If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident – or been hurt in a non-vehicular accident – you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries. The following questions and answers are intended to serve as a plain language guide to the most commonly asked questions following an accident. Each person’s situation is different, and determining what you may be able to claim in compensation requires talking with an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer. Litwiniuk & Company offers a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to help you understand your rights and provide a more detailed explanation of how the personal injury claims process works in Alberta. Simply call (403) 273-8580 to set up a meeting to speak with a lawyer or to make an appointment to visit our office.
I can’t afford a lawyer. What’s this going to cost me?
Talking with one of the lawyers at Litwiniuk & Company is free. If you decide you want us to represent you, we’ll never charge you any fees while your claim progresses. We’ll also pay all disbursement costs including expert reports and any other expenses that are necessary to reach a settlement, regardless of how long that takes. In some cases we will work with your medical providers to see that you are not charged for their services until such time as we settle or bring your case to judgment. Simply stated, we don’t get paid until you get paid. Our fees will come out of the settlement we reach, and all expenses will come out of our pocket.
How long is this going to take?
We’ll work to settle your claim as quickly and efficiently as possible, but the process takes time. Your injuries need to be completely healed – or have reached a state where no more improvement is expected – before your long-term prognosis can be established and a fair assessment made of what compensation is appropriate. If your injuries are relatively minor and heal quickly, a claim could be completed within a few months. Injuries that are more serious generally take longer to heal, which extends the time frame for making a claim and reaching a settlement. We advise clients that in almost all situations, making a quick settlement isn’t likely to be in your best interest. No matter how long it takes to take settle your claim, you won’t be required to pay any fees to us, nor will you be asked to pay any expenses that are required throughout the process.
How much money can I expect?
The amount of an eventual settlement is dependent on many factors, including the severity of your injuries, the cost of your medical care and other expenses, and the long-term physical, financial and emotional impact your injuries will have on your life. In Alberta, there are maximum amounts payable for certain soft tissue injuries, but claims can be made for compensation – lost income and emotional suffering, for example – that don’t fall under the legislation that limits settlement amounts. This area of the law is complex, and talking with an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to determine what a claim and eventual settlement might look like.
U.S. injury settlements are sometimes very large. Can I expect similar compensation for my injuries?
For a variety of reasons, the answer is “No.” The large settlements Canadians see in the U.S.-based media don’t happen here. Our legal system is very different than in the U.S., and the Supreme Court of Canada has set an upper limit on compensation for pain and suffering at about $330,000. Limits on pain and suffering aside, Alberta courts are historically conservative when awarding compensation, and even if a claim goes to a jury trial – which is rare – jurors are constrained by the same $330,000 cap. However, Albertans can make claims for the cost of future care, lost wages, lost opportunity (e.g. a promising athlete or musician whose prospects are undermined by an injury) and other compensation based on the circumstances and nature of their injuries.
I’ve heard there’s a $4,000 “cap” for minor injuries. Does this mean that’s all I could receive in a settlement?
The Alberta Government has enacted legislation that “caps” or limits damages payable for pain and suffering to a maximum of $4,000 for strains, sprains and whiplash-related injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. (Adjusted for inflation, the “cap” is now around $5,000.) If your soft tissue injuries are determined to be within a range of established medical guidelines, your claim would fall under the cap. However, other injuries such as fractures, mental anguish, etc., don’t fall under the “cap.” In fact, no matter how your injuries are classified, where they significantly disable you in the workplace, at school or in your day-to-day lifestyle, your injuries may not fall under the “cap.” This area of the law is complex, and no matter what an insurance adjuster may have told you, it’s in your best interest to come talk with us to discuss the best way to proceed. We’ll help you understand the meaning of WAD I/II/III (Whiplash Associated Disorder), what role a CME (Certified Medical Examiner) plays in the process, and whether your injuries may entitle you to other compensation that falls outside of the cap. Learn more about the cap by clicking here.
Will I have to go to court?
Nearly all personal injury claims – more than 95 percent, in our experience – are settled out of court, but in some situations, reaching the most favorable settlement requires taking the case to trial. Litwiniuk & Company has experienced trial lawyers who will take a claim to court if doing so is in your best interest.
Who should I talk to about the accident? Who shouldn’t I talk to?
It’s a good idea to say as little as possible at a motor vehicle accident scene. Exchange information (insurance companies, drivers’ licence), make a police statement as required, then talk with your own insurance company. Let your insurance company talk with the other party’s insurance company, and don’t speak on the phone – or communicate via letter or email – with anyone who asks you to provide additional information or a statement about what happened. Anything you say to the other person’s insurer could be introduced as evidence in the event you proceed with a claim, so the less you say the better. After a motor vehicle accident, seek medical assistance immediately if required, then contact one of our lawyers to ensure there’s someone on your side protecting your rights.
I’m being asked by the insurance company to see a CME (Certified Medical Examiner). Do I have to go?
Designated CMEs are authorized to determine the extent and severity of your injuries as part of the injury “cap” process. You can’t refuse to go, however we suggest you come talk with us prior to seeing the CME so you understand what the examination has to do with the “cap” process, and begin working with one of our lawyers to determine what other injuries you may have that might be addressed outside of the cap. We’ll cover the cost of seeing other doctors that may be required to proceed with your claim, and we’ll make sure you understand what’s going on and why at every stage of the process.
Do I really need a lawyer? Won’t the insurance company settle with me directly?
Without an experienced Motor Vehicle Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer on your side, you run a high risk of not getting the settlement you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies will deal with you directly, but their objective is to process claims quickly with the smallest payout possible. The best strategy is to talk with one of our lawyers as soon as possible after an accident, and avoid any direct discussions with the insurance company. If you’ve been dealing directly with an insurance company and they make an offer, you owe it to yourself and your family to speak with a lawyer to get an opinion on whether it’s fair. We’d be happy to provide an objective, no-cost evaluation of what your claim is reasonably worth.
I’m not sure my injuries are severe enough to warrant filing a claim. Can I file a claim if my injuries cause me problems later?
In Alberta, you have two years from the day of your injury to file a claim. If a claim isn’t filed within the two-year-window, you lose your right to initiate a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. Regardless of the nature and apparent seriousness of your injuries following an accident, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, and speak with a lawyer to evaluate your potential claim. If you and your lawyer decide to proceed with a claim, the gathering of information – doctor and police reports, witness statements, records of expenses, etc. – will be easier in the period immediately following the accident than if you wait.
What if I am unable to come to the Litwiniuk & Company office because of an injury or physical challenge, or because I live outside the City of Calgary? How will I meet with a lawyer?
Litwiniuk & Company has fully accessible facilities to accommodate clients and visitors who face physical challenges due to an injury or disability. If for any reason you’re unable to meet with a lawyer at our office, we will come to you, wherever you are, at no charge. Lawyers from our firm have traveled throughout Canada and the United States to meet with potential clients. We are also happy to provide consultations by videoconference, Skype and by telephone. If you have special needs – or your circumstances make traveling difficult – call us at (403) 273-8580 and we’ll make arrangements to enable you to meet or speak with a lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been in a motor vehicle accident or suffered a personal injury, it won’t cost anything to come talk with a lawyer. Simply call our office at (403) 273-8580 to schedule a convenient time to come see us, or use our contact form. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours to set up a meeting to speak with a lawyer.