Accident victims should think local when deciding which counsel to retain, says Barrie-area personal injury lawyer Steve Rastin. As the managing partner of Rastin Trial Lawyers, he argues that choosing a legal representative is one of the most important decisions you can make after suffering an injury.
“They should be looking for reputation and experience, but also for lawyers who practise in and around their community,” Rastin says. “Knowing the judge and the lay of the land can be very helpful, as are ties to local health-care providers and hospitals. We make every effort to find local occupational therapists, speech pathologists and pain management specialists,” he adds.
He says that it’s natural for lawyers to recommend treatment providers and retain experts who they are familiar with. However, if the client is based in a different place than their lawyer, it’s likely to involve more travel time.
“The logistical challenges that an injury presents are enough on their own without having to travel for a couple of hours,” Rastin says.
He says recent legislative developments have also enhanced the practical case for staying local. Recent amendments to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule resulted in a series of cuts, most significantly to catastrophically injured victims. They saw the combined limit for attendant care and medical rehabilitation services available for catastrophically injured victims halved to $1 million from the previous $2-million limit. In addition, the combined attendant care and medical and rehabilitation services for non-catastrophically injured victims fell from $86,000 to $65,000, and the standard duration for medical and rehabilitation benefits was cut from 10 years to five, except for children.
“We’re dealing in an era where the benefit limits for medical and rehabilitative services continue to erode, so spending extra money to retain people from outside the victim’s community is just an unnecessary depletion of resources,” Rastin says.
Lawyers are also more likely to file claims at their nearest courthouse.
“Even if a firm has a satellite office, you find that the team working on the matter is elsewhere. Toronto lawyers often run their actions out of Toronto rather than Simcoe County, which is good for the lawyer but difficult for the client. I think having your local lawsuit stay local is one of the biggest advantages to hiring our team,” Rastin says. “In Simcoe County, we’re also not subject to the same delays and problems that are inherent in the Toronto case management system.”
While it may be tempting to go with the lawyer whose face is on the most advertising posters, Rastin says accident victims should make an effort to research their choices before settling on a representative.
“Negative over-the-top advertising has been creating a harmful perception of lawyers with the public, and those who are most visible are not always the ones with a reputation in the legal community for going the extra mile on behalf of clients,” he says. “You wouldn’t spend money on a big-ticket item without studying your options, so I would say you should spend at least as long researching as you would with any major financial decision, because the stakes are too high to make a mistake.”