Why is NOVA Injury Law the firm of choice for clients seeking one-on-one service for a disability benefits claim?
Our Principal Lawyer and firm founder, Jeff Mitchell, recently took part in an interview concerning his business. The interview was focused on the launch of NOVA injury Law in Halifax and his approach to client service. We have reproduced sections of the interview in this post.
Why did you begin NOVA Injury Law?
This one is easy. I created the firm because there are many Atlantic Canadians that need help with an injury or disability claim. People who are trying to navigate the complex world of insurance law can be taken advantage of by the insurance companies. Let's face it, most people aren't experts in the area of insurance law. Furthermore, injury victims are suffering from their injuries and can't dedicate time to making sure they're getting treated fairly by the insurance company. It's easy to be passionate about this work because each client is in a difficult circumstance and a helping hand can make all the difference. Commonly, the client has been denied disability benefits or been unfairly cut off because of technicalities within a disability insurance contract. Most people have already fought with the insurance company and feel helpless because they haven't seen any progress.
At NOVA Injury Law, we attempt to gain access to disability benefits for those that are eligible. My firm wouldn't exist if medical circumstances were clear, and insurance companies always did a good job assessing claims for benefits. We have processes in place to build a top-notch case for the client. We remove the complexity around medical diagnoses and prognostic indicators by using our medical consultants. Our experience with this area of law helps us to anticipate the arguments advanced by the insurance company that denied the claim and combat them with compelling evidence.
What makes your firm different from other disability benefits law firms?
I've worked on both sides of the fence. I have experience working on behalf of the insurance company denying claims. Before launching NOVA Injury Law, I worked for a plaintiff injury firm which routinely handled disability claims. I took the best practices from both perspectives and incorporated those into our unique approach at NOVA Injury Law.
The key to winning disability insurance cases is building the case. While lawyers have significant expertise in the law and policy interpretation, they are usually ill-equipped to accurately assess the medical issues which arise during the claim. Of course, in this area of the law, it is the medical aspects of the client's background which are the best evidence in the case.
My firm works directly with medical consultants on each file. What this means is we have some of the brightest medical minds working on your case to make sure that we get it right. This advantage is a game changer for us as lawyers because it arms us with the most accurate medical information to determine eligibility for benefits.
What factors should I consider when looking for a disability benefits lawyer?
Timeliness and expertise would be two primary considerations. A common complaint held by clients is that their lawyer isn't available, won't return calls, or appears not to have a great understanding of the case. All of these problems reflect poor client service. Some big law firms have armies of paralegals and assistants who do much of the work on a given file. Some clients discover that their file has been passed off to someone else who they have never met and didn't hire. NOVA Injury Law simply refuses to work that way.
What is it like to be a client of your firm?
It's my role to do the heavy lifting during the course of the legal process. Much of my work involves understanding the client's employment, regular duties, and limitations due to injury. I have visited clients' former work place if the job was one with which I was unfamiliar. It's critical that I have a complete understanding of the worker's daily and weekly routine. Of course, understanding the job environment is only half of the job. I normally have a long meeting or call with the client so I can understand the impact of the disability on their life at work and at home. Often it is other family members or workers that have an excellent sense of the wide-ranging implications of the disability. I'm quick to speak to those that understand my client, and those who can offer vital contextual details which will help me craft a stronger case.
After the orientation process has taken place, clients receive regular updates from me directly. They are made aware of significant process milestones. Progress updates must go both ways, however. It is vital that the client is comfortable sharing their struggles with me as time goes on. I've found that clients are okay reporting personal information to me because I respect their struggles and have a genuine interest in the information. It's my hope that the client sees value in the exercise and experiences the positive impact on the result of their case.
I'm in my office nearly every day. I'm consistently available by email or phone. My clients know that they can call or email me and they will get an answer from me, most often the very same day.
Finally, my clients are prepared for significant events during the process of the claim. Statements are only provided with me next to my client's side. My clients meet with me for a prep session before every discovery hearing. When it comes time to settle the claim, my clients feel comfortable with the process because they have been involved in the lead up to the finale from the very beginning.
How do your legal fees work?
Most of my clients retain me on a contingency fee basis. This means that I am only paid if I can reactivate their long term disability benefits or produce a buy-out of their policy. In essence, success for me is tied directly to my client's success. I think some lawyers are nervous about this arrangement because winning isn't always guaranteed. I've found that this structure works well because I have to work hard to find a path to success. If the case isn't winnable, it's only fair that this is determined early on. I think every one of my clients would agree that they love the contingency fee style agreement because it puts me in their corner.
How do you keep up to speed on your cases while providing one-on-one service?
Listen- it's not possible to be up to speed if you take on too many cases. Every file suffers. Some firms in Halifax are many times larger than mine and carry layers of staff to feed cases along the process. As the saying goes: many hands make for light work. This saying works well for people who work on a factory assembly line, but those environments are also subject to significant risks because of task compartmentalization. In the personal injury context, If I have someone to gather and assemble medical information, another to interpret it, another to craft legal claims, and yet another to manage client communication, things will inevitably get missed along the way. This is a big firm approach that we don't agree with.
At NOVA Injury Law, a lawyer does all the tasks and sees the file from the starting point and stays with it until the finish line. No matter how long the claim lasts, the point of contact won't change. Nothing is lost along the way.
Some may say that our one-on-one system may not the best model of efficiency. But then again, we aren't making cars or washing machines. The key to success is staying true to our commitment to provide high quality, honest work for each client. Anything less may risk the claim for disability benefits.
What else should I ask when considering a law firm?
I'm not sure I can answer this. I don't think people should be considering a law firm, but the lawyer. I've had people call me and say that they signed up with one of the big firms with the expectation that their case was going to be handled by the partner - not just some person who works at the law firm.
Shopping for a lawyer is okay. In fact- you should shop around for your lawyer. Speak to 2-3 different lawyers and ask them if he or she will be the point of contact for your file (for the whole life of the file!). Ask them about their strategy for your claim and the timelines for various processes.
I'm fortunate that I have the ability to pick my cases. I look for work that I'm passionate about and see an excellent opportunity to make a difference for the injured person. I keep a small client base - when the client hires me, they know I'm the one actually doing the work .Jeff Mitchell