Author: admin

Fighting for Justice

Natalie Clarke sees herself as a crusader for Access to Justice representing the most vulnerable in our society – victims of other’s negligent acts. Because she represents injured and disabled individuals fighting multi-billion dollar insurance companies, she compares herself to the “David fighting the Goliath”. Clarke runs a small law firm but goes against lawyers of the insurance companies, which on the other hand, have limitless financial resources and can entangle her clients in procedural labyrinths before reaching justice. But she does not blink. She perseveres and pushes her clients’ claims with a sincere hope to reach a judge’s hearing. She is a strong believer in the Canadian justice system and believes once she is advocating in front of a judge, the size of the firm is no longer the dominating factor in the process.

For more than two decades, Natalie Clarke has advocated for personal injury victims (first as a paralegal and since 2003 as a lawyer) recovering compensations for seriously injured victims and individuals with a variety of post-trauma limitations.

If you get injured in a serious car collision, for example, you are unable to work, look after your house or your kids. At the same time you are unable to afford a lawyer to represent your rights. “This is where a trauma and injury lawyer steps in,” she says. The majority of her clients have been injured by the fault of someone else.

“I am dedicated to bringing justice to accident victims, their spouses and their children” she says. “I’m passionate about not letting insurance companies keep the money that should rightfully belong to the injured and their children.” The insurance companies ought not to off-load their responsibilities for the trauma victims onto the publically funded and overburdened OHIP or ODSP programs while making 17% returns, outlined in the 2014 study done by two professors from York University. The Auditor General of Ontario has long called for the review of insurance companies’ profits. Clarke believes the system is fundamentally broke, as in her experience, insurance companies do not pay out on a very high number of cases. She believes that Ontarians ought to look into government auto-insurance systems such as currently run in the Province of British Columbia. 


“Since we, as tax payers, end up paying for those injured when insurance companies take drastic positions not to pay out on a very high number of cases, we might as well get some money into the public system – and not into multi-billion dollars insurance companies.” Some of these insurance companies are not even Canadian owned”, she says.

As you will note in this up close and personal interview, her dedication for helping people extends farther back than just her current legal practice. While studying at the University of Toronto, she represented clients under the compassionate and humanitarian program. Later, during law school, she volunteered for the family services at the Family Law Court and was involved in assisting victims of domestic violence as well as new immigrants.

We caught up with Natalie Clarke, to ask her what she’s most passionate about in terms of her work, her goals, and her experiences.

Q: What initially interested you in law, that is, what was the impetus to pursue it as a career?

My older sister was struck by a car as a pedestrian. She was in the hospital with two broken legs, collarbone fracture, and a concussion for two months. She has never been the same since and relies heavily on the family for help. The auto-insurance compensation system was not sufficient and my sister relies heavily on our family resources and availability to assist her with variety of tasks. I felt compelled to get into law and make the system better. It’s an insurmountable fight against a very strong insurance industry with numerous lobbyists working to protect their billion dollar profits on the backs of individuals like my sister, and ultimately, on the backs of all Ontario tax payers, as people end up on publically funded OHIP and ODSP programs.

Q: Can you give me an example that stands out of a case where you felt you made a particular difference in someone’s life?

I find it particularly rewarding working on cases that involve children or people with a mental disability. There is no one to protect them. The buck stops with me, and my performance as their lawyer. The degree of my success on their cases directly affects their lives. I am very passionate about those cases, and I work hard even if I don’t make any money. It’s my pro-bono contribution to our society. I don’t like seeing large insurance companies take advantage of the most vulnerable in our society.

Q: Who do you consider role models in your life and why?

Starting with my father in the Soviet Ukraine, who was an auto-engineer and a workaholic. He modernized every place he worked at, and had 18 patents of inventions. But he was squashed by the Communist Party for refusing to join, and died of a stroke at the age of 63. I could no longer stay in that country. After I graduated from high school, I left at the age of 19 and enrolled in high school here. Yes, yes… I graduated from two high schools and two Universities. Can you believe the agony? But I now do what I love most. I fight for the underdog in our society. I also had a great mentorship with the firm I joined right after my law school ran by the formidable Benjamin Levinter with the team of the most talented lawyers. That firm taught me the most valuable lesson: “it’s not what you earn on the file, it’s the access to justice through the quality of service you carry out as a barrister and an officer of the court”. That has been my motto ever since.

Q: Tell me about a time you sought out a detail nuance of a case that you think might have been missed by a cookie cutter team elsewhere?

A man came into my office asking me to sue a drunk-driver for causing a colossal collision. This driver slammed his car at a high speed into a pile of other cars and eventually into a building. My client, a front seat passenger, who was just getting a ride to the subway, was seriously injured. However, because he did not speak English he did not speak to the police, and was not noted in the motor vehicle accident report. The driver took advantage of that, and refused to admit that my client was a passenger. The drunk driver only paid a ticket for this accident. I had to go door to door at the location of the accident, until I found a restaurant owner who not only remembered my client, she helped him out of the smoking car and sat him on the curb. My client took a taxi to the hospital as he had a fractured wrist. No lawyer would believe my client or take his case on. When I saw tears rolling down this strong, large man’s eyes, I had to help. I ended up recovering good compensation for this fractured wrist.

It Maybe Time to Revisit the Issue of Abolishing Private Auton-Insurance in Favour of Public Auto-Insurance

Since Ontario has the highest car insurance premiums in Canada and the worst accident benefits coverage for the majority of accident victims, perhaps it’s time we revisited Bob Rae’s proposal to institute government-owned car insurance in Ontario . After all, private insurers are forever crying poor over low returns, all the while complaining about fraudulent claims and annually increasing premiums for this mandatory product. So why not give public auto insurance a try? It’s been done in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. We don’t hear the public clamouring for a return to the good old days of private insurance in those provinces.


How Do I Know If I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you or someone in your family has been injured in an accident in Toronto, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. It’s that simple. The harm caused may be either physical or mental – it still qualifies as a personal injury.

What if the injury is minor?

One of the biggest reasons that many people don’t contact an injury lawyer right away is that they feel that their injuries are not serious enough to warrant it.

The problem with this type of reasoning is that you may not really know the full extent of your injuries immediately following the accident. They may not be as minor as you think.

Some injuries don’t manifest right away, but contacting a personal injury lawyer immediately after an accident is in your best interest anyway. A lawyer can give you advice on keeping track of your medical bills and records, counselling appointments, and all of the details that affect your case.

Injury LawyerWhat steps will my lawyer take?

Your personal injury lawyer will negotiate on your behalf when major insurance companies and lawyers for the at-fault party might try to bully you. Lawyers deal with thousands of these cases and know what’s fair, and know how to get that for you. They understand the fine print, and have handled the insurance forms before.

There are so many laws and statutes that the average person is not aware of. You might be entitled to compensation you don’t even know about. If you try to settle matters without legal representation, you may be disadvantaged, especially if the other party has a lawyer.

What information will I have to share with my lawyer?

When you meet for an initial consultation, your lawyer will want to get as many details from you as possible. They will want to know about the nature and extent of your injuries including any available doctor’s reports as well as your financial information such as how much income you were earning prior to the accident and whether or not you are able to continue earning that income with your injury.

They will want to know about your medical expenses to date, and what future medical expenses are anticipated.

By sharing the details of your case in confidence with your lawyer, you can learn how the law is on your side to defend you and provide you with an award that suits your needs. Your lawyer can advise you on how to communicate with the other parties involved, and can support you when those parties challenge your case’s validity.

At the very least, it is a good idea to meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss the details of your case to see what can be done. Even if you do not proceed with a civil suit, you will have the knowledge to get through the circumstance. By contacting a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, you will be on your way to understanding your rights, and you’ll be better equipped to fight for them.

WAKE UP ONTARIANS: You are being robbed of Car Insurance Coverage by the Insurance Industry’s Back Door Lobbying!

The insurance industry is trying to pass with expedient haste and through the back door — a new law — to eliminate any punishments against the insurance companies for not paying for treatments to the car victims. NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh commented while the proposed bill reduces costs for the insurance industry, there’s no proof that companies will pass on the savings to the consumers. “We know that we need to get at the true profits that the insurance companies are making and we know that the profits are there,” Singh said.

On the legislative floor, ORDER OF THE DAY, March 17, 2014, Jagmeet Singh:

I think this issue was put very well by Alan Shanoff on March 15, 2014, in an article written for the Toronto Sun entitled “Little Benefit for Victims”. He summarizes his response to Bill 171, Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act.

Now, I challenge the Liberal government, I challenge the members on the other side, to show me how this bill, particularly the two components I talked about-how will changing the dispute resolution system from the FSCO arbitrators to the Licence Appeal Tribunal reduce fraud? It won’t. I dare you to show me how it will. You can’t show that. So your title that says “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act” in that regard is false. I challenge you to show me how reducing the interest rates charged to encourage insurance companies to settle quicker-reducing them from 5% to 1.3%-reduces fraud in any way. I challenge you to show me how that reduces fraud. You won’t be able to show me that. Again, the title “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act” is false in those two areas, and those are the two biggest components of this bill.

Now, the article written by Mr. Shanoff was quite to the point, and I love the way he summarized this issue. In his final summary of this issue of Bill 171, he writes, “I can see where reduction of interest rates, removal of special awards and shunting cases away from experienced, independent arbitrators would benefit insurance companies.

“But where is the benefit to drivers and accident victims?” I agree wholeheartedly.

Later Singh:

Reading from Mr. Shanoff’s article again, if we’re really serious about protecting drivers, Mr. Shanoff writes, “Another real way to protect drivers is to provide arbitrators with the power to penalize insurers that act unreasonably in withholding or delaying penalties.” If arbitrators had a tool of that sort, they could use this to send a message to penalize insurers if they’re acting unreasonably. This power exists right now.

Mr. Shanoff writes: “Actually, arbitrators hearing accident benefit cases currently have that power under the Insurance Act.

“They can award a lump sum of up to 50% of the amount withheld or delayed, along with interest, at the rate of 2% compounded monthly.”

I ask the government again to explain-Bill 171 eliminates this power, gets rid of this ability for the arbitrator to penalize an insurer if they’re withholding a sum or a settlement-how getting rid of this power, getting rid of this ability to penalize the insurers for acting inappropriately, for acting unreasonably, in any way reduces fraud. How does getting rid of this power in any way protect consumers?


Actually, I’m going to quote from the article by Alan Shanoff. Now, I’m quoting the Toronto Sun, so you never really know what you’re going to end up in a day-but Alan actually rightly points out, and he takes exception to, the haste. He says, “But what is most objectionable about Bill 171 is the haste with which it has been introduced-just two weeks following release of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Dispute Resolution System Review by J. Douglas Cunningham, a former Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice”-very well qualified.

“That must be some sort of speed record.”

“But with this haste there has been no opportunity for input by stakeholders.”

Once again, and this seems to be a trend that we have seen in this House, a piece of legislation comes to the floor and there are gaps in that legislation. The promise or the offer is put out, “Well, let’s get this to committee and fix it.” This is something that I do not understand. Why don’t they just bring the legislation, in its full entirety, to the floor of the House so that we could actually have a productive conversation and a debate about Bill 171, in this instance?

Quiet Changes Cause a Loud Disturbance

Some insurers want Feb. 1 changes to auto insurance benefits applied retroactively. The Ontario government quietly changed the law in December, 2013 effective February 1, 2014 reversing an earlier decision made by the unanimous penal of Judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal. The insurance industry does not want to pay proper compensation to the caregivers of the accident victims. If your child or a spouse was bedridden because of the car accident and you left your job to look after him/her, your compensation would be limited to the amount of your income. Even if you now work 24/7 your pre-accident (part-time or full time income) will limit how much the insurance company has to pay you. The caregiver can effectively work below the minimum wage. Parents or spouses may have left their jobs to provide attendant care: including feeding, dressing, toileting, bathing, transportation to and for clinics, purchasing and and administering medications, or cooking, but they cannot be compensated for their work appropriately because of this new law.

Since attendant care benefits are not available for victims who suffer only minor injuries in car crashes and are significant only for those who have suffered catastrophic injuries, this will harm the most vulnerable victims. This is incredibly mean-spirited. The insurance companies are laughing all the way to the back as the seriously injured car accident victims being robed off essential care yet once again. This approach will certainly lead to numerous disputed claims and delayed payments for attendant care accident benefits. Claims will face lengthy delays as they proceed through the mediation and arbitration or court challenges. The government agency that mediates these disputes was forced to hire another unregulated agency to deal with the backlog. The government passed this regulation without any advance notice or public consultation. This law must be reversed. Neglecting to take this step would show bad faith by the provincial government towards accident victims and a lack of regard for procedural fairness.

I view this reduction in accident benefits as insurance industry attempt to keep its billion dollar profits and shielding themselves to the government’s promise to reduce auto insurance premiums by 15 percent. I don’t remember NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s demand for a 15 percent premium reduction in auto insurance rates being tied to reductions in auto insurance coverage. I don’t recall Premier Kathleen Wynne announcing the 15 percent reduction as part of a package which included less insurance coverage. After all, ANYBODY can promise and deliver an insurance rate reduction WHEN coverage is reduced. Perhaps she believes voters will only remember her demands for the premium reduction and will ignore the fact the reduction is being used as an excuse to reduce coverage and thus harm accident victims and their families.

Justice After Attack

The Ontario Superior Court released its decision in Zantingh et al v. Jerry case involving a dog bite of a little girl. The court thoroughly reviewed the law in dog bite cases. Justice Leach awarded $60,000 to the minor plaintiff in general damages for “noticeable, pronounced and obviously disfiguring scars”. This case is also important for the individuals who look after the children who have suffered dog bites. The Judge reviewed the issue of contributory negligence of a caregiver looking after the child of tender years. No contributory negligence was found on the part of the caregiver. The Judge awarded damages to the parents and sibling of the minor.

Case Study: Ross v. Bucchus

Title: The Judge in the Hamilton Court comes down hard on the insurance company for delaying compensation to the car accident victim.

In the case of Ross v. Bucchus, the plaintiff Ross was injured in a motor vehicle accident. He was awarded $248,000 after a six-day trial in Hamilton. Unsurprisingly, the trial was expensive. The plaintiff’s trial costs were at $140,000. The plaintiff’s lawyers were seeking additional $60,000 for the defendant’s (represented by his insurance company Certas) failure to comply with its obligations to mediate the case as dictated by the Insurance Act.

Justice Ramsay noted in his decision that although the lawyer hired by the Insurance Company Certas representing the defendant did agree to a brief mediation at limited costs , they had advised the plaintiff they were not interested in settling this case. Justice Ramsay inferred that the insurer was conducting itself in such a way in hopes of intimidating the plaintiff and deterring other plaintiffs who had meritorious cases. The defendant has provided an offer to settle for $30,000.00, the plaintiff’s offer was $80,000 before starting the trial. Justice Ramsey noted that it took a 6-day trial with all its attendant risk for the sake of $50,000.00. which the defendant could afford and the plaintiff could not. He found that the defendant did not attempt to settle expeditiously as required by the Insurance Act and the mediation was described “as a sham”. By refusing to mediate the trial judge augmented the cost award by $60,000 plus HST. This is a marked victory for the litigants who seek justice for their injuries. Finally, the courts have send a strong message to the greedy insurance corporations. This is a reaction to the years of insurance intimidation towards the litigants with limited means to have their cases heard by the court.

Click here to read the full case.