Author: Clarke Law

ACCESSING JUSTICE (COURTS) THROUGH LEGAL EXPENSE INSURANCE (“LEI”)

Legal Expense InsuranceWhat good are legal rights if you can’t enforce them? The “David and Goliath” concept is the most vivid in the area of personal injury litigation.  The comparison between injured victims and insurance companies defending the negligent parties is fitting for this financial power imbalance.

 Access to justice plays a vital role in maintaining the rule of law and ensuring fairness and equality within our civil justice system. In a perfect world, justice could be done without regard to the high costs of litigation.

 The Legal Expense Insurance may be one tool to help level the playing field between the victims and the responsible wrongdoers. The LEI may provide injured claimants with a greater sense of security to pursue claims with less concern for the financial risks involved.

 Legal Expense Insurance is popular in Europe and Quebec and has recently gained some recognition in Ontario. The Law Society of Upper Canada has endorsed Legal Expense Insurance as a useful product with the potential to make legal services more affordable.

 

CHALLENGES WITH ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN THE CIVIL JUSTICE SYSTEM

 The Supreme Court of Canada has recently recognized the problems in our legal system regarding access to justice. In its recent decision of Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 87, Justice Karakatsanis speaking for the Supreme Court stated at the outset:

 “[e]nsuring access to justice is the greatest challenge to the rule of law in Canada today. Trials have become increasingly expensive and protracted. Most Canadians cannot afford to sue when they are wronged or defend themselves when they are sued, and cannot afford to go to trial.”

 Injured claimants, even those with competent lawyers acting on a contingency fee basis (sometimes referred to as a “no win no fee” arrangement) may still face great financial risks associated with litigation against the deep pocketed insurance companies.  For example, in the event a claim proceeds to trial and is unsuccessful, the injured claimant may end up being responsible for paying the disbursements incurred from both sides and may also be liable to pay the insurance company’s legal bill, which could be very significant. For example, the cost of civil matters can vary but according to an October 2013 report published by the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, national ranges of legal fees may vary from “$13,561 – $37,229 for a civil action up to trial (2 days), $23,083 – $79,750 for a civil action up to trial (5 days), $38,296 – $124,574 for a civil action up to trial (7 days)”

 

HOW LEGAL EXPENSE INSURANCE BENEFITS INJURED CLAIMANTS:

 This type of insurance can protect those pursuing personal injury claims by providing coverage for expenses and any legal costs that a claimant might otherwise have to pay out of their own pocket in the event that the claim is unsuccessful or abandoned.

 For personal injury claims, the premiums for LEI would be deferred until the conclusion of the claim only if the claim is successful. If the claim is unsuccessful, no premium is payable and the policy would still provide coverage to the injured claimant against adverse legal costs and disbursements that they may otherwise be responsible for paying after losing their case.

Accidental Deaths Due To Crossing Accidents

cross walk accidentsOne of the hardest things to deal with is the accidental deaths of a loved one. A death is defined as wrongful when a person is killed as a result of the negligent actions or misconduct of another person, business, or entity.

This includes the failure to maintain one’s property, a death resulting from an automobile accident, a slip and fall resulting in death, or even in cases of manslaughter.

Any case where an untimely death is caused by something other than natural causes has the potential to be a wrongful death suit. In the event of a wrongful death claim, the people eligible to collect damages are the deceased person’s surviving immediate family members – the spouse and children

Though any accident has the potential to be a tragedy, crossing accidents are some of the most tragic and common.

Crossing accidents represented one of the most serious types of rail incidents in 2013, with 20% of these accidents resulting in either serious or fatal injuries. There were 188 crossing accidents in Canada in 2013, consistent with the average of the past five years. 23 of these resulted in fatalities, again on par with the average of the past 5 years. In total, 31 people were fatally injured in these accidents, higher than the five-year average of 25 fatalities per year. Surprisingly, 42 per cent of crossing fatalities last year were pedestrians – 13 fatalities.

It’s important that we as pedestrians respect the lights, warnings, and other preventative measures put in place to avoid a crossing accident from occurring. However, if you have lost a love one due to the pure fault of the driver or operator, it’s important you speak with a personal injury lawyer.

The Clarke Law Team understands the difficulty in handling a claim while grieving. That’s why it’s important to choose an experienced wrongful death lawyer to support you in your claim.

Through Natalie Clarke’s years of experience as a personal injury lawyer she has recovered monetary compensation for countless immediate families of victims. Clarke law pursues full compensation for the death of your family member, including financial and emotional support. Possible compensation that you may be entitled to can include:

• Loss of future economic support
• Loss of potential inheritance
• Medical expenses
• Funeral expenses
• Loss of companionship

Contact The Clarke Law team and allow Natalie Clarke to evaluate your case and advise you on your rights, as well as the steps involved in pursuing your claim.

Injured In A Car Accident? Here’s What To Do:

car-accidentWhen we start our day, we don’t usually think about the idea that we may get into a car accident. When learning how to drive most of us are taught how to prevent and avoid car accidents. However, the one thing that many people don’t know is what to do when an car accident does occur.

Car accidents are happening at an increasing rate. This being said, any driver on the road is at risk of being involved in a car accident of any severity. No matter what your role, being involved in a car accident is a very trying ordeal. However, when you’re the victim of the accident you may be left injured, confused, and presented with costs and information that you don’t comprehend.

In the case that this risk becomes a reality, you can ensure that you can not only handle the situation properly but that you are prepared to do so as well by following these four steps:

Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy:

Before you get into your car the next time, read over your insurance policy. Knowing what your responsibilities, rights, and what you’re protected from will better prepare you in the case there is an accident and you need to report a claim. If something isn’t clear in your policy or you believe that you need further coverage, contact your insurance provider right away to have it adjusted as necessary.

Report the accident:

If you have been involved in an accident you should immediately report what has happened to the police and your insurance provider. If you do not report the accident to the police or your insurance provider within 7 days you may not be eligible to be compensated for the damages and/or injuries incurred. No matter how little or much damage there is to your vehicle, who is at fault, or the types of injuries sustained, it’s critical that you report the accident as soon as possible after it has occurred.

Document and gather information from the scene:

To make things easier going forward, try to collect as much information as you can in regards to the accident. The more information the better! Evidence and information such as the names of those involved, contact information, insurance information, the model and make of the car, license and registration, location, date, time, if there were any injuries present at the time of the accident, and pictures. Having all of this information documented will make things easier for you, your insurance provider, and lawyer if you decide to file a case.

Meet with your insurance company and personal injury lawyer:

Once the accident has been reported, your insurance company will review the situation. Once they have done that they will contact you to inform you of who is at fault, the amount of money you can expect to receive from your claim, and the next steps. If you have sustained injuries or damages that you believe should be compensated further you should also set up an appointment with Clarke Law personal injury lawyers. Many victims aren’t aware of their rights, which makes meeting with a lawyer imperative. Driving laws in Ontario allow a victim to fight for both accident benefits and compensation for vehicle damages.

The team at Clarke Law has the experience and expertise to ensure you understand your legal rights and the specific legal process. If you have been involved in a car accident, Natalie Clarke can help. As a specialized personal injury lawyer with experience in car accident claims, Natalie will aggressively defend your case to get you the compensation that you are entitled to. Natalie Clarke will work side-by-side with you and give you the highest level of legal guidance to see you through to a successful settlement. She will help you with everything from filing your claim with the insurance company, to taking legal actions against the at-fault party.

Every claim is different. Without an experienced lawyer working on your behalf, you may find yourself making statements or leaving out details that can negatively affect your claim.

Pool Owner? Pool Safety Is Your #1 Responsibility

pool-safetyCanadians say that they are more than ready for their summer barbecues, sunbathing, and for quick dips in the pool. Remember, however, that owning a swimming pool, or a water feature like a pond or hot tub, comes with important responsibilities.

During the hot months, pools can be the perfect way to cool down and enjoy the beautiful summer days. Yes, pools can be a place for fun and lots of splashing but it’s important that we remember and enforce rules to avoid personal injury accident. Not only can a pool be a place for fun, but it can also be a place where brain and spinal injuries, wrongful death, or slip and fall accidents may occur if the proper safety precautions aren’t enforced.

We hear it in the news almost every summer: pool personal injury accidents. According to the Lifesaving Society’s 2011 Drowning Report, nearly 500 Canadians die in water-related accidents annually. These statistics don’t even include those seriously injured from a water related accident. In addition, statistics show that teenagers and young adults at highest risk.

If you own a pool you’re fully responsible for the care and safety of those using it. No matter who is using your pool accidents can happen and if someone is injured or in the worst case dies in your backyard you may be liable. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that you do everything in your power to keep your water zones danger-free.

The best thing you can do to first off is doing everything in your power to make your pool zone a safe place. Using precautionary methods in your backyard to avoid accidents is simple. Here are our suggestions:

1. Install a fence:

Children are naturally curious and will be drawn to a pool or pond, so installing a fence can help you breathe an extra sigh of relief. Additionally, using a gate lock or a hot tub safety cover as a precautionary barrier is an effective way to avoid accidents.

2. Check your insurance policy:

Contact your insurance broker prior to installing a water zone. You need to advise your insurer of any increased risk to ensure that you have protection against liability.

3. Contact your municipality:

Municipalities have different safety regulations; so stay updated on the newest codes and standards.

4. Lay out ground rules:

As the pool owner, it’s important that you ensure that anyone using your pool understands the pool itself and any safety rules. For example, show them where the deeper parts of the pool are, the easiest way to the edges. Also make them aware of any “pool rules”. For example, no running, no diving, no yelling unless it’s an emergency.

5. Always supervise:

No one should ever swim alone in your pool. Regardless of the level of swimming or age, pool accident oftentimes happen very quickly and having someone there supervising can be the difference between life and death. It may seem like the most obvious pool safety tip however: it is the most important.

As a pool owner it’s your responsibility to not only make your pool zone as safe as possible for those using it, but also to be informed about swimming pool laws that regulate the use and ownership. In doing this, you may be able to avoid or limit your liability in the case legal action is pursued, as it shows that you took all the precautionary measures you could to make your pool zone as safe as possible.

Ontario has specific laws in this area in place where the legislation states that a person in control of a property (i.e., a pool) has a duty to ensure that there is reasonable care in place to see that tenants and visitors are reasonably safe. A lawsuit for a pool related accident transpires it may be settled by homeowner’s insurance, which can have coverage to protect homeowners from third party injuries on their property.

Pool users should also be aware of their rights in a water related accident. In the case of wrongful death, brain or spinal injury, or a slip and fall accident you have the right to be compensated for the injuries incurred. If you are seriously injured on someone else’s property where safety precautions were not enforced you have the right to pursue legal action.

Residential, commercial, and public property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property and ensure it is safe. When the property owner does not take reasonable care, the law requires compensation to the victims resulting from negligence. No matter what the negligence is, victims are entitled to compensation under Ontario law.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving someone’s unsafe property in Ontario, Clarke Law can help. As an experienced personal injury lawyer in Toronto, Natalie Clarke has experience dealing with premises liability and occupier’s liability claims involving negligence.

Contact the Clarke Law team today!

Personal Injury From Contaminated Food Products

food_recallAbout 100 million meals are eaten each day in Canada. Food travels a long way and through many hands before it hits your plate – often from the farm, to the processor, the distributor and to the retailer.

Canada has a strong food safety system. The food industry is required to have strict food safety measures in place to minimize potential risks and product liabilities. When these measures are applied effectively, they help reduce food-related injuries and illnesses.

But food-related illnesses can and do happen. It’s important that Canadians be informed quickly of the food and products that may be contaminated. Being informed will prevent you or a loved one from incurring an injury from a defective or contaminated food product.

When a food product is released that could cause serious health consequences if consumed, there will be food recall warnings released publicly similarly as other products (i.e., cars, toys, furniture). However, sometimes this is not timely enough, making it critical that you have the outlets available to you to be informed immediately if a recall is issued to protect yourself and loved ones as successfully as possible.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) along with other news media outlets (i.e., radio stations, social media platforms, news television stations) will issue food recall warnings. Once a potentially unsafe food product is identified and the public is alerted, the CFIA will verify that the recalling firm has contacted all of its providers, distributors and retailers and has removed the recalled products from store shelves.

Depending on the level and reach of the risk, various news outlets will alert the public nationally, regionally and/or locally. These alerts can usually be found on the radio, news stations, official websites, email alerts, Twitter, RSS feeds, widgets and mobile apps.

This being said, it’s smart to sign up for notifications from a couple news channels via email alerts, Twitter, Facebook, or live news feeds that can give you an immediate update if there has been a food recall issued.

Signing up for food recall warnings and allergy alerts is an easy and effective way to stay informed and safe from unsafe food products.

Defective consumer products – from furniture and electronics to food, clothing and vehicle parts – can cause serious injury and in some cases, fatality. Distributors must ensure product safety before releasing a product into the consumer market and show reasonable proof of safety status. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a manufacturer or retailer’s negligence, they are entitled to compensation.

Every manufacturer owes the user of a product a duty to catch defects before they hit the marketplace and maintain a standard of quality in their production. At the same time, retailers have a duty to only sell or distribute a product that is verified to be safe. If the designer, retailer or manufacturer has failed to provide such standards of care, then they are legally responsible for any resulting losses in an injury or fatality.

As an experienced personal injury lawyer in Toronto and throughout Southern Ontario, Natalie Clarke has handled cases concerning dangerous products unsafe food products  (contamination caused by bacteria or chemicals). If you or a loved on has been affected by unsafe food products, call her today for a free consultation to see how you can be compensated for the personal injuries incurred.

Assess Your Tires This Spring To Avoid Road & Legal Issues

Tire Construction
Tire Construction

Long before the backyard rinks thaw and the snow banks melt, eager Canadian drivers begin planning their spring road trips. Garage doors will soon open, ready to tackle the warm weather and the open road.

Here in southern Ontario we are still very much in the Polar Vortex that our Canadian winter season has brought us this year. Although it is not time to put the summer tires back on our vehicles, the Clarke Law team wants to remind drivers that your tires can never be assessed too often. This being said, before you leap for joy when it is time to say goodbye to winter, ensure that your summer tires are assessed before putting them on the road.

Having your tires assessed on a regular basis can prevent unnecessary and catastrophic accidents due to unexpected tire issues on the road.  An unexpected tire blow out can not only put yourself and others in danger physically, but can also put you at risk of a lawsuit after the accident.

To ensure that your vehicle is road safe, it is important to outfit your vehicle with the proper tires and have them assessed regularly.

In order to ensure that your tires are appropriate for your vehicle, it is important to choose tires that suit your vehicle style and your driving needs. If you don’t know what tire is appropriate for you and your vehicle, here is a guideline to what may work for you. *Remember it is always best to speak with a tire expert when purchasing your tires to ensure your making the right decision.

Commuters:

If you drive everyday to and from work, a high performance, all-season tire with center rib block and multi-sipe design could be the right choice for you this spring. These types of tires provide excellent traction on a rain-soaked or dry road, which will keep your commute safe.

Family Drivers:

Drivers who are driving larger vehicles with multiple people should look for high-quality and dependable tires to keep everyone on the road and in their vehicle safe. High-quality and dependable tires guarantee longer tread wear, optimal traction and the low noise levels needed for a family vehicle.

Road Warriors:

Tires for a “road warrior” (someone who is driving a sport vehicle) need to be ultra-high performance. Ultra-high performance tires allow for drivers to have superior handling on the roads.

In addition to ensuring that you have the right tire for your vehicle needs, it is important to have your tires assessed regularly to ensure that you’re keeping the roads safe and avoiding potential lawsuits. Just as our feet get sore after walking long distances, the tires on our vehicles get worn down a bit each time we drive. It is inevitable that our tires will wear out overtime.

Having your tires assessed by a mechanic is the best way to ensure that they are not worn out however, if you want to assess your tires more regularly there are certain things you can look for.

  1. Tread. The tread on your tires should never fall lower that 1/16 of an inch (1.6 millimeters) in depth. If your tires are below this depth it means that your tires will not be safe on the roads and you should replace them.
  2. Cracks in the sidewall. Cracks in the sidewall are another indication that your tires are no longer safe, have a leak in them, or are close to blowing out. To check for cracks in your sidewall you want to check to see if there are any grooves that are distinct enough to be noticeable to the naked eye. If you notice these grooves or cracks, it is time to replace your tires.
  3. Bulges. Bulges are another sign that your tires are worn out. A bulging tire means that the exterior surface is weakening. This bulging means that you could experience an unexpected tire pop while on the road and cause a serious accident at anytime.

What Is A Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is an injury from a car or motor vehicle accident that results in complete blindness, amputation, paralysis, brain impairment, mental disorders, or behavioural disorders.

These types of injuries can be detrimental to one’s life and can also be a large burden financially. However, if the proper steps are taken, a victim with a catastrophic injury can be compensated sufficiently and have the expenses of rehabilitation, medical attention, attendant care and so on covered.

Here is a list of injuries that are commonly considered to be a catastrophic injury:

  1. Complete vision loss in both eyes
  2. Amputation or an injury that results in total or partial loss of use of a body part
  3. Paraplegia or quadriplegia that results in total or partial loss of use of a body part
  4. Brain impairment
  5. An impairment or impairments that result in a 55% or greater impairment of the body
  6. An impairment that results in a class 4 or 5 impairment due to mental or behavioural disorder

In order to receive the compensation deserved from a catastrophic injury during a motor vehicle accident, here are the steps that should be taken to properly handle the situation:

  1. Call the police
  2. Record the persons involved contact information and if possible take pictures of the scene
  3. Seek medical attention
  4. Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer immediately
  5. Notify your insurance company
  6. Find out if you have health insurance coverage
  7. Attend the necessary appointments or assessments
  8. Save all documents and information
  9. Record ongoing health changes

If you or someone you know has experienced a catastrophic injury but are unsure what steps to take next it’s critical that you speak with Natalie Clarke. She will be able to provide guidance and success in seeking justice, compensation, benefits, and treatment for the injury.

CIGNA Slammed for Its Improper Disability Insurance Claims Handling Practices

On May 22, 2013, it was announced that CIGNA, and several its subsidiary insurance companies – including Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”), Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company – entered into a Regulatory Settlement Agreement with multiple state Departments of Insurance throughout the country, including California. The Regulatory Settlement Agreement was the result of a targeted examination into CIGNA’s disability insurance claims handling practices. Among other things, the Regulatory Settlement Agreement:

– Imposes $1,675,000 in fines against CIGNA;
– Requires it to set aside $48 million in reserve funds to pay disability claims that it had previously improperly denied and to set aside an additional $29 million in reserves to pay presently open claims;
– Requires CIGNA to re-review the denied claims of California residents that were denied from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2010; and
– Requires CIGNA to implement enhanced claims handling practices that are intended to prevent the continued improper denial or termination of disability claims.

Cigna - Bad insuranceThe enhanced claims handling practices CIGNA will now be required to adhere to are significant. For example, it must give significant weight to disability determinations by the Social Security Administration in most instances. Also, it must gather and fairly evaluate all relevant credible medical information bearing on its insureds’ disability. Furthermore, it must now obtain independent medical examinations of insureds in response to requests by insureds, or their treating physicians, rather than simply denying claims based on the review of medical records alone. And finally, it must consider all diagnoses and impairments afflicting their insureds and their combined effect on their insureds’ ability to work.

Established in 1991, Pillsbury & Levinson LLP is one of the few law firms in California focused exclusively on representing policyholders in insurance disputes and insurance bad faith litigation.

Source: “CIGNA Slammed for Its Improper Disability Insurance Claims Handling Practices” by AUTO-MOBI.info. Full article can be found here.

The Clarke Law Team Can Help You Take Action for Your Medical Malpractice Case

Medical-MalpracticeGiving birth to a child is a beautiful moment in anyone’s life, however there can sometimes be crucial mistakes done by the hospital. These type of mistakes can cause medical issues can be devastating for the mother, or child.

These type of cases are a fairly common occurrence, and can happen because of negligence on the facilities end. Even if the hospital claims that the physician did everything in their power to prevent an injury from happening, it could have been a lack of knowledge or experience that prevented them from doing the delivery correctly. What most people don’t know even after being told this, is that they may still have grounds for a case.

Our Toronto-based lawyer, Natalie Clarke, specializes in birth injuries has worked through some very complex situations before as these sort of cases are hardly ever black and white. Even though the cases range anything from bleeding & bruising all the way to spinal bruising, there are some situations that prove to be much more difficult. The key to finding a solution to these cases is having a specialist like Natalie Clark who works with specialists, and understands the difficulties that come with situations. Some of the most common cases include:

  • Shoulder dystocia

  • Uterine rupture (VBAC)

  • Umbilical cord compression

  • Fetal distress

  • Improper fetal monitoring

  • Emergency delivery

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Twins and multiple births

  • In vitro fertilization

If you think that you or your child might have been a victim of one of the following injuries please don’t hesitate to Natalie, who will guide you through this difficult time.

Accidents Happen

Isn't it easy to avoid the accident?A car accident is an unforeseen occurrence that you never expect to happen until it does. How you handle events after a crash can make all the difference in the final outcome. Here are few sensible suggestions to bear in mind if you ever find yourself in such a scenario.

Emotions can run high after a collision, but keeping your wits about will help while gathering all the vital information you’ll need to acquire in a short amount of time.

You will want to exchange information with the other drivers involved. Get their names, addresses, phone numbers, licence information, insurance company name and policy number. Also look for, and obtain contact information from other witnesses.

Make sure to take some time to inspect the accident scene. Take photographs of the incident with your phone, including the damage to the cars, position of vehicles and road conditions.

Finding out where you stand with your insurance company is a good idea. Complications can sometimes arise, especially if there’s a grey area as to who is at fault.
If you’re left pointing fingers, it may be time to seek out professional advice. A personal injury lawyer can have a sense of where you stand, how to negotiate your case with an insurance company, and if necessary, how to take your case to trial.

Seek out medical attention. While it’s tempting to delay a doctor’s visit until you’ve had a chance to see for yourself if you feel any worse for wear, there’s a chance you may have sustained underlining injuries. A full medical exam will provide you with peace of mind, as well as documentation of your physical condition if pains persist.

Following the advice of your doctor in a timely manner is paramount to your recovery process. Recommend assessments or treatments such as physiotherapy or chiropractic treatments aren’t always covered. You should speak with your employer in regards to coverage or extended medical benefits as short or long-term disability.

Further down the track, you will need to consider if you have completely recovered from the accident. If the answer is ‘no’ then it may be too early to settle.