Motor Vehicle Accidents
In Ontario we have a “no-fault” system of automobile insurance. The scheme represents a trade off between lower insurance rates for drivers in the Province and significant restrictions on an injured person’s ability to obtain compensation for their injuries. It is a system that is built on the backs of injured people and every year benefits appear to be increasingly reduced while promised insurance savings remain questionable.
When you are involved in an accident involving a motor vehicle, you can pursue two distinct but related avenues of recovery. Firstly, the law entitles you to apply for certain benefits – known as “accident benefits” – from your own automobile insurance company (or the other drivers’ insurer, or the government if you don’t own an insurer vehicle car). These benefits are available whether or not you were at fault for the accident and even if you were a pedestrian, bicyclist or otherwise outside of a vehicle, as long as the accident involved a motor vehicle.
Accident benefits, while not generous, are intended to provide you with some immediate financial and medical relief and it is extremely important that you submit your claim right away so that your insurer can assess your case and approve your benefits as early as possible.
In addition to accident benefits, you may be entitled to sue the owner and driver of an “at fault” vehicle. Unlike accident benefits you can only sue if the other party was completely or partially to blame for the accident.
In order to protect your right to sue you should give both the at-fault driver and owner of the vehicle notice of the claim immediately and be sure to file a claim with the Court no later than 2 years after the accident if not settled by that time. Even if you don’t file your claim there’s a chance you may still be able to sue the owner and driver as you can initiate a claim, or within two years of when you reasonably should have known that you suffered a claimable injury or loss or 2 years after you turn 18 years old, whichever is later.
In Ontario, in order to successfully sue another person for motor vehicle related injuries, you must prove liability and meet a statutory injury threshold. In order to qualify for compensation you must first prove that your injuries and losses were caused or contributed to by the fault of that person. Secondly in order to obtain compensation for pain and suffering you must prove, through expert and non-expert evidence that you have suffered income loss, disfigurement or serious and permanent physical or psychological injury.
Sometimes the shock of being in a motor vehicle accident can mask symptoms of an injury and secondary effects may not show up until down the road. That often makes it difficult at the early stage of your injury to determine if you meet the “threshold test” described above. In fact, it may be several months before you or your doctor will be able to provide a long term prognosis for your injuries. This is one reason that obtaining support through accident benefits is vitality important.
In addition, Ontario law imposes mandatory reductions of $30,000 on claims made by injured people and $15,000 for family members who sue.
The process can be complicated. You should focus on ensuring that your accident benefits claim has been submitted, other drivers or operators of the motor vehicle have been placed on notice, and that you are following medical advice and treatment. Contact us to learn how we can help.
In the event you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, try your best to do the following:
- Take pictures of your injuries and of the area of the accident, and the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle, as soon as possible, before conditions change.
- If there are surveillance cameras in the area of your accident ask the owner to save the footage and keep his or her name.
- Create a point form account of exactly what happened, where it happened, weather conditions, the description and plate number of the other vehicle, insurance information, discussions with others and your injuries, etc.
- If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information.
- Ensure that you seek out medical assistance and follow your doctor’s advice.
- Be careful using Facebook and other social media as your posts may be producible to the other side.