Ontario property and casualty insurance is a multi-billion-dollar industry providing liability coverage to property or car owners for an accident that has caused injuries to others. The industry follows a noble principle that puts accident victim first. However, despite the ballooning premium dollars that the industry has amassed, much of the dollars are scooped up by the industry before they trickle down to the injured parties, leaving accident victims hardly getting what they deserve. In some cases, insurance companies don’t pay up unless the claimant puts up a tough fight first.
While I’ve never made a car accident claim (a blessing or a curse?), I have made a personal injury claim after a slip and fall accident. A few years ago, I slipped on a piece of black ice at a neighbour’s house, leaving three pieces of my bones in my right ankle shattered. In the aftermath of the accident, I suffered excruciating pain, an aesthetic surgery and months of crutches.
“Even with the surgery, your ankle may not recover to its original state, allowing you to walk or run as before,” said my doctor before I was wheeled to the surgery room, “because the damages were too severe.”
Slip and fall, a nearly life-altering accident and body injury. I believe that I perfectly fit into the profile of a personal injury victim and that I can demand compensations for the damages of the accident. In a personal injury claim, the damage awarded would include the compensation for the accident-induced pain and suffering, as well as the loss of earning ability and income.
I hired a lawyer and filed a claim immediately after the injury, formally launching a legal battle against the neighbour’s home insurance company that is part of the giant Ontario property and casualty insurance system.
But by the time my lawyer contacted me a couple of years later, I had almost recovered from the injury – thanks to my relentless efforts and a stringent workout routine. After filing the claim, my lawyer gave me a rough assessment of the possible damage awards. It seemed to be at the lowest end of the possible compensations – because I’ve recovered well.
My lawyer also advised me to give the insurance company permission to access my personal information – from my tax returns to my health records – even including my mammogram and PAP test results. “They may even ask you about your relationships and sex life during the examination for discovery, in a bid to prove that you were at fault for the accident and to avoid its liabilities,” said my lawyer.
The examination for discovery was carried out in my second language English and in a “interrogation style”, with the opposing lawyer in the case seeking any opportunity to attack my credibility. He bombarded me with questions, either testing my knowledge about the media industry or challenging my skills as a newspaper journalist. Cracking under the pressure was not an option, as it would not only ruin my case but also make me look like a fraud.
My answers might have convinced the insurance lawyer that I was a competent journalist who committed in providing the best quality, value and service to the community while enduring nasty injury pains. Despite not facing a mounting pressure to compensate an accident victim like me – who has fully recovered from the injury, my claim wasn’t totally denied. The insurance company nonetheless offered a compensation to express their sympathy for my injury and to award my tenacity that led to a miracle recovery.
In my view, the compensation seemed to have hardly covered my pain and suffering caused by the injury, let alone the phycological stress and privacy breach I endured during the claim process. Yes, my case could have been worth much more had I not powered through the injury or let the injury get the best of me – such as permanently losing the ability to walk, but that was hardly the outcome I expected from the ordeal.
To help me maximize my coverage, my lawyer was generously enough to forgo the negligible portion of his share and decided to allow me take every penny of it.
“You can take it all,” he said.
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