Car Accidents and the Law in Ontario
What are your legal rights if you have been injured in an automobile accident? This article will provide you with a brief overview of your rights if you are the victim of a car accident in Ontario.
The issue of compensation for a car accident usually involves not just the people who were in the accident, but the insurance companies. The forms of compensation available are best split into two categories: 1) Accident Benefits Claims and 2)Lawsuits.
Automobile Accident Benefits Claims
Ontario’s system of automobile insurance is a “no-fault” system. This does not mean that no one is at fault, or that compensation will not have anything to do with whose fault the accident was. What “no-fault” means is that regardless of who is to blame for the accident, any injured persons may receive some compensation, the compensation available is referred to as accident benefits. Therefore these benefits are available to any injured party in a car accident regardless of their role in the accident, be it a driver, a passenger or even a pedestrian. Accident benefits are claimed from your own insurance company, therefore a driver, passenger or pedestrian will make a claim from their respective insurance companies. An Application for Accident Benefits should be completed and submitted to your own insurance company as soon as possible following a car accident.
Standard accident benefits include: medical and rehabilitation expenses, care giver and dependent care, income replacement benefits, attendant care and housekeeping expenses. The amount of money to which you are entitled to claim is dependent upon your circumstances and is governed by the “Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule” (or SABS).
If you are injured in a car accident and you are not responsible for the accident, then you may sue the responsible party or parties for compensation, thus beginning a lawsuit, also known as a tort action.
The party who is not responsible for the car accident has two years from the date of the accident, within which to commence a lawsuit. A lawsuit is commenced when a statement of claim has been issued.
The two primary heads of damages which are most commonly claimed in a lawsuit are: pain and suffering and loss of income.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refers to the injuries, both physical and psychological, sustained as a result of the car accident. The law in Ontario requires your injuries to be both permanent and serious. The amount for which you can claim for pain and suffering is also subject to a $30,000.00 deductible. This means that for damages assessed at $50,000.00 the other driver’s insurance company will only be liable to pay $20,000.00. However, the $30,000.00 deductible does not apply to claims where pain and suffering is assessed at $100,000.00 and over. (See Recent Developments in Pain and Suffering and Car Accident Law)
Loss of Income
The rules regarding income loss entitle the injured parties to 80% of their net after-tax income loss up to the date of the trial and to 100% of any gross future loss of income following the trial.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement?
A lawsuit can be a very long process that usually takes approximately 3 years before a settlement is reached. It is important to temper your expectations if you are seeking a quick settlement. The primary reason that the settlements take so long to reach is the amount of time it takes to get a proper prognosis from a physician with regards to your recovery from the injuries that you have suffered. This prognosis is vital to your claim. While the process may be long, your claim will not lose value as interest will accumulate on the amount that you eventually receive.