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When You Do (and Don’t) Need a Car Accident Lawyer

We’ve all seen ads, billboards, and even park benches encouraging people to call if they need a lawyer. But figuring out the whole “need” thing can be way easier said than done. It’s especially confusing if you were just involved in something potentially traumatic like a car accident. Not surprisingly, anxiety makes us more likely to make poor decisions. To get around that, it’s a good idea to know about certain post-car accident scenarios where you do need a lawyer, as well as scenarios where you can probably skip looking for legal help. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those scenarios.

 If the Other Driver Was Distracted

An alarming number of vehicle collisions are caused by drivers who were devoting the bulk of their attention to something other than the road in front of them. In Ontario alone, officials report that fatalities related to distracted driving have more than doubled since the year 2000. Our cellphones can bear a lot of the blame for that. If you’re behind a driver who is clearly not paying attention, it’s probably not because they’re reading a Jane Austen novel while speeding down the roadway.

Texting and talking are some of the most obvious culprits of accidents, but someone who is looking up directions on their phone can also cause a collision. Pressing the “shuffle” button on your phone’s music player while staring at the road may seem okay, but you’re still focusing the bulk of your attention on something besides driving. You may be looking at the asphalt, but that doesn’t mean you’re really seeing what’s around you, and it doesn’t mean you can respond quickly if, for instance, a pedestrian runs out into the middle of the road.

If you think the other driver was texting when they were supposed to be in control of the vehicle, you’re going to need more than a hunch before you can file a successful lawsuit. You’ll need a car accident lawyer who can do some digging and try to piece together what really happened immediately before the crash. In such situations, time is definitely of the essence. After a Toronto car accident, you have just 120 days to tell the at-fault driver if you plan on suing. That doesn’t mean you have to file the suit within 120 days, though; you just have to tell them that you intend to, and then file the suit no more than two years after the date of the accident.

If Your Injuries Were Minor

All that being said, you do need actual damages before you can file a lawsuit. If the other driver was acting recklessly but you walked away without a scratch, then it’s going to be hard for any lawyer to take your case. Yes, car accidents are stressful even if you don’t have to go to the hospital, but emotional suffering is a lot harder to prove in court than you might think. It’s easy for a judge or jury to look at medical reports and conclude that yes, something terrible happened to this person. Mental health issues are sometimes met with more skepticism. That may not seem fair, but it’s easier to fake being depressed than it is to fake something like a broken leg.

That’s not to say the other driver doesn’t deserve consequences, only that a car accident lawsuit isn’t going to be the best way to achieve the desired result. Distracted driving is illegal in Canada. In Ontario, a driver who is caught using a hand-held device could be looking at a fine of up to $1,000. Criminal penalties may also be possible in some cases. But the crown usually has to be the entity pursuing those damages, not a motorist who was involved in the accident but suffered no visible injuries.

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