The Downtown Vernon Association (DVA) held its 2019 Annual General Meeting on May 30, 2019, welcoming our Associate, Cody Walker, as their newest Director. “The DVA’s volunteer Board of Directors are an excellent representation of the downtown Vernon business community,” says Susan Lehman, Executive Director of the DVA.
At Nixon Wenger, Cody practices in all aspects of family law including divorce, child and spousal support, division of assets and debts as well as parenting, custody and guardianship.
Cody is looking forward to contributing to the DVA Board of Directors and participating in the ongoing development of Vernon’s downtown business community.
As of April 1, 2019 the BC NDP government has brought into force legislative changes to the way motor vehicle accident claims are handled in British Columbia.
Under our old civil law system a person injured in a motor vehicle accident was entitled to claim for losses he/she suffered due to the negligence of the other driver. This included damages for pain and suffering, income loss and rehabilitation expenses. This concept has been around for hundreds of years and is focused on making the victim “whole.” Each aspect of the victims claimed loss had to be proven based on the rules of evidence. The majority of such claims would settle / resolve prior to going to trial on a compromised basis. In fact, the majority of claims were so small that they would resolve directly between the accident victim and the insurance adjuster without any involvement of lawyers at all.
This system was effective and fair for most years and ICBC was profitable. It was a cash cow for many BC governments who sucked billions of dollars out of the company into general tax revenues. In the recent past, in part due to mismanagement within ICBC, losses began to pile up. The NDP has blamed personal injury lawyers for this sad state of affairs. This has given the NDP government a reason to put into effect massive changes, influenced by the bureaucrats running ICBC.
This new program, effective as of April 1, 2019, has been masterfully marketed as a new system to process just the “minor claims” effectively and without the need for lawyers. Such minor claims can only receive a maximum of $5,500.00 for pain and suffering. Any other claimed losses associated with the minor injury would be decided by an online adjudicator, without an in person hearing and no set rules of evidence.
On learning of the details of this new online means of “rough justice” for minor claims, I would suspect most people wouldn’t be too alarmed. After all, this only applies to minor claims. How much loss and damage could arise from an accident where the victim has suffered bruising or a sprain or slight whiplash that has resolved after a few months? I would suspect public sentiment supports that such minor claims should be resolved online and free up our courts for more substantial claims that deserve our full justice system. It all sounds reasonable…
Well here is where the masterful marketing comes in. What is being promoted to BC citizens as a “minor injury cap” system, is really a means to prevent 80% of all BC motor vehicle accident claims from proceeding to our civil courts. In other words ALMOST EVERYTHING IS A MINOR INJURY! The new legislation is difficult to decipher, but it appears to define a minor injury as; any abrasion, contusion, laceration, sprain or strain; pain syndrome; or any psychological or psychiatric condition; unless it can be shown that that condition has resulted in a serious impairment or permanent serious disfiguration. A serious impairment means that the condition lasts greater than 12 month; that the accident victim cannot do the essential tasks of employment or study (despite accommodation); and the condition is not expected to improve substantially. The legislation also identifies any whiplash injury, TMJ (jaw) injury, or a concussion (that does not result in incapacity) as being automatically a minor injury.
Based on the above definition of minor injury, it would appear that there will be very few injuries that do not meet that definition. Most injuries will heal within 12 months, and it is the continuing chronic pain that is so disabling and interfering in victims’ lives. For instance, if you have a chronic pain syndrome arising from soft tissue injuries received in an accident, (not whiplash as those are automatically considered minor) even if those injuries continue well past 12 months, it will be considered minor if your employer can accommodate you at work. It will also be considered minor if your doctor is of the view that in the future through rehabilitation, there will be improvement. In my experience as a personal injury lawyer for over 20 years, most injuries that have resulted in a chronic pain syndrome would allow the accident victim to still perform some of his / her work duties, (albeit pain) and typically have a prognosis that the condition may improve in the future through various recommended attempts at rehabilitation. Such injuries can be devastating for people and can last a very long time. Under this new regime, such claims will be considered minor. In fact most claims will be categorized as such. This will mean that such accident victims will be subject to the online adjudication through what is called the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), and will not be able to seek fair compensation through our courts. This is a massive change which B.C. public is currently unaware.
Unfortunately, this system of “minor injury caps” is a prime example of government double speak. The government will say that this new regime that is now in place since April 1, 2019 only applies to minor injuries, what they haven’t told you is that…ALMOST EVERYTHING IS A MINOR INJURY!
James Cotter has been a trial lawyer for over 23 years, practicing in Personal Injury, Wills & Estates Litigation, Civil Litigation, Municipal and Health Law.
Michael Yawney QC was asked to help a young man in his mid 20’s who was injured on Hwy 97 on his way to celebrating his graduation from UBCO. A vehicle turned onto the highway from a side road without looking, right in front of the young man requiring him to take evasive action and forcing him off of the highway. He suffered a serious ankle injury, as well as a concussion and soft tissue injuries. The concussion and soft tissue injuries resolved, however, his ankle was permanently impaired. Mr. Yawney resolved his claim shortly before trial for over $500,000.00 plus costs and future rehab expenses.
This year marked the 23rd annual Hospital Gala which raised more than $121,000 in support of the current campaign, Operation: Surgical For Life. This campaign is aimed at reducing hospital wait times, increasing surgical capacity and improving patient outcomes.
Not only were we pleased to attend this outstanding evening but we were very proud to be sponsoring the photo booth at this event.
Congratulations to all involved for this very successful community event!
Recently, the Public Guardian and Trustee’s Office, a provincial government agency, contacted friends who operate Freedom’s Gate Equine Rescue Society to ask them to take in and rehome several horses that were owned by a person who had passed away. What this call means to me, as a lawyer, is that the deceased died without leaving a Will, had no real family members who were willing or able to help with the estate and did not make provisions for the horses in the case of death.
A Will is the legal document in which you appoint someone to look after your assets and ultimately distribute them to your beneficiaries after you die. In it, you name the person who should be in charge of your estate (your Executor, also now known as your Personal Representative), and you set out who gets your assets, including real estate, personal effects, bank accounts and even your livestock and pets. If you die without a Will, any family member could apply to be the person in charge (Administrator or Personal Representative) and provincial legislation sets out where your assets will go. If you are married, your spouse does NOT have the automatic right to handle or receive your estate. In the case I mentioned above involving the horses, the deceased apparently had no family members to help with these tasks, so the Public Guardian and Trustee had to become involved in managing the estate and dealing with the assets.
In a Will, my clients typically name an executor, an alternate, a guardian for their underage children, and list of beneficiaries who will receive their estate. In a situation where someone dies leaving a spouse and/or children, or perhaps other family members (such as siblings, if not married), my clients will often name one or more of those family members in a Will as Executor. If they die without a Will, those family members may be willing to step up and become the Administrator. The Executor or Administrator applies to the Court to be approved and appointed as the Executor or Administrator. Once appointed, they have the full power and authority to sell or distribute the deceased’s assets.
About 25 years ago, I was encouraged by my veterinarian to put clauses in Wills about pets, as she was tired of family members bringing them to her to be euthanized….perfectly healthy dogs and cats that family did not want. It started with a generic clause directing the Executor to give Fluffy to such and such a family member or to find a good home for them, preferably with family or a friend. However, our pets and livestock cannot wait for a Will to be located and the court appointment process to occur. They need to be cared for immediately. If someone has animals, they should try to arrange in advance for someone to feed and water their pets at the very least.
If the deceased ran a business involving animals (such as dog training or horse boarding), it is essential that arrangements be made for someone to look after those animals, to contact owners to offer them the choice to make alternative arrangements for their pets, and to respond to business calls. Hopefully, where there is a business involved, the deceased made arrangements for someone knowledgeable in the business to help out immediately.
Instructions regarding pets can be very detailed and are best not left in a Will. Your Will should state where your assets are to go, but it should not contain practical concerns such as what type of food Fluffy prefers and how often you feed her. In the case of pets, it is often better to leave those detailed instructions in a letter to your executor to be kept with your Will or with a copy of your Will where you keep your important papers at home. Better yet, if your Executor is a family member or friend, give them a copy of these instructions from time to time, so they know exactly what to do without delay and who to contact about your animals.
I have a client who is the perfect example of the worst case scenario. She has no spouse and no family (her parents and siblings are deceased). She had no children, but many furbabies, such as dogs, cats, and horses. I have helped her do her Will, with basic instructions as to the sale and distribution of her assets to distant relatives and charities. Aside from her Will, she has been working on a list of information about her assets and pets that will come in very handy for her Executor – everything from who to call at her bank, her account numbers, her various club and association memberships, who gets certain personal effects and art work, a short history of each pet, feeding instructions, who to call about certain registered pets and how to deal with her rescued animals.
When you are dealing with live beings, you need to make sure someone is available immediately. Even without the formal court appointment, the Executor is permitted to attend to those matters that are necessary after someone dies – such as arranging a service, securing their home, cancelling unnecessary utilities, caring for pets and livestock, among other things. Your Executor will need to know plenty of information about you that is not normally set out in a Will. This equally applies to the person you appoint by Power of Attorney to handle your financial affairs if you are injured or ill.
Without a Will, her assets will not be managed by the appropriate person and they will not go to those relatives and charities that she prefers. With a little bit of work in advance, she can rest easy, knowing that her assets will be properly distributed and her furbabies will be well cared for in loving homes.
Leanne Rutley has been a lawyer for 30 years and practices with the firm of Nixon Wenger LLP in Vernon, BC. She has extensive experience dealing with the administration of estates and the care of furbabies. She is also a Director/Foster Mom for Colour Me Canine Rescue Society.
Not only was Nixon Wenger honoured to be sponsoring the IG Walk for Alzheimer’s, but we were super proud of Partner Andrew Powell and his son, Seamus Powell, of the North Okanagan Pipes & Drums as they participated in the opening ceremonies for this awareness walk and fundraiser. This event was held on Sunday May 5th at the Greater Vernon Athletics Park. Congratulations to the participants and organizers for another successful walk for those who have been affected by dementia.
Andrew filed an action for the variation of a will on behalf of the child of a deceased: the child was one of four beneficiaries, was not in regular contact with the deceased, and had been left a sizeable inheritance already; however following examinations for discovery we were able to settle the matter and increased the inheritance to approximately 35% of the estate of the deceased.
Who doesn’t LOVE jeans day at the office? Our staff and lawyers love wearing their jeans and through the sale of Jeans Day buttons and lapel pins, we raised $225.05 in support of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Well done team!