Not the lawsuit type

If I asked you whether you were the lawsuit type, chances are that your answer would be a resounding “NO”. Most people cringe at the thought of being involved in a lawsuit and if you don’t you are either a lawyer, judge or you have a different take on the world than most.

People seem to be afraid of lawyers and as one colleague of mine said to me, “Can you blame them?” The answer is no, I can’t. The reason I can’t is because insurance companies like ICBC, the media, and bad experiences all play a role creating this fear. Lawyers are often portrayed as corrupt, money hungry, dispassionate and self centered (and unfortunately there are a few that will fit this portrayal). Clients in personal injury matters are often portrayed as greedy, dishonest and the reason for rising insurance premiums. Insurance companies have done a good job at perpetuating a stereotype that lawsuits are things that only “bad people” do and “good people” don’t need a lawyer. But nothing could be further from the truth. Bad things happen to good people and they happen all the time (The documentary “Hot Coffee”, available on Netflix and YouTube, does a great job of demonstrating how the media has impacted the way we view lawsuits and lawyers.

Because of these negative stereotypes, I have many clients tell me right out of the gate that they don’t really want a lawyer or that they are not the type of person who sues. Some even appear to be embarrassed that they are considering hiring a lawyer. But, something has brought them in. In some cases a family member has brought them in, sometimes against their will. In other cases, they are pretty sure they do not want to hire a lawyer for their claim but they do want to know their rights. My guess is that many potential clients feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. They do not want to be taken advantage of by the insurance company but they also do not want to be taken advantage of by a lawyer. I am sure that for some, it may be a determination of the lesser of two evils.

Sometimes I hear clients say they are not sure they want a lawyer because ICBC has been really good to them. I also hear the opposite. But if you think ICBC is being good to you ask yourself this question – how do you know? Nice does not equal fair. Returning phone calls and paying benefits is not being nice, it is doing what they are supposed to do. It is what they are not doing but should (like assisting you with your rehabilitation), and what they are not telling you about your legal rights because they don’t have to (like letting you know about benefits that you are not receiving, advising you of costs you can be reimbursed for, advising you of your limitation period to file your lawsuit, advising you about information you need to gather to support your claim, all the categories of damages that you can claim, the real value of your claim, etc. ) that is the problem.

If you settled your claim with an insurance company for $15,000 and later found out that your claim was worth between $75,000 and $100,000 would you still think they were good to you?

If you are injured, it is understandable for all of the reasons mentioned above that you may feel reluctant to seek legal advice, particularly if you have had a bad experience in the past, such as a family law dispute or other legal matter. However, deciding to meet with a lawyer or choosing to hire a lawyer has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you are the lawsuit type. It is not about gold digging or going after the insurance company. But, it has everything to do with understanding your legal rights, getting the medical and rehabilitation help you need, and getting a just and fair resolution of your claim. Without good legal advice there is almost inevitably an inequality of bargaining power between you and the other party. They will take advantage of that. Most personal injury lawyers do not charge for an initial consult and you should take advantage of that. You may still decide that hiring a lawyer is not right for you, and in some cases you will be better off without one but at least you will be better equipped with the knowledge of the legal issues involved in your claim and hopefully a little less fearful of the entire process.


*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Keri Grenier is an experienced personal injury lawyer based at Murphy Battista LLP's Kelowna office. She also holds a B.A. in psychology. Her practice focuses on helping people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents or due to the negligence of others.

In her column, Keri provides practical information about personal injury claims in a format that is simple and easy to understand.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.murphybattista.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/KelownaLawyer

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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