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What is the personal injury claim process?

Meeting with a lawyer

Personal injury claims can be confusing, and you may not know what to do after someone injures you in an accident.

Although every claim is unique, most lawsuits settle, so you don’t have to go to court. A typical sequence for personal injury lawsuits is below:

Step 1: Consult a personal injury lawyer

After an injury, you should consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our consultations are free, allowing you to discuss your potential case with an experienced lawyer without strings attached. Take advantage of this. It’s an opportunity to learn whether you have legal grounds for a lawsuit.

In your initial consultation, a good lawyer will actively listen to you and help guide you regarding your potential case. This will often include answering questions such as:

  • Do I have a case?
  • Is my case worth retaining a lawyer?
  • What kind of evidence will I need to prove my case?
  • Can this lawyer and firm help?

If the meeting goes well, you will likely sign a Contingency Fee Agreement (“CFA”). This agreement retains the lawyer and law firm as your counsel. In Atlantic Canada, CFAs often contain a clause stating that you will not pay legal fees until a settlement is received. You might also sign authorization forms that allow the lawyer to obtain appropriate documentation about your claim, such as medical files.

Step 2: Investigation of your case

Once you sign the CFA, your lawyer will investigate the specifics of your case. This will often involve reading and obtaining many different files that are relevant to your claim. Some potentially relevant files include:

  • Medical files from before and after the accident
  • Accident and police reports
  • Expert evidence, depending on the nature of your injuries
  • Documents relating to income loss

We do this to fully understand the accident’s impact on your life. With this information, your lawyer can draft a settlement proposal to settle your claim before trial. Most cases will settle before trial, so you probably won’t go to court.

Step 3: The pleadings

Your lawyer will file a document called a “pleading,” which is a “Notice of Action” and “Statement of Claim” or NOA/SOC. These documents explain your perspective of the accident and what the person who injured you did to cause your injuries. These documents explain what happened and what types of compensation (or “damages”) you claim.

Next, a party delivers your NOA/SOC to the party who injured you.

Once served the NOA/SOC, the wrongdoer has time to respond. During that time, they will either contact a lawyer or their insurance company (if they have one) and will probably file a “Notice of Defence” and “Statement of Defence.” These documents will indicate their intention to dispute your claim and their grounds for doing so.

Step 4: The pre-trial phase and discovery

If your lawsuit hasn’t been settled, you will likely have a discovery, the process where the parties meet to exchange evidence, and a court reporter records the exchange. The wrongdoer will ask you so that they can gain a clearer picture of what happened. Discovery often allows the parties to find common ground and reach a settlement before a trial.

Your lawyers might also negotiate with the wrongdoer through mediation or a judicial settlement conference to settle your claim before going to court. Your lawyer will work with the lawyer representing the insurance company and a neutral third party or a judge to negotiate a settlement that satisfies both sides.

If none of the other avenues work, you might have to go to court.

Step 5: Trial

If you haven’t settled your case, you will go to trial. At trial, both sides will identify and question witnesses and explain their side of the story. Each side tries to persuade the judge that their version of the events is most likely what happened.

Remember, most cases settle!

While this may seem like a long, drawn-out process, your claim probably will not make it this far – personal injury cases rarely make their way to trial. Likely, your lawsuit will not see the inside of a courtroom.

It is essential to ensure you have the right, experienced lawyer by your side who can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Your lawyer will help you see your claim through, getting you fair and equitable compensation for your injuries.


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MacGillivray Law is a personal injury law firm with offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We serve clients all across Canada.

If you cannot travel to one of our offices, we will accommodate your circumstances and travel needs. We can provide a consultation by phone, Zoom, or FaceTime, or travel to meet you in your home when required.

If you would like to learn your legal options at no obligation, contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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