Many people who have been injured in an accident through no fault of their own have many questions on what the ensuing process will look like. I have broken down the typical process in this step by step guide to provide some clarity for those going through a sometimes stressful process. Broken down in phases, here’s what happens:
- Get assessed by a doctor. Don’t assume you aren’t injured, and don’t try to tough it out.
- Be your own best advocate. Tell the doctor about what happened, and let them know how your injuries are affecting your day-to-day living. Ask them to document the connection between the accident and your injuries. If you feel you aren’t being listened to, seek a second opinion.
- Get treatment. Follow your doctor’s advice and get all the treatment you need.
- Use the “Protocol” and “Section B” treatments available through your own insurance company for the first two years after your accident.
- Don’t engage with the “Third Party Insurer” (the insurance company for the person who hit you) until you are ready.
Legal Action Phase (Don’t stop treating!)
- File a Statement of Claim
File a Statement of Claim within two years after the date of the accident. If you don’t do it within two years, you will not ever be able to (except in exceptional circumstances).
- Serve the Statement of Claim
Serve the Statement of Claim on the other side within a year of filing it.
- Statement of Defence
The other side will serve a Statement of Defence.
As part of the litigation process there will be a Questioning, where you get to ask questions of the person who caused your injuries. You will also be asked questions. You have to answer a lot of questions, and some can be very personal. Some questions are not allowed. This can get pretty technical, and this is where the lawyer needs to be well-prepared. There could be more than one round of Questioning.
At the Questioning, you will be asked to promise to provide information to the other side that you don’t have (but can get). These are called “Undertakings”. Some of these may be straightforward, others can require quite a lot of time, effort, and even money to produce. If you have retained a lawyer, they’ll do most of this work, and pay for a lot of it. There could be another round of Questioning once the answers to all the undertakings are delivered.
- Defence Medical Examination
The other side can have you get a Defence Medical Examination. (They like to call this an “Independent” Medical Examination- it is not “Independent” – the doctor they have you see is their “hired gun”) They’ll hire a physician to examine you and provide them with a medical legal report. You have rights at this examination, and you need to know what they are. Your lawyer will prepare you for the Defence Medical Examination
- Your own Medical Examination
You can get your own Medical Experts to provide an opinion. Which expert(s) you retain to provide you with a medical opinion will depend on what kind of injury you have.
By the time all of the medical information is gathered, the experts are consulted, and evidence has been heard through the Questioning process, almost all claims will be settled. If you can’t reach a settlement, then the matter will be put down for trial, and a court date will be set.
You can settle at any time after the accident, but in order to be properly and fairly compensated, you will want to wait until you have reached “Maximum Medical Improvement”, and have all your ducks in a row. It’s very difficult to predict how long any case will take from collision to settlement, and it can be hard to know how much a claim will be worth, because it’s hard to know how a lot of injuries will affect you over time.