Accidents are traumatic events. They can disrupt our lives and impact our ability to perform day-to-day tasks, both at home and at work. To recover from injury often means medical treatment – it also requires a heightened focus on getting better.
During such painful and emotionally fraught times, dealing with legal matters can present an additional challenge, says Gail Sharma, principal lawyer at GKS Law Firm, who has been working with unions and individuals seeking WorkSafeBC (WCB) compensation for more than 16 years.
“[Workers’ compensation] has been my area of practice since I became a lawyer, but it wasn’t until after my accident that I started my own firm,” Sharma says. “Although I was in a motor vehicle accident rather than a workplace accident, the experience drove home the fact that when you're injured, you just have to focus on getting better.”
This insight inspired Sharma to deepen her commitment to workers’ compensation and assemble a “curated team of people who are good at listening.”
“We see a lot of people who experience anxiety when they’re dealing with WorkSafeBC. It’s supposed to be a worker-friendly and easy-to-navigate system, but it has become more complex,” she explains. “This makes it more difficult to navigate for people on their own.”
Working with a trusted professional can make things easier and less stressful, Sharma notes. “We are helping our clients with legal knowledge but also by giving them a chance to talk about what they’re going through.”
The ability to listen is a priority at GKS Law Firm, she says. “Many people tell us they’re not getting their story across to their case managers or other decision-makers, so we really take the time to understand what happened – and how it impacted them.”
Workplace injuries can be life-changing, especially when they impede someone’s ability to continue a chosen career. “For a lot of people, this is the work they’ve trained for. Not being able to return to their job can have a huge emotional impact,” says Sharma, who adds that in addition to physical injuries, her team has seen an increase in cases related to psychological trauma.
“Issues like workplace bullying and harassment are definitely coming to light, and people are more willing to talk about this,” she says. “We also see people who may have started with a physical injury and then suffer psychological consequences.”
To make access to guidance easier, GKS Law Firm offers a free consultation. “If you feel you need advice or have questions or concerns about an outcome related to WorkSafeBC, we help you look at legal options,” she says. “We consider the benefits people are entitled to as well as the long-term implications of WCB decisions. We also ensure action is taken within mandatory time frames.”
On receiving a WCB decision, people usually have 90 days to request a review. “Traditionally, most people have come to us when they want to appeal a decision, but we’re seeing more and more clients sign up earlier. They ask us to manage their files and communicate with WorkSafeBC on their behalf.”
“That way, they can focus on their health at a time when they need all their energy to get better,” adds Sharma. “We want our clients to feel they have someone in their corner.”