Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people’s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides. Photo: Contributed

Kootnekoff: The power of just one person during an Okanagan driving dispute

Kelowna lawyer details how one person helped another during an insurance debacle

Today, a story about how a simple act by just one person improved someone else’s life.

Early one morning, person A was traveling to work. It was still dark. The streets were quiet. Person A sat at the traffic light near his home, waited until the light turned green, then proceeded into the intersection.

He then heard a loud “BANG.” The next thing he remembers, his vehicle was facing the opposite direction in a different part of the street, air bags deployed, and various parts of his body hurt. He had been T-boned by another vehicle. After a few moments, he tried to exit the vehicle. The door would not open.

Eventually, he managed to get out.

The other driver, person B, asserted that person A ran the red light.

A denied this, but B continued to assert that the collision was A’s fault.

Unlike many intersections in the Okanagan, this one had no cameras.

Another man, person C, approached A quietly and gave him a slip of paper with his name and email on it. When A got home, he contacted C. C asked if he wanted a statement. He told A that he had been out walking his dog, had crossed the perpendicular street, and then a few moments later, heard the BANG. Based on the fact that C had already crossed the street, he knew that A was not in the intersection when A’s light was red. He wrote a statement to that effect, and sent it to A.

A gave it to his lawyer. C’s statement allowed A to receive fair compensation for his injuries. Without it, A would have had trouble proving his case.

There are so many instances in our every day lives when we too can make a difference to someone else.

Large organizations have a lot of power. Insurance companies regularly deny or low-ball the compensation they pay out. Employers sometimes make inaccurate assertions about employees. Regulatory tribunals regularly find that a complainant has failed to establish her or his case, due to a lack of evidence. Abused women or children face challenges asserting their rights, for similar reasons.

If you have first-hand knowledge of something that has happened to someone else, you may wonder if you should step forward. You may feel that it is too intrusive or presumptuous to do so. You may fear getting drawn into in a complicated legal matter. You may think it’s just simpler “not to get involved.”

Take a moment to consider the gratification that you may feel from knowing that you did the right thing, the compassionate thing, by stepping forward during a potentially critical period in someone’s life.

So, if you have witnessed a collision, workplace harassment or bullying, someone being injured at work or in a WCB program, spousal abuse, child abuse, or you have knowledge about numerous other potentially big events in someone else’s life, consider taking the initiative. Step forward. Do what person C did.

Provide that person with your name and contact information. Ask for their contact information also. Offer to write a letter stating what you saw or know and how you know it.

The sooner you do so, the better.

A statement made contemporaneously is generally considered to be more reliable than one provided later. When a statement is provided close in time to the event, it is less likely that it was concocted, or subject to reflection or distortion.

It is generally considered more likely to be accurate and reliable.

So, if you have knowledge that might be helpful to another individual, consider stepping forward now. Even if time has passed, it is likely still better to step forward later than not at all.

What a great feeling to know that your simple act can make such a difference to another person in his or her time of need.

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