The Impacts of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Law in Ontario

Edited by Admin
The Impacts of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Law in Ontario
The Impacts of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Law 
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, with effects felt in nearly every corner of the globe. In Canada, children’s schooling has been interrupted, forced to comply with social distancing measures, or moved to virtual spaces; businesses have closed, temporarily or permanently; many of us have lost jobs or have gotten accustomed to working from home. At the outset of the lockdown in Ontario in mid-March of 2020, many pending court actions were postponed. Court buildings were closed , and mediations, pre-trials, trials, arbitrations, and other activities were cancelled.
Cases move slowly through the courts in ordinary times, and for personal injury clients, this seemed to be particularly bad news. Many victims were counting on receiving compensation for injuries suffered in motor vehicle collisions, slip-and-falls, and other accidents, and most times those with serious injuries experience financial hardship due to being unable to work. So when litigation was halted, things seemed bleak for people pursuing personal injury claims. 

Working in Cyberspace
However, this has not necessarily been the case. One “silver lining” of the lockdown was that lawyers’ calendars suddenly became free, all over the province! In Ontario, more than 90% of personal injury cases are settled before they get to trial, so with lawyers connecting via Zoom and other electronic meeting platforms, they were able to make progress on case files, including moving to discovery, and mediation more quickly. Some law practitioners are even finding that the use of Zoom and other platforms is helping them to work faster than before: because there’s a lot more flexibility with regard to timing, meetings can be scheduled for longer periods of time, allowing files to be wrapped up sooner than they might have been, pre-pandemic.

Zoom is also useful for meeting with personal injury clients, who may still be recovering from their injuries and/or in hospitals or rehabilitation facilities. Neither party has to travel in order to have a meeting, and if the client is easily fatigued, a number of shorter meetings can be scheduled, rather than one longer session.  (do we need to discuss the negatives? – I would just leave this out)

Updating Court Technology

Unfortunately, There are some obstacles built into Ontario’s system; over recent decades, provincial courts failed to embrace new technologies. Pre-COVID, many documents were required to be submitted in person, paper copies only. Lawyers were not allowed to use e-mail, video conferences, or other technologies for various tasks. This adherence to tradition wasted a significant amount of time, resources, and money on the part of law firms, litigants, and court staff.
However, the government is taking steps toward remedying this situation. Attorney General Doug Downey recently issued a news release that states, “Throughout the COVID-19 emergency and recovery, we have worked with our partners to move Ontario’s justice system forward by decades in a matter of months through game-changing modernization initiatives.” 

These changes include the following:
•An expansion of the Justice Services Online platform, which allows parties and their counsel to electronically file over 400 kinds of civil and family court documents;
•CaseLines, a cloud-based document sharing and e-hearing platform through which parties and their counsel can share filed court documents. (Currently being piloted for certain civil matters in Toronto);
•The court case lookup online tool, which makes it easier for individuals to search for information on cases;
•The online jury pre-screening and check-in tool, which will enable potential jurors to avoid spending more time in the courthouse prior to jury selection; and
Zoom platform conferencing will be used for certain remote proceedings before the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice.

Meeting with a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been in an accident, consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In most instances, you must file a personal injury claim within two years from the date of the accident. Obviously, the sooner the process is set in motion, the better.
A good personal injury law firm help you to explore your options, and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. An initial meeting with a personal injury lawyer in Ontario is free, and these professionals work on a contingency basis, which means that they will not charge up-front hourly fees; instead, they will collect a percentage of any settlement monies that you receive. These lawyers are knowledgeable about the law, the insurance system, and the medical system, and they can advise you about your case.
They’ll help you to file a claim, to negotiate a settlement, and if necessary, to move to litigation.