car accident — even a minor “fender bender” — is a traumatic experience. The shock of the crash tends to trigger a flood of adrenaline, shock and often emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety. You may suffer physical and mental injuries that can have serious and lasting impacts on your quality and enjoyment of life. 

In short, the repercussions of a car accident can be stressful and complicated to deal with. 

In the immediate aftermath, your priority should be ensuring the safety of everyone involved. It is important to undergo a full medical assessment to evaluate your physical and mental state. This is crucial not only for your health and well-being but also to ensure that all the impacts of the accident are fully documented in the event that you pursue a personal injury claim.

But how do you know if you should pursue a claim? After attending to your medical needs, consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer is important to learn about your legal rights and whether you may be entitled to compensation. 

Different Types of MVA Claims

In Alberta, the motor vehicle accident (MVA) settlement process is primarily handled by insurance companies. Following the accident, the drivers must report the accident to their insurance providers. These companies will investigate the accident’s circumstances to determine liability and assess damages.

If the other driver was at fault, their insurance provider may make a settlement offer. Retaining a lawyer to pursue a personal injury claim may not make economic sense if the accident and damages were minor. However, before negotiating with an insurance company or accepting an offer, speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer is important. They can advise you on your legal rights and the potential for compensation.

Section B Accident Benefits

You should also know Section B Benefits and understand the difference between these and a personal injury claim.

Section B benefits are a mandatory component of the standard insurance policy in Alberta. These benefits are considered “no-fault” benefits, meaning that eligibility to receive these benefits is not determined by whether the party caused the accident. They are paid by your insurance provider.

The primary purpose of Section B benefits is to help ensure that injured individuals can immediately access treatment to help them focus on their recovery without experiencing a significant financial strain or waiting for the outcome of their personal injury claim. The benefits are payable immediately up to two years from the accident date. Coverage up to $50,000 and an income replacement benefit are available. 

Personal Injury Claims

In contrast to Section B benefits, a personal injury claim hinges on who was at fault in the accident and may result in substantially larger damage awards for accident victims. 

When dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, remember that it is a private profit-maximizing company. This is in stark contrast to the courts, which apply the law with the objective of reaching a just outcome for all parties. The relevant laws have been developed with the objective of compensating injured parties for the damages they have suffered due to the negligent actions of others. 

If, after obtaining legal advice, you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the settlement and litigation process so you know what to expect.

The MVA Litigation Process

With the help of your lawyer, you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. If not, you and your lawyer will initiate a legal action with the following elements:

1. Information Gathering

Your lawyer will work with you to gather all available documentation to support your claim. This will include police reports, medical records and reports, witness statements and other details of the accident scene, such as photographs. 

Compiling thorough documentation of all the damages you have suffered is crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome of your claim.

2. Statement of Claim

Your lawyer will prepare and file a statement of claim with the appropriate court to commence the legal action. This will describe the accident and who was involved, list the allegations you are making against the defendant(s), and state the compensation you seek. 

3. Pre-trial Settlement

After the defendant receives the statement of claim, you may receive a settlement offer. The amount of this offer will depend on the strength of your claim, so it is crucial to document the damages you are claiming fully. Your lawyer will advise you and negotiate on your behalf. Several offers may be exchanged. 

Many personal injury claims need to go to trial before reaching a settlement. If you do accept a settlement offer, your legal action is discontinued. It is important to understand that if you accept a settlement offer, this will be the final resolution of your claim. You cannot resume your legal action or file another one for the same accident at a later date.

4. Discovery

If you cannot reach a settlement, your case will move forward with discovery. Relevant documents are exchanged, and each side’s lawyer will examine the other party under oath. This allows both sides to gain some measure of the strength of the claims being made and can sometimes result in a new offer and settlement of the case.

5. Pre-trial Conference

A pre-trial conference is a meeting between the parties, their lawyers and the judge. This conference may be used to resolve certain issues. The judge may also provide guidance to the parties and attempt to help them reach a settlement.

6. Mediation

You may also enter into mediation with the defendant. In this situation, a neutral third-party mediator will meet with the parties and their lawyers to help them reach a settlement. The mediator does not make any decisions on your claims or their merits.

7. Trial

The case goes to trial if the parties cannot reach a settlement. All parties can submit their evidence to the court, call witnesses and make legal arguments.

8. Judgment

After the trial has concluded, the judge (or jury) will take time to consider the evidence and arguments that have been presented. They will then issue a judgment, which sets out their decision, its reasons, and what damages and costs will be awarded.

If either party believes there are errors in the decision relating to law or procedure, they have a limited period to appeal the decision.

Settlement and Litigation Timelines

The timeline for settling an MVA personal injury claim will typically be months and sometimes years. The timeline will vary based on the case’s complexity, including the accident’s circumstances and how severe the resulting injuries and damages are.

If a case goes to trial, the timeline for any compensation will be significantly longer than that for those that reach a settlement.

Alberta has a general time limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident: it must be done within two years from the accident date. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations and is set out in the Alberta Limitations Act. If you do not file your lawsuit within this period, you may be barred from doing so.

For all these reasons, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after being involved in a car accident.

Calgary Personal Injury Lawyers Assisting You if You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, contact the knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Cuming Gillespie LLP in Calgary to discuss your case, learn about your legal rights, and determine whether you may be entitled to compensation. To schedule an initial consultation with a team member, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555.