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Suddenly everything changes. A collision at a busy intersection destroys someone’s ability to work. A routine day surgery leads to an emergency room visit. In serious situations questions you may have over which lawyer to choose, and in lesser situations you may wonder whether you need to seek legal advice at all.
Okanagan lawyer, and Vernon resident, Bill Dick has distinguished himself in the fields of personal injury and medical malpractice law by highlighting client rights and patient recovery as priorities. A member of the Access to Justice Leadership Group and the Attorney General’s B.C. Supreme Court Rules Committee, Dick answers three important questions that arise when you have been injured.
1. Do you need a lawyer? Yes. No matter how minor the situation, always take advantage of a free consultation. You may decide you don’t need representation, but you’ll have received free advice on what to expect next, and how best to proceed on your own.
2. Does the lawyer have the right expertise? Whether your injury is a head trauma, a spinal cord injury, or the result of malpractice, you don’t want to be your lawyer’s practice run at arguing the complex nuances of a specific recovery process and its broad financial impacts. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for references.
3. What will it cost? “Many people don’t understand how legal fees are charged in personal injury cases,” says Dick. “Personal injury lawyers” operate on contingency fees, which means they are paid a percentage of the money awarded to an injured client. So, if your lawyer doesn’t win your case, they don’t get paid. Also, contingency percentages are typically pretty similar from law firm to law firm, whether that firm is big or small. This is very important because it means that the cost to you of the services of a senior, experienced personal injury lawyer from a firm with superior resources versus an inexperienced lawyer from a smaller firm will be the same. Therefore, it makes good sense to try to hire the most experienced personal injury lawyer you can find to represent you.
On this last point, big firms are appealing for their resources and experience, while a local firm knows the “lay of the land,” Dick says. A long-time personal injury lawyer (and Vernon resident for the last 10 years), Dick acknowledges that knowing the local context is very useful when it comes to helping personal injury victims. “Local lawyers understand what’s available in the community for rehabilitation needs; who the experts are; and the local participants in the litigation process. It is a huge advantage.”
Local knowledge also helps a lawyer to grasp the factual circumstances of a car accident and when more onsite investigation is needed to collect the evidence required to prove the cause of an accident.
Two years ago, Dick found a way to merge the value of his local knowledge with the resources of a big firm for the benefit of his clients. He joined Vancouver-based personal injury law firm, Murphy Battista LLP, to run their Kelowna office. He calls it a “best-of-both-worlds” alliance with the advantages of local knowledge, and the force of top-tier resources, peer collaboration and the cumulative case experience of 22 lawyers and 40 support staff. With the opening of the firm’s newest office in Vernon, Dick and Murphy Battista LLP are looking to extend these advantages to better serve clients in the North Okanagan.
Murphy Battista appealed to him as a firm with a focus on patient recovery, which he says should be the number-one priority of anyone seeking representation. “A lot of people think a lawyer’s only role is to get them the biggest amount of compensation possible,” Dick says. “But we have a dual role that includes helping clients get access to treatment and resources so they can recover to the best of their ability and get on with their lives.” The firm’s philosophy is clearly spelled out in their Welcome Video.
It’s a philosophy on which Dick built his reputation. “When I meet people I tell them ‘Your only job is to focus on getting better. Let me focus on the other stuff.’ I tell that to all my clients, and I need them to be 100 per cent committed to that.”