Mark Lyons, one of Vancouver’s best known personal injury lawyers, has joined Warnett Hallen’s team. We sat down with him to hear about why he moved, what new developments he sees coming for BC for drivers, and how he can help.
This is an exciting time in your career. You recently wound down one of Vancouver’s most successful personal injury law firms, Klein Lyons, and now you have joined Warnett Hallen. Tell us about this move.
It was time to do something different, and this is a great and exciting opportunity. Manjot and Paul are two very experienced lawyers, but they are also still young, energetic and innovative. We worked together previously for over a decade and I have tremendous respect for both of them. It is great I can also continue to serve clients that I have been representing over the last 20 years, and as a bonus, I don’t have to worry about running the business anymore!
What changes have you seen recently in British Columbia pertaining to Motor Vehicle Accident and Personal Injury Law?
Specifically regarding ICBC car accident claims, we go through cyclical periods when ICBC develops certain strategies to limit fair compensation for people injured in car accidents. There are many factors behind this, such as politics, new legislature, law and the sway of public opinion – and it is difficult to manage with such a large organization. My many years of experience as a car accident lawyer means that I have developed the strategies to deal with the ICBC pendulum but it would be more cost-effective for them if they would simply take a pragmatic, consistent approach to car accident claims.
The other advantage is that we have built relationships with ICBC adjustors over the last two decades. We are adversaries, but we need to work together to get the best outcome for an injured party. After all these years, I believe that I have earned their respect and I am in a position to effectively negotiate with ICBC on behalf of our clients. Paul and Manjot have developed the same positive relationships with ICBC over the years.
Also we have seen changes recently in terms of the law and distracted driving. The new legislation is a really good step forward, but there is still a lot of work to do to eliminate distracted driving. I am glad that I might have had a small impact on the problem by educating young people and supporting organizations like Drop It And Drive (DIAD). I am also proud that Warnett Hallen has become a sponsor of Karen Bowman’s DIAD. This organization will have the same profound impact that MADD has had on reducing drunk driving. We will save thousands of lives and serious car accident injuries through education.
What current or foreseeable legal issues do you see impacting Motor Vehicle or Personal Injury Law?
I think the legalization of marijuana is going to increase motor vehicle accidents and the frequency of driving under the influence. It is going to be a very challenging piece of legislation that will open up many issues for law enforcement and ultimately motor vehicle accident claims. It is dangerous to drive under the influence of drugs, but how do you test for intoxication? My recommendation before legalizing marijuana is to determine an easy and effective roadside testing process. If there is no solid testing process, how do you enforce the laws? For a plaintiff personal injury lawyer, trying to prove a car accident occurred because of a driver being under the influence of marijuana is going to be difficult.
Another item that is going to change the way we drive and the laws is the advancement of technology in cars. In-car enabled electronics, tablet sized screens, GPS and Wi-Fi enabled cars will make it challenging for people to unplug their devices and stay focused on driving. We are conditioned to respond to the pings…just like Pavlov’s dogs.
Is there one case that really stands out for you in terms of utilizing the law to the fullest for your client?
We had a very serious case of a young man who suffered a brain injury during a car accident where his girlfriend was killed. He emerged from the accident with some very different personality traits, one of which was poor judgment. We were able to get him a million dollar settlement that was designed to give him a monthly income (and increase over time) for his economic security over his life time, but without giving him a large chunk of money to deal with. This gave him security and normalcy in his life.
There were also claims, where our client had fairly modest injuries or minimal property damage, where ICBC consistently offered less than what the case was worth. There is no fixed correlation between the extent of the damage to the car and the severity of injuries sustained. On principal we went to court and we got our client substantially more than what ICBC had offered. It is satisfying to know that the court system works and the independent arbiter is there. Typically mainly larger ICBC car accident claims go to court, but the court system can also be used for smaller claims when the need arises.
You like to travel – what is your favourite place? What recommendations do you have to people who get in a car accident in a foreign country? Can Warnett Hallen personal injury lawyers represent them?
I love to travel the world but home is actually my favourite place. I am always happiest when I come back to Vancouver. We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful and healthy environment. It is such a wonderful place.
If a person has been in a car accident in a foreign country, absolutely give Warnett Hallen a call. I have had lots of experience dealing with accidents that have occurred in the US. We can also help to determine if you might actually be able to utilize ICBC for medical assistance or an uninsured car accident claim. For example, in the US they often have very low policy limits. If the accident is substantial, a low policy may not cover all of the damages and injuries – it’s a very tricky piece of law. If you don’t follow the right steps you may forfeit your rights, but ICBC benefits do extend outside of Canada in certain circumstances. It is imperative to work with a lawyer who has experience handling out-of-country claims.