Becoming injured in a car that results in a financial settlement is nothing like winning the lottery. Morgyn Chandler, Personal Injury Lawyer at Helpforme™ ( https://www.helpforme.ca/accident a division of Hammerberg Lawyers in Vancouver knows exactly what kind of pain her clients are experiencing when they seek compensation from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).
“If they had access to a time machine, every single one of my clients would use it to travel back to the day before their accident,” Morgyn says. “That’s true no matter the dollar value of the settlement. All of them want their old lives back.”
Clients or their families come to Morgyn at Helpforme™ facing the impact of serious injuries on their daily lives. While they discover they can no longer walk their dogs, clean their houses or play with their children, they also find they have to fight ICBC to get the treatment and support they need to recover.
“I typically work with people who have had orthopedic injuries -- broken bones -- and traumatic brain injuries, including concussions,” Morgyn explains. “Educating people about what that means is the most difficult part of my job. The long-lasting effects of these injuries can be insidious and invasive to every aspect of a person’s life. They can have far-reaching effects that can affect people professionally, personally and socially.”
Recent changes to BC law have defined “minor” injuries and put financial caps on the settlements the injured can reach with the provincial insurance corporation.
“It makes it more complicated when people are injured and then they have to fight ‘their’ insurance company.” Morgyn says. “They don’t understand the logistics of making a claim, they can’t focus on the realities of treatment and recovery and, as a result, they get more upset. Most clients don’t walk in to our office thinking about money, but about getting through a process of treatment and adapting to a completely changed life. They have no way to navigate through the processes because, instead of removing the burdens, the insurance company tends to put up walls. I can at least take on that stress for them.”
The stress of reaching a settlement cannot be discounted. The fight can last between 3 and 5 years and, in between, Morgyn and her team at Helpforme™ have to ensure clients can access the benefits they are entitled to the treatment they need.
“The settlement piece is the last part,” Morgyn explains. “When someone’s life has been irrevocably changed, we spend our time really focusing on getting them care. Then, we look at support and care for the future and what that looks like in terms of a dollar value.”
As insurance companies do not need to pay for any injury-related expenses until a settlement is reached, the burden on the injured and their families can be difficult to bear. Morgyn and her team at Helpforme™ can ensure access to specialists, diagnostic tests and treatment to help alleviate this burden.
“Our clients and their families really can suffer in the short term,” Morgyn says. “If your spouse has suffered significant orthopedic injuries, the challenges fall on you to get them home and rearrange the space for a wheelchair. Travel to and from treatment, assistance with daily tasks, and all the work of care-taking can mean that one or both partners are off-work for years. The impact on kids is even more painful to comprehend. You can go from being an active, engaged mom to being in a wheelchair and limited in terms of time and energy. That’s the hardest emotional toll. Even if my clients recover, they never get that time back.”
There are three tips everyone should know in case they, or a family member, are ever injured in an accident.
1. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible and don’t answer questions from the insurance company over the phone.
“You might still be in shock and most people are a bit confused in the days after an injury,” Morgyn explains. “You don’t know what the agenda of the person you’re speaking with is and how they might use what you say against you. You shouldn’t sign anything. A lawyer will ensure you aren’t bullied into doing something against your own best interests.”
2. Keep everything. Photos, treatment plans, police reports and witness phone numbers or business cards are all pieces of documentation you may need at some point in the process.
“Cell phones have changed everything,” Morgyn says. “These days, people have photos of where the cars ended up and how damaged they are. They have really allowed us to document the accident scene and that helps our cases immensely.”
3. Be a responsible by-stander. There are always witnesses to every accident. While many by-standers don’t want to get involved by making a police report, or providing contact information, society functions better when we care for each other.
“If you do see an accident, please stick around,” Morgyn pleads. “Lives are often made more difficult when a witness doesn’t make a statement. Just staying long enough to leave your name could make things so much easier.”
If there is a bright side to needing a lawyer to fight the insurance company, it is that Morgyn and her team only have to take 2% of cases to trial. However, the 98% of cases that are settled at some point, still have to be treated as if they are going to trial. That means Morgyn has to stay in constant communication with her clients.
“You cannot practice personal injury law and be the kind of lawyer who only meets with their client once,” Morgyn says.
“People are relying on you for your expertise and I have to be able to meet with them to check on their recovery and discuss instructions. My clients know that I am not opening their file and then handing it off to a team of paralegals and assistants. That’s not how we operate at Helpforme™."
Morgyn’s shares an open, highly-communicative approach with the rest of the lawyers at her firm and it was this shared ethos that inspired the firm to launch Helpforme™. As well as providing personal legal services, and information and resources for people facing a variety of legal issues before they need a lawyer, to truly help clients, legal services are provided on contingency fee basis. This means that upfront fees are not required but are rather deducted from any eventual financial award. Helpforme™ extends this contingency fee arrangement to help clients who require representation in other areas of law including estate litigation, insurance denials, and product liability among other kinds of legal conflicts which individuals can find themselves unwittingly involved in.
On September 7th, Helpforme™ are excited to have a team of lawyers and staff from the firm participating in the RBC GranFondo Whistler ride as well as being Official Legal Sponsors to the event. This "big ride" is for cyclists of all experience levels to experience the joy and challenge of a traffic-free ride all the way from Vancouver up to the beauty of Whistler.
“Our firm is made up of people who are passionate about a lot of things, like cycling, which bring us opportunities for community involvement. In the lead up to the ride, our people are giving out cycling equipment to help people protect themselves. Anywhere people are putting themselves at risk, we are there with safety and education tips. As lawyers who work in personal injury law, we know that ultimately no one benefits from accidents and the injuries that result. As well as being there to support and guide following an accident, Helpforme™ wants to do its bit to help prevent accidents. Prevention is the overriding objective and the best outcome for everyone.”
Kate Baggott's technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review at MIT, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun, and on the Business to Business News Network
Kate is the author of two short story collections.
Morgyn R. Chandler
1220 – 1200 West 73rd Ave
Vancouver, BC V6P 6G5
604 269 8500 x152