This is the first of a series of blogs on Developing and Funding a Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Practice.
Starting a plaintiff’s personal injury practice from the ground up is not an easy thing to accomplish for a number of reasons. First, there is a considerable amount of competition amongst the plaintiff’s personal injury bar. Attracting potential new clients to the firm is a challenge for all lawyers including ones who have been in the practice for many years and who have a number of established relationships. You will need a clear and focused marketing strategy if you intend to build a successful personal injury practice.
Second, most people who practice plaintiff personal injury have a large component of their cases in the area of motor vehicle litigation. The majority of serious personal injuries take place in the automobile. As most of you will know, Ontario has a unique set of no-fault rules and these rules change periodically. The practice is very paper intensive and you will need to develop various systems for document gathering and file development for your practice to flourish.
Third, you will need to develop a strategy for dealing with the significant financial demands of establishing your practice. Since nearly all plaintiff personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, you essentially have no choice but to do the same. This means that you will have to be prepared to wait to be paid for your services until the conclusion of a case while at the same time dedicating the resources necessary by way of time and disbursements to develop your files appropriately.
Lastly, once your firm begins to enjoy some success, you will inevitably begin to suffer growing pains as you try to attract and retain your firms most important assets; its people.
Marketing Your Practice
Standing out from the crowd is one of the most significant challenges you will face when trying to establish your personal injury practice. Marketing your practice will not happen overnight, but it can be accomplished if you develop a plan and remember to dedicate a certain number of hours to executing that plan each and every week (even when you start to get busy). It is easy to begin to feel overwhelmed with the work that you have now, but you always have to consider what is going to happen two or three years down the road if you are not opening at least as many files as you are closing.
Like most people, I religiously tracked (and continue to track) where each and every client got my name. I soon realized that all of my business came from one of four sources:
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As the Provincial Government grapples with a new cycling strategy, anyone engaged in the debate understands that there are no simple solutions or quick fixes. An old infrastructure designed for cars, clogged roadways with users competing for space, and a limited amount of funding make meaningful change at all levels seem next to impossible. Where do we begin? A one meter passing rule. That’s a good start, but not a long term solution. Riding paths that circle the City, although valuable do not get you safely to the store to buy bread, work or go to the local café. The implementation of bike lanes seems to be like trench warfare. Gains and losses are determined street by street, ward by ward, city by city. Exhausting, slow and for the most part disjointed.
However there is hope! It emerges from the forward thinking of our Chief Coroners’ Office. It is not based on specifics, but on how decision makers are to look at things. A new culture perhaps. Its called “Complete Streets”. Words, that to date, are not mentioned in any provincial policy statement, legislation, or standard. An approach that is growing in US. One that has been advocated for the last few years by active transportation advocates like TCAT and Cycle Toronto.
One that now has some wheels. In 2012 the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario released the Cycling Death Review. During the course of the review, various stakeholders including the Coroner’s Office, medical professionals, law enforcement, Toronto Transit Commission, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), Ontario Medical Association, City of Toronto, and various cycling and road associations participated.
Following the review the Dr. Dan Cass, Deputy Chief Coroner made his number one recommendation to be “Complete Streets”. The words were clear. “To the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing a complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the creation of new communities throughout Ontario.”
Shortly after that, the Coroners office released the Pedestrian Death Review. Again, the very first recommendation was “Complete Streets”. “The complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the development of new communities and the redevelopment of existing communities in Ontario. Complete streets should be designed to be safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability, or age.”
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The lawyers and staff at McLeish Orlando wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and best wishes for 2013.
The partners at McLeish Orlando recently spent some time thinking about the best ways to communicate our approach to cases, clients and colleagues. After much thought and discussion, we came up with a simple phrase that we think describes us well: “A Noticeable Difference.” These three words really distill who we are as a firm, our approach to critical injury law – and they express the total commitment to clients that is our trademark.
As part of this process, we also developed a video in which our managing partners talk about the firm’s values, its successes, and exactly how it is that we make a noticeable difference in our clients’ lives. In the video, all three partners – John McLeish, Dale Orlando and Patrick Brown – discuss the difference between “personal” and “critical” injuries, and how they define a fair settlement and help their clients achieve it. They talk about what initially drew them to critical injury law, what continues to drive them to excel on their clients’ behalf, and the difference they make practicing law in a field that literally puts lives back together.
If you’re not familiar with McLeish Orlando, the video is a great introduction to all the things that make up our “noticeable difference.” And for those who already know our firm, you’ll see that it’s a reaffirmation of our commitment to advocating for our clients, and helping critically injured people lives their lives with independence and dignity.
Tom Golfetto, Director of Arbitrations at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) posted the following overview of two recent Ontario Court of Appeal decisions which impact the FSCO mediation process. A FSCO mediation is a necessary procedural step which an injured person must take, before being able to pursue an insurer for a denied benefit by way of either an arbitration or lawsuit. Mr. Golfetto sets out steps injured persons, who have a dispute with their insurer, may now take to move their dispute forward expeditiously.
On November 29, 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued decisions on appeals of several lower court decisions regarding when mediation should be considered failed. These included a decision on the matter of Hurst v. Aviva Insurance Company (Cornie v. Security National Insurance Co. et al) and a decision on the matter of Younis v. State Farm.
In Hurst, the Court upheld the lower court decision and found that mediation fails by statutory definition if no settlement has been reached within 60 days of the date of filing an application for mediation, or within the time extended by agreement of the parties. The Court also found that a Reporter of Mediator was not required in order for a file to proceed to arbitration or to court.
In Younis, the Court dismissed the lower court decision and found that a claimant must wait until the 60-day period has expired before bringing an action to court or filing for arbitration.
It should be noted that an arbitration appeal decision on failed mediation came to a similar conclusion as the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Impact on Parties
Parties who filed applications for mediation with FSCO more than 60 days ago should submit a form to FSCO indicating that they either jointly agree to extend the time for mediation or that either party wishes to receive a failed Report of Mediator. If FSCO does not receive this form from parties, by default, their applications will remain in queue for assignment to a mediator.
Applications for Arbitration that were filed without a Report of Mediator and have been held in abeyance, pending the Court of Appeal matters, will proceed to arbitration. Upon request, FSCO will issue Reports of Mediator for these cases.
FSCO expects a significant number of applications for arbitration to be filed, which will greatly increase the wait time for arbitration proceedings. The current wait time for an arbitration pre-hearing is six to eight months.
Parties awaiting mediation are encouraged to remain in the queue for assignment to a mediator. The average wait time for mediation is expected to substantially decrease as ADR Chambers, an external dispute resolution services provider, is now handling an additional 2,000 mediations per month. This is over and above the files that continue to be handled by FSCO’s mediators.
This is the first of a series of blogs on Winning Strategies for Handling a Mild to Severe Brain Injury Case.
To begin, an understanding of brain anatomy is essential to gain some knowledge of what happens to the brain after a traumatic brain injury. It is one of the responsibilities of counsel in a traumatic brain injury case to educate the judge and jury on the anatomy of the brain.
Interestingly, the brain is not a hard muscle-like substance, but rather a soft gelatin-like organ that sits within a rough and bony skull. The brain is covered by three thin protective layers called the meninges. The space between the meninges and the brain is filled with a clear liquid called cerebral spinal fluid. This fluid works to keep the central nervous system healthy. The brain is innervated by a sophisticated system of blood vessels which carry blood to and from the heart.
Within these two hemispheres there are four lobes – frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital, and each lobe is responsible for specific functioning. The brain stem and cerebellum also play a significant role in the brain’s functioning.The outermost and largest part of the brain is called the cerebrum and it controls things like thoughts and actions. It has a wrinkled surface and is divided it into two halves, known as the left and right hemispheres.
- Frontal Lobes – deals with reasoning, planning, self-control, some speech and emotion functions, and problem solving. The frontal lobes also play an important part in memory, intelligence, concentration, and are responsible for executive functions.
- Parietal Lobes – are involved with movement, and also help people to understand signals received from other areas of the brain such as vision, hearing, sensory and memory. A person’s memory and sensory information received give meaning to objects and “put it all together”.
- Occipital Lobes – found at the back of the brain, receive signals from the eyes, process those signals, allow people to understand what they are seeing, and influence how people process colours and shapes.
- Temporal Lobes – are located at around ear level, and are the main memory centre of the brain, contributing to both long-term and short-term memories. The temporal lobe is also involved with understanding what is heard, and with the ability to speak. The left temporal lobe is involved in verbal memory and aids in understanding language, where the right temporal lobe is involved in visual memory and helps people recognize objects and faces.
- Brain Stem – is responsible for maintaining the body’s most basic functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.
- Cerebellum – it is divided into two halves, with the main function of controlling and regulating the body movement of the muscular skeletal system.
The brain and nervous system also consist of billions of tiny cells called neurons. Neurons are the “communicators” and each neuron has three main parts:
- Cell body: the central station that sends out impulses
- Axon: long, slim “wire” that transmits signals from one cell body to another via junctions known as synapses
- Dendrites: networks of short “wires” that branch out from an axon and synapse with the ends axons from other neurons.
The neurons receive and transmit information in a relay where electrical impulses alternate with chemical messengers. The electrical impulses flow through nerve cell pathways along the axons and dendrites. Neuro-chemical transmitters leap the synaptic gaps between each neuron’s axon and the other neurons with which an axon makes contact. Each neuron is its own miniature information center which decides to fire or not fire an electrical impulse depending on the thousand or so signals it is receiving every moment.
Stay tuned for the next part in the blog series on the ways a brain can be damaged.This is a basic overview of the anatomy of the brain. It is important that lawyers understand the functions of the brain to better understand how injury to a particular area of the brain can impact your client.
The Chief Coroner for Ontario has just released the Office of the Chief Coroner’s Pedestrian Death Review.
In 2010 there had been a rash of pedestrian deaths. The review was initiated after Patrick Brown of McLeish Orlando LLP and enviromental lawyer, Albert Koehl gathered a coalition of interested groups and requested a review of cycling and pedestrian deaths within the province. Last summer, the Toronto Star posted Patrick and Albert’s request and later that fall, after several meetings, the review was launched. The purpose of the review was to examine the circumstances of the deaths that occurred from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 and make various recommendations. The report itself was dedicated to the 95 Ontarians who lost their lives in preventable pedestrian collisions in 2010.
The review resulted in 26 recommendations covering many areas and includes:
• Reduced speed limits in residential areas and amendments to the Highway Traffic Act
• Adopting ‘Complete Streets’ aprroach to ensure the roadways are designed and maintained for all users including pedestrians and cyclists
• Installing side guards on heavy trucks
• Creating more pedestrian crossings, longer times to cross, and developing a “walking stratedgy for Ontarians”
• Educating drivers on the scenarios that can lead to a pedestrian collision
• Increasing enforcement
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McLeish Orlando LLP is proud to have three of its lawyers recognized in the 2013 edition of Best Lawyers in Canada for Personal Injury Litigation. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected international peer-review publication in the legal profession. Congratulations to John McLeish, Dale Orlando and Patrick Brown!
John McLeish received the additional honour of being named as Toronto’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year in Personal Injury Litigation.
McLeish Orlando, Best Lawyers in Canada
McLeish Orlando has joined two other leading personal injury law firms to form the Personal Injury Alliance. The Personal Injury Alliance brings together three of Canada’s top ranked and most respected personal injury law firms. The alliance is centered around one common goal: to provide choice and unparalleled legal representation to catastrophically injured accident victims and their families.
The firms of the Personal Injury Alliance are all recognized as leaders in their field:
- Each firm has been designated as one of the top 5 personal injury law firms in Canada by Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 2011.
- Each firm has a number of personal injury lawyers recognized as leaders in professional peer-review publications such as LEXPERT® and Best Lawyers.
- Each firm has a number of personal injury lawyers recognized by the Law Society of Upper Canada as Specialists in Civil Litigation.
- Each firm has a partner who has been a past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
For more information about the Personal Injury Alliance, please click on the logo that accompanies this article.
The Canadian Red Cross Society released a paper chronicling 16 years of recreational boating fatalities in Canada. The report makes it clear that for those who will be out on the water this summer, wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) is the way to go.
An estimated 3,000 Canadians died in boating mishaps between 1991 and 2006. The vast majority of these fatalities were the result of “immersion”. Unfortunately, most of these deaths could have been prevented if the victims had simply worn an approved PFD or Lifejacket. Statistics show that most boating victims are male (note: all 28 deaths in Ontario last year were male) travelling in small open boats; and either don’t have a PFD with them or were not wearing one when an accident happened.
Despite repeated campaigns promoting the use of PFDs, the majority of boaters still ignore this basic precaution. During 1991-1995, only 12% of recreational boating drowning victims were properly wearing a PFD, and in 1996-2000, the figure was 11%. Remarkably, this figure was no better for drowning victims who were non-swimmers or weak swimmers.
Although current regulations do not require wearing of a PFD by boaters, they do require that a PFD be present in the boat. In at least 28% of boating drownings, a PFD was not even present, let alone worn. And even when a PFD is present, it is impossible, or at the least very difficult, to find a PFD in the water and put it on properly after capsizing or falling into water, which are two of the most frequent incidents leading to boating drownings.
Statistics consistently indicate the wearing a PFD or Lifejacket greatly increases the chance of survival if the unexpected happens. The report from the Canadian Red Cross Society recommends that boaters in all vessels not at anchor or at a dock be required to wear (rather than just carry on board) a Lifejacket or PFD. The recommendation stems from the harsh reality that more than 85% of boating related drownings could have been prevented if victims had made the simple decision to wear PFD or Lifejacket.
Many boaters feel that they don’t need a PFD or Lifejacket since they are “strong swimmers” and have boated for years without having a mishap. However, you can’t predict an emergency situation or accident, but you can prepare for one. Strong swimming skills don’t help much if your boat strikes a rock and you’ve been knocked unconscious and thrown from your vessel. If the unexpected happens and you’re already wearing a PFD or Lifejacket your chance of survival is dramatically increased.
Ensure you and your family make the right decision to wear a PFD at all times, when in or around the boat this summer.