ELI BAKER LAW OFFICE
Questions and Answers Archive

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When is a good time to call my lawyer about my injury?

How often should I speak to my personal injury lawyer?

How long does it take to settle a personal injury claim?

How often does my lawyer contact me?

What type of injuries can you get compensation for?

If I go to court will I get more money?

The person who hit me seemed nice - will my claim hurt them?

I think I am 50% at fault for the accident - that's what the insurance company is saying.

My car accident was ages ago but I did nothing.  I don't know who hit me.   I didn't see my doctor or lawyer.  I guess it's too late to do anything right?

What if my injury wasn't anybody's fault?

How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?

What is an Insurance Adjuster?  I was in an accident and one called me to ask some questions...

How much is my claim worth?

I went to a lawyer and he would not take my case - should I give up?

If your claim isn't settled in two years then it's gone?

I live on Fogo Island.  Do I have to get a lawyer here or can I choose you?

If I get in a car accident what should I do at the scene?

How do I choose my lawyer for my personal injury claim?

If I go to court will I get more money?
 

When is a good time to call my lawyer about my injury?
I have clients that called me from their automobile... 5 minutes after an accident, in the middle of an intersection in a busy street in St. John's Newfoundland!  I have clients at my firm who called me a year after their accident.  I have clients at my firm who called me after seeing their doctor.  I have clients at my firm who tried to settle their own case, and changed their mind 1/2 way through the process, and called me to step in...

I think that the best time to call a lawyer is "right now".  What I mean is that the sooner a lawyer can start helping you through your case, the more likely you will receive the most the law can offer.

If you have a case... if your situation deserves compensation... immediate legal representation is your best bet.

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How often should I speak to my personal injury lawyer?
If you have a question, or questions, for your lawyer about your injury claim or your accident make the call to your lawyer and ask the question(s) - it's that easy! I get all sorts of calls from my clients asking about parts of their claims... what they should be doing; how certain activities will help or hurt their claim; to whom they should be talking (for instance their doctor) and what they should be saying (for instance making sure they articulate their injuries well so the doctor can form an opinion), and all that kind of stuff. 

Of all things that can hurt a personal injury claim a lack of communication with your lawyer is among the top factors. The ultimate goal of a good personal injury lawyer is to optimize the value of your claim to you - to get the compensation you are legally entitled to and provide you with a quality of service that meets or exceeds your expectations.

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How often does my lawyer contact me?
I try to speak, or mail, or email each of my personal injury clients once a month and I try to ask them the same questions during that communication:

1) When was the last time you saw your doctor and other health care professionals?
2) What was discussed?
3) How are your accident injuries progressing - be specific?
4) Can you provide me with an example of how your symptoms are affecting your everyday life?
5) Can you fax or email me copies of your receipts?

That said, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to manage a relationship with a client.  I am sure that practice here in St. John's Newfoundland is different than a place in rural Newfoundland.  St. John's is a larger city and it's easy to call, or drop in on your lawyer.  It is entirely up to the practice methods of your personal injury lawyer and the expectations of you, the client.  If you want a different relationship with your lawyer call your lawyer and talk about it.

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If I go to court will I get more money?
There is a difference between court awarded compensation and settlement of a personal injury claim.  Court awarded compensation is provided by a judge after hearing all the evidence and the judge decides, in a Court of Law, what the appropriate compensation should be for a personal injury claim.   In St. John's Newfoundland our Courts hear the tough cases - the cases that can't be settled, either because one side is confident they deserve more or less, or when the issues are so split, a judge is needed to determine the facts.  Often Court awards are large - making it look like a Court of Law provides injured people with "more money".  This is a false assumption however. 

The bottom line is that a skilled lawyer who practices and is familiar with personal injury law will know when a case should be settled, and when an accident injury case should go to court.  Ultimately it is the client's decision to take a settlement for their personal injury or to reject a settlement offer and "press on" - that said, a victim of a personal injury, someone who for instance has been in a vehicle crash, needs to listen to their lawyer and get advice - your lawyer will give you good advice about personal injury law, and help you make a decision.

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I think I am 50% at fault for the accident - that's what the insurance company is saying.
If you are in a car accident there are two people you should probably not speak to without a lawyer - the person driving the other car, and the insurance company representative for the person driving the other car.  I'm not saying you should "shut up and drive away" - that would be illegal.  But, other than providing the basic insurance information, not much, if anything at all should be discussed.  FAULT, in an automobile accident, is dependent on not only the law (the rules of the road and the highway traffic act), but the situation in which you got in the car accident.  The facts of the case might not be obvious to you, but later, when they come out, might reveal that the automobile accident was not your fault, and your personal injury might be 100% the fault of the other driver - regardless of what the insurance company is saying to you.  The bottom line is that your lawyer is your best representative and has your personal injury in mind when they deal with the insurance company.  They are experienced, and know what is important, and what to protect, so that you will get the best settlement you can for the injuries you got in your car accident.

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My car accident was ages ago but I did nothing.  I don't know who hit me.   I didn't see my doctor or lawyer.  I guess it's too late to do anything right?
I am surprised at the number of people who have been in car accidents who didn't do anything about it.  Sometimes they let the insurance company fix their vehicles but then just let the rest "go".  Sometimes the injured people don't have damage to their car and didn't make a claim.  Sometimes they didn't get the information from the other side.  If you can think it up a "weird" scenario I have probably seen it right here in St. John's Newfoundland.

A little while ago a person living in St. John's Newfoundland called me about a corporate matter.  We were talking about the corporate matter and they mentioned a car accident they were in, in St. John's Newfoundland, where they were rear ended at a stop light.  They felt they were ok and didn't get any information from the person who caused the car accident, or the police.  As it turned out my client was injured but didn't bother to make a claim - that was almost two years before our conversation.  This person thought because so much time had passed and because they could remember so little about the person who caused the car accident that there was no way to start a personal injury claim.  I tracked down the person responsible for the automobile accident, made a claim for a person injury with the insurance company, and got the injured person compensation for their person injury caused by the car accident that happened so long ago.

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What if my injury wasn't anybody's fault?
I get this a lot...  for some reason in certain circumstances many people think their accident and injury was "just bad luck".  I remember when I was a kid a piece of ice fell on me from a mall roof breaking my collarbone.  Back then it might have been "bad luck" but today building owners are expected to make efforts to prevent situations such as these.

I remember a case where a car went off the road and as it turned out the road was faulty and the paving company was made to pay compensation.  When that case started the owner of the car thought it was "an act of God" but as it turned out it was an act of "bad paving".

In many cases it takes a trained legal mind to recognize liability - if you were hurt - call a lawyer and ask - what have you got to lose but a few minutes of your time?

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How long does it take to settle a personal injury claim?
Accident injury claims can take from weeks to months to years to settle.  There are many issues that can affect how long it takes to settle your claim.  In my personal injury practice the thing that takes the most time is getting a good diagnosis and prognosis from the family doctor - and this is not the doctor's fault - it is the patients!  Here's what I mean: Personal injury law is all about compensating you, the victim, for the changes in your life because of your accident.  This means the lawyer needs to know TWO things from you - 1) your injuries and 2) how they affect your life.

Because personal injury law will compensate you for your future losses, the lawyer needs to know with good certainty, how your injury will progress beyond the settlement date.  In order to know that, the lawyer needs a good diagnosis (what is wrong with you) from your doctor, and a good prognosis (how long your injury will go on and in what way it will change).

In order for your doctor to give a good diagnosis and prognosis in most cases she, or he, must see you many times and over a long period of time.  A doctor can only know the course of an injury after examining its past.  In many cases a doctor simply cannot give a good prognosis without more than a year of examination and, often, consultation with specialists.  This takes time.

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The person who hit me seemed nice - will my claim hurt them?
I am amazed at how often injured people worry about the people who injured them - it is quite inspiring.  That said, you can rest assured that the size of your accident injury claim, 999 times out of 1000, will have no effect on the person who hurt you.  In fact, in Newfoundland and Labrador, if your claim was $25.00 or $250,000 the effect would be the same on the person who hit you - their rates would stay the same or go up or do down by the same amount.  999 times our of 1000, the the only thing that will affect the person who hit you is reporting the accident - something you should do in any event.

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What type of injuries can you get compensation for?
The most common injuries lawyers see are "whiplash" type injuries.  Medically speaking whiplash is most seen in the neck and caused by an automobile accident.  You can get whiplash in other ways though - falling down... even horse riding!  But lawyers also help people get compensation for many other injuries - broken bones, cuts and bruises, not to mention emotional injuries - such as post traumatic stress, and other disorders caused by other peoples negligence or bad behavior.  An example I like to use to describe injury types is this: 

Say someone beat you up - hit you in the face.  The next day you discover you have a bad bruise, broken nose, and you are in a very bad mood.  At that point you have three injuries - the bruise, the broken nose, and the post traumatic stress (the bad mood) - you can get compensation for all three - just make sure to call a personal injury lawyer!

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How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?
Lawyers are expensive - that's the bottom line.  In broad terms here's how it works:  If you are injured in a car accident in Newfoundland and Labrador our "Lawyer's rules" allow us to charge a fee based on something called "contingency".  This means that rather than charge an hourly rate, we will take a percentage of what we collect for your injury.  Most law firms charge somewhere between 20 and 33% of the amount collected for your settlement as the fee (as well as the HST on the lawyer's fee).  Most of the time, for car accidents where there is a personal injury, my firm expects to charge 25% of the settlement quantum plus the HST on that charge.  If there are costs associated with investigating your injury, as well as other costs (filing, copies etc) - these charges also come from the settlement for your personal injury claim.  Most of the time we can get these costs paid by the other side before settlement of your personal injury claim.

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What is an Insurance Adjuster?  I was in an accident and one called me to ask some questions...
An insurance adjuster is a person who works for an insurance company - period.  In most circumstances it is an insurance adjuster's job to figure out how much they have to pay someone hurt in a car accident for some part of that car accident.  The bottom line - never talk to an insurance adjuster without first talking to your lawyer.

The three most common adjusters: Section A | Section B | Property Damage

If you get in a car accident and you

1) suffer a personal injury (you are hurt in the accident) and
2) damage your car and
3) have been told by your doctor to get physiotherapy

then there will likely be THREE insurance adjusters involved:

1) one to investigate the personal injury (the Section A adjuster) and
2) one to investigate the damage to your car (the property damage adjuster) and
3) one to manage costs associated with your recovery (the Section B adjuster)

Insurance Adjusters have employers - insurance companies. The insurance company's primary purpose is to make money, not compensate - put bluntly they are not out to help you. You will do better knowing that your interests are protected by your lawyer.

Unlike an insurance adjuster it IS your lawyer's primary purpose to get you the best compensation she or he can for your personal injury.

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How much is my claim worth?
Every accident injury client I have here in Newfoundland asks me this question - every one.  Not one doesn't... they all do... even the kids... I had a nine year old child ask me - I'm not kidding.  It's natural to want to "bank" your personal injury claim - to mentally deposit into your bank account some future amount of money you think you will get. 

Except for the nine year old child whom I told to "wait and see", my answer to this question is always the same: "Your personal injury claim is worth somewhere between one thousand and one million dollars".  After that introduction I usually spend 15 or 20 minutes explaining (or re-explaining) how a personal injury claim is valued, and how important factors like medical documentation, and accurate journals are.  I explain that we need solid income information, and statements from employers and friends, as well as health care professionals.

The short answer to "How much is my claim worth?" is:
Personal injury claims in Newfoundland can be made for lost income in the past and future, as well as pain and suffering in the past and future.  We can claim for out of pocket expenses, and for the inability (or limited ability) to do things such as housekeeping and other "chores".  The worse off you are - the more you will receive under each head of damage. 

WITHOUT EXCEPTION it is vital to have a solid medical narrative.  This means you must have a medical doctor or other qualified health care professional provide an accurate and complete description of your injuries and how your injuries will play out into the future.  This means you must have, throughout the stages of your injury, attended your doctor and other healthcare professionals regularly, and explained your symptoms at those visits.

Personal injury claim maximization for someone injured in a car accident requires accurate and complete personal and medical documentation that is applied to the law of our Newfoundland jurisdiction.  My style as a personal injury lawyer here in Newfoundland requires good medical information.  I often say to my clients that "I am a medically driven personal injury lawyer".  

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I went to a lawyer and he would not take my case - should I give up?
This is a touchy subject.  If you were in a car accident and went looking for a personal injury lawyer, and that lawyer would not take your case - there is probably something wrong with the facts of your case, or how the lawyer understood the facts of your case.  If you were in a slip and fall, or a vehicle pedestrian accident, the same may be true, or perhaps the lawyer simply wasn't interested.

I hate to say it, but ultimately your personal injury case is about money (it sounds so impersonal).  In the majority of cases, if a lawyer thinks your case won't generate enough compensation to make the lawyer's bill worth the effort, the lawyer will reject your case.  But that's not the end of it...

Not all lawyers are created equal, and one lawyer's feast may be another's famine.  I'm trying to say that there are lawyers out there that will not take a case that will compensate $15,000 and there are lawyers that will - it depends.  But that's not the end of it either...

Some lawyers hate taking on certain kinds of personal injury files... "trip and falls" for instance... some lawyers find the work required to make a case too much to do.  But that's not the end of it...

Here's the end: If a lawyer turns down your case I think the lawyer is under an obligation to tell you why.  If you leave an office, or get off a phone with a lawyer who has rejected your injury case... that lawyer, while you were in the office or on the phone, had better given you the reasons why they let your case go... and told you in a way that you understand.  If they do not, then go to another lawyer and see what they say - heck... you should get a second opinion anyway.  In the end, before you walk away from a personal injury, a car accident, a slip and fall, you should know for certain why your case might not be something a lawyer would take on.

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If your claim isn't settled in two years then it's gone?
Not true... that said, there is a "two year rule" in Newfoundland and Labrador personal injury law that says if two years has passed from something called "confirmation" then your legal entitlement to a settlement from the person who hurt you is probably over.  But that "rule" is rubbed out by something called a "statement of claim".  If you file a "statement of claim" with the court before two years is up then for all intents and purposes the "two year rule" is gone.  If you have a lawyer and that lawyer messes up and lets two years go by without filing a statement of claim you get to sue your lawyer - yet another reason to get a lawyer - we are insured against our mistakes - and the insurance is for YOU the client.

So to sum it up - if you know the law, and you are diligent, there is no "two year rule" - but there are things you have to do before two years goes by to keep your claim alive.

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I live on Fogo Island.  Do I have to get a lawyer here or can I choose you?
This is a difficult question to answer.  The absolute answer is that you can have a lawyer of your choosing anywhere in Newfoundland - distance doesn't matter.  You can live in Cook's Harbour and have a lawyer in Burin.  But the question you are really asking is "is it any good to get you, or should I choose a closer lawyer to represent me".

My experience is that you should get a lawyer that knows the area of law well, who lives close to where you are.  If you live on Fogo Island and have suffered a personal injury due to a car accident or fall or some other event, I would choose a personal injury lawyer that lived close to the area of Newfoundland that you live - perhaps Gander or Grand Falls.  That said, I am sure that my firm, or any other firm in St. John's Newfoundland would be happy to take your personal injury case.


If I get in a car accident what should I do at the scene?
Legally speaking - to help your personal injury claim, what you should do at an accident scene depends on the situation.  For example, if you are being carted off in an ambulance there is not a heck of a lot you can do at the scene - mainly because an ambulance is taking you away from the scene!

If you are NOT being taken away from your accident scene by way of ambulance, then there are a number of things you should do right away - the obvious one is write down the time, place, and day.  Get the name of the driver who caused the car accident, and anyone else that was a witness to the auto accident (getting names of witnesses - this is VERY important.)

Get their insurance information. 

If you have a camera, PLEASE take pictures - a cell phone will do.  When you take the pictures make sure you are far enough away that you can see the whole scene.  You can take a few close-up pictures of the damage to the vehicles, but believe it or not, close-ups don't help much.  The wide shots are much better for preserving HOW a car accident happened - you need to record the situation in pictures so no one can say anything different later on.  Take many pictures from many angles.

Do not leave this up to the police to do - the police have very little interest in run-of-the-mill car accidents.  Generally speaking they do not do a very good job of collecting any information at all.  Make sure to get the police file number though.

DO NOT answer questions about how you feel.  Leave answering those questions for later, when you know the totality of your injuries.

When you get home, immediately write down a statement for yourself as to exactly how the car accident happened and write down in detail how your injuries are progressing, and what they are.

After all this - call your personal injury lawyer.

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How do I choose my lawyer for my personal injury claim?
I received a call a few days ago from a person who was just in a car accident at an intersection.  The accident was not a small one, and the person calling told me he was suffering from whiplash.

Apparently the insurance companies had started calling this person to get information about how the accident happened and about the "soft tissue injuries" sustained in the vehicle accident - he was driving a pick-up truck.  This victim realized (as most do) that he should get a lawyer.

The way this person actually put the question to me was close to this: "Why should I choose you over Ches Crosbie or Roebothan McKay and Marshall?  They are bigger."  I could tell that the caller was having a bit of a joke on me - but that he was seriously considering retaining me, and he was asking something for which he wanted an answer - and sometimes people use humor to get to an uncomfortable question without offence -  in this case I thought he was asking me "Why you over them?".

Answering the question "Are you a better lawyer than Glen Roebothan?" is easy.  The answer is "NO".  And I am absolutely confident that Glen Roebothan would answer the same question about some other lawyer in his field in the same fashion.  But that was not the question my caller asked.  My caller was asking (I think) "Why should I choose you over another lawyer?" - This IS a hard question to answer.

I refer potential clients to other lawyers all the time.  If I do not have the skill set to complete the task required, or I feel another lawyer is better suited - I will recommend another lawyer.  That said, in the case of personal injuries sustained in car accidents - in most cases I will want to keep the client.  But it is always the client's choice as to which lawyer to pick.  My advice to any potential client - including this caller - was and will always be "Call 4 or 5 lawyers, get the lawyer on the phone, talk to the lawyer for 10 or 15 minutes, and then make your choice as to who you want to represent you in your personal injury case.  If you can't get the lawyer on the phone right then and there, ask when you can talk directly to the lawyer and make a telephone meeting, or a meeting in person.  Get a sense for the lawyer and if you are comfortable with them."

Remember, getting hurt in a car accident is a very serious thing.  Choosing your lawyer to represent you about your car accident and bodily injury is just a serious a thing as the car accident itself.

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If I go to court will I get more money?
There is a difference between court awarded compensation and settlement of a personal injury claim.  Court awarded compensation is provided by a judge after hearing all the evidence and the judge decides, in a Court of Law, what the appropriate compensation should be for a personal injury claim.   In St. John's Newfoundland our Courts hear the tough cases - the cases that can't be settled, either because one side is confident they deserve more or less, or when the issues are so split, a judge is needed to determine the facts.  Often Court awards are large - making it look like a Court of Law provides injured people with "more money".  This is a false assumption however. 

The bottom line is that a skilled lawyer who practices and is familiar with personal injury law will know when a case should be settled, and when an accident injury case should go to court.  Ultimately it is the client's decision to take a settlement for their personal injury or to reject a settlement offer and "press on" - that said, a victim of a personal injury, someone who for instance has been in a vehicle crash, needs to listen to their lawyer and get advice - your lawyer will give you good advice about personal injury law, and help you make a decision.

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