Why Do Car Accident Cases Take So Long to Resolve in Ontario - Some Thoughts From an Ontario Car Accident Lawyer
Some common question we are asked are: "How long will it take to settle my car accident case?" or "Why is it taking so long for my car accident case to settle?" These are great questions, and we understand how frustrating it can be for victims of car accidents waiting for their cases to resolve either by settlement or trial verdict. Personal injury cases can be stressful and this is made all the worse when you are waiting for your case to conclude. Unfortunately, while your lawyer may have opinions with respect to the merits and value of your case, this doesn't always mean that the insurance company for the defendant will concede and resolve the case. That is, insurance companies can, if they choose, drag out your car accident case by making unreasonable offers to settle your case. In some instances, insurance companies will offer no money at all for as long as they can, despite the fact that you were objectively injured in the car accident. In Ontario, another factor that allows insurance companies to essentially delay your case is the fact that it takes a long time to get a trial. Our courts are overloaded with cases, and there are simply not enough judicial resources to hear and resolve all of the cases that are pending. The insurance companies know this, and some insurance companies routinely take advantage of this fact by delaying and denying claims that have merit.
In our experience as car accident lawyers handling hundreds of car accident cases every year, we have seen unmistakeable trends with certain insurance companies in Ontario. In particular, it has been our experience that the one particular insurance company, which will remain unamed in this article (we'll call them out in an upcoming blog) is the insurance company in Ontario that most often delay cases by failing to engage in any meaningful settlement discussions. In fact, in our experience, this particular insurance company takes a hardline approach in defending lawsuits as well as in claims that are made by their own policyholders. This insurance company does not hide the fact that they do not want to pay injury victims; in fact, their own adjusters and lawyers often broadcast this point. It seems to be a point of pride for this insurance company and their team, that they will drag injury victims through the mud. Very often, it's the first thing we hear from an adjuster or their lawyer. Some of the lawyers doing work on behalf of this insurance company do express their disagreement with the approach, and say that the insurance company will not take their advice to pay the claim. This particular insurance company is not only hurting the injured victim in Ontario, they are also a burden on our society. By forcing litigation in cases with merit, they tax our court resources, they delay treatment and recovery for accident victims, which keeps these individuals out of the workforce and from being productive. When an insurance company takes this approach they are also hurting their insured policyholder. The policyholder is also put under the continuing stress of a pending lawsuit without closure for years.
Of course, any insurance company has the right to defend a case how it sees fit, provided they are acting in good faith with respect to their policyholder. We recognize that most insurance companies will vigorously defend contentious cases that may lack merit or those with other issues such as liability. With this insurance company, however, it has been our experience that even cases with merit - those with objective injuries and clear fault - are routinely defended aggressively, and we can only speculate that this is for the purpose of delay and wearing down the plaintiff. We can only surmise that, in the short term, this is found to be a profitable way to conduct claims handling. When international insurance companies come to Canada they earn substantial revenues from premiums paid by hardworking Canadians. Ultimately, in the long run, the approach of delaying and denying claims may cost the company more than what they are saving in the short term; the public tends to respond to business reputation with their hard-earned money. Most of our clients that have had the experience of a claim with one particular international insurance company, tell us in no uncertain terms that they will never purchase another policy of insurance with this compnany. We all know that an unsatisfied customer tends to broadcast their experience far more than a satisifed customer. In fact, I even know insurance brokers that steer clients away from this particular insurance company because the insurer denied or delayed accident benefit claims. In the end, an insurance product is about peace of mind and service and this company delivers neither. I consider myself level headed and objective. In my more than 20 years experience, I have only lost my temper and yelled at an insurance adjuster once, and it was an adjuster for this particular company - why? Because the adjuster made it plainly clear that she was withholding funding for treatment for my brain injured client in hopes that the client would eventually lose touch with myself and her family so that she could no longer pursue the claim. It was despicable.
For a jury in a car accident case, they may also be wondering why the trial is taking place so many years after the accident. In all likelihood, it is because the insurance company for the at-fault driver dragged the case on for years and decided not to make any attempt to resolve the claim. Most injury victims do not want to go to trial, and most are extremely reasonable in their expectations for compensation following a car accident injury. The laws in Ontario make it unlikely that an injury victim will ever be fully compensated for the harms or losses, and certainly there is no opportunity for a windfall. If the case is at trial, it is probably because the insurance company did not want to pay anything to the victim.
While this is not the only reason why a car accident case may take a long time to resolve, it is certainly a major factor. Your personal injury lawyer most likely wants to resolve your case as soon as possible, once there is sufficient medical evidence to ascertain the value of your case. This can typically occur within a year to two years. If your case is taking longer than that, it is probably because the insurance company is refusing to pay money for your claim. Instead of being frustrated with your lawyer, you might want to consider thanking your lawyer and their team for continuing to fight the difficult battle for you. It's not easy to keep fighting a case for a long time without any revenue, and lots of expenses. In addition to overhead, your lawyer has probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on expert reports that will be needed at trial. If your case is not successful, your lawyer may be paid nothing for their time and expense. While we know that the delay is a financial hardship to the victim and their family, if your lawyer is working on a contingency fee agreement, then they are also working for years without any pay for their efforts. Keep this in mind, and remember you and your lawyer are on the same side and your lawyer wants the best possible result for you.
We hope that this helps explain why sometimes a car accident case can take longer than expected and gives you some peace of mind.
Andrew Iacobelli is an experienced personal injury lawyer who established Iacobelli Law Firm with offices located in Ontario, Canada and Florida, U.S.A. Andrew restricts his practice to the representation of personal injury victims in claims involving serious injuries, Catastrophic Injuries, and wrongful death in Canada and the United States. Andrew is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and the author of "Are You a Canadian Injured in the United States? Claim the Damages and Insurance Coverage the Right Way".
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Andrew Iacobelli is an Ontario lawyer that restricts his practice to representing personal injury victims and their families. Andrew is the founder of Iacobelli Law Firm.