The Insurance Industry is Making it Impossible for Injured Victims to Sue
- March 20, 2015
- Lisa Morell
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I have been invited to attend and speak at a fund raiser being held to support victims of domestic abuse with funds being used to assist them with the start-up costs associated with building a new life. Having a background in sociology worked well with practicing family law earlier in my career (1994-2004) during which time I had occasion to represent many victims of domestic abuse in the family courts. It was always apparent to me that the victims of domestic violence were deeply troubled by the conflicts presented by the expectation that they prosecute their spouses for the abuse in the criminal courts. Too often they would be judged for acceding to societal, family and personal pressures and they would decide not to press charges or they would reconcile with their partner prior to the cases proceeding to court. The Crown and other advocates would naturally then be disappointed in the victim for their decision. That is why it is so vitally important that the victims of domestic violence have a high level of support not only during the emergency phase but especially as they face a long court process and the prospect of re-establishing their living circumstances on a basis that is independent from their abusive spouses.
As a plaintiff personal injury lawyer representing mainly individuals hurt in car accidents that were not their fault there are certain parallels that I simply cannot ignore. While some would argue that spousal assault is morally reprehensible some negligence that causes car accidents is as well i.e. impaired driving, texting, reckless driving and can similarly result in criminal charges. Many victims of collisions caused by drunk drivers would argue that they were let down by their insurance companies and by the courts. They, like victims of domestic violence, would complain that the court process was protracted and took too long to deliver “justice” and that at the end of the day their rights in terms of compensation and accessing the treatment they needed to put their lives back together were overlooked. Similarly, there is a mentality, too often seen when we conduct focus groups using participants from the general population that demonstrates an active distrust of “victims”. Does this same mentality cross over to victims of domestic violence – are they judged for their choices, are their allegations challenged, do we sometimes think they are treated that way because they deserve it or choose it?
On the personal injury side the Insurance industry is seeking amendments to the Insurance Act which would effectively make it impossible for persons injured in car accidents to sue their own insurer with respect to their entitlement to benefits. This would mean that dispute resolution would be completely in the hands of a tribunal – there would never be a decision like the decision we got from the Court of Appeal in Cornie that found 60 days is 60 days – the victims of motor vehicle collisions would be completely at the mercy of the bureaucrats at the tribunal to interpret the legislation as it would best conform to their allocation of internal resources.
The long and short of it is I don’t know if the legal system is properly serving victims of domestic violence and their families. It seems that we are moving to a time where societal values are less sympathetic to the victims of unfortunate circumstances in general and this makes it increasingly important that these victims have advocates and that organizations such asCarizon Family and Community Services, work from the ground up to raise awareness and support these causes. I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the worthy causes being supported by groups in their communities because we can never forget that every little bit helps.