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HH01580A.gif (1311 bytes) Letter of the week: What legal aid is available to Natives for WCB claims?

Question:

Dear ARC:

I was injured on the job and have been dealing with the Worker's Compensation Board of British Columbia since. It is my belief my human rights have been violated by the abuse of WCB policy at the hands of the various officers of the board who have been handling my claim file. I have spoken to a lawyer who indicated that I did have the paper work to begin a legal suit, though in his eyes I would need a large amount of money for his fees and time if I choose to ask for his assistance. Though being a injured worker I am extremely limited with regards to access to funds for legal purposes, let alone to support my family and I.

I would like to ask you if there exists any opportunity for assistance, in terms of legal advice/assistance, educational guidance/counciling and general support.

Response:

Some of the Legal Aid Centres offer legal assistance in WC cases. The Law Centre in Victoria (388-4516) used to do so, but I am not up to date on their latest revision as to what services are avaialable. Some lawyers will take a WC case on a contingency basis; that is to say, instead of the client paying the lawyer on a fixed fee basis, plus incidental costs, the client and lawyer agree that the lawyer will bear all the costs in return for a percentage of any award that may be won. In some cases this may be 30% or so; the final percentage is subject to negotiation by the client.

In some cases the injured worker's union will offer assistance in pursuing a claim. Sometimes a person can mediate and purusue the settlement on their own with a little help from a lawyer or knowledgeable mediator-lawyer.

I am not aware that Native Friendship Centres offer this kind of assitance, but MLAs and Members of Parliament offer such help from their constituency offices.