We have a compensation based legal system. Let me explain what that means.
You are sitting at a red light, waiting for it to change to green.
A distracted pickup truck driver smashes full-on into the back of your car. Brakes are not even applied. (By the way, this is a very common type of crash, and is indicative of the horrendously low level of responsibility taken by many drivers in our community.)
You are injured. Your “claim” is for fair compensation for your losses arising from those injuries.
Your losses include the dollars that come out of your pocket to pay for physiotherapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy and any other medical needs you required.
Your losses include the dollars that you would have earned but didn’t because of time you have to miss from work.
Your losses also include financial compensation for the pain and discomfort you suffer as a result of your injuries, as well as the impact those symptoms have on your recreational activities, relationship with your spouse and children— every other facet of your life.
There is no bonus. The injuries dig a hole into your life. Your “claim” is simply to fill that hole.
The insurance company defending that pick-up truck driver is not going to pay anything more than they have to.
Not only that, the insurer’s willingness to pay fair compensation won’t come unless you have retained a lawyer and until that lawyer has properly prepared your case.
In fact, sometimes fair compensation is never offered and the case has to be taken to trial.
I think that many people have the perception that those injured in a crash are somehow lucky, because they have a claim.
When you realize that the claim is simply to fill a hole created by the injuries, it becomes apparent that the perception is not reality.
Still, it’s worse than that, for the hole never really gets filled. Nobody actually ends up with fair compensation, even if the insurance company ends up paying it.
It’s those damned lawyers who take up to one-third of the claim in fees.
The best you can do is two-thirds of fair compensation, so that hole gets only two-thirds filled.
Instead of the lottery ticket that many people perceive an injury claim to be, it’s really the reverse. You are going to end up with an empty hole.
The bigger your losses, the bigger your claim. The bigger your claim, the bigger the empty hole that is left after your lawyer gets you “fair compensation.”
You are entitled to “costs” from the insurance company, but those costs usually cover an extremely small portion of your actual legal fees and a reasonably accurate estimate of what you will end up with after the dust settles is about two-thirds of the compensation paid.
Can we get rid of the lawyers?
The insurance company could open its wallet and pay fair compensation for your claim without you needing to hire a lawyer, but that’s not going to happen.
The reality is that if you hire a lawyer to prosecute your claim, you can likely count on the case settling for many times the maximum offer the insurance company is prepared to pay without you retaining a lawyer.
Why do personal injury lawyers charge such a high percentage of a claim? I have covered that in a previous column that dates back to June 28, 2009, if you care to look for it in my online archive. But I’ll cover it again soon.
The only way to get rid of the lawyers is for drivers to pull their heads out of their asses and drive responsibly.
This column is intended to provide general information about injury claims. It is not a substitute for retaining a lawyer to provide legal advice specifically pertaining to your case. Paul Hergott is a lawyer at Hergott Law in West Kelowna.