Back Injured in a Car Accident? – Know Your Rights
Back injuries can be one of the more devastating personal injuries from a car accident. They can cause permanent damage, as well as potential paralysis and a number of long-term effects. The costs of medication and therapy, particularly in cases of temporary or permanent paralysis, can be crippling in a recovery that can take months or even years. However, if you suffer a back injury as the result of a car accident, regardless of whether you were a driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, you have certain rights, particularly in regards to compensation.
In many ways, your rights depend on whether the accident involved another vehicle whose driver was negligent. Negligence is defined as a situation where:
- The damage or personal injury you have suffered was caused by another person’s actions (or failure to act).
- The person who caused this damage or injury acted in a manner below the standard of reasonable care (or, in plainer terms, did not fulfill their reasonable responsibilities under the law).
- The person who caused the damage or injury had a legal obligation to prevent that injury from happening (such as, for example, knowingly driving a car that was not fit to drive and not having taken the necessary action to make the car fit).
If negligence is not a factor in the accident that caused your back injury, the compensation you are entitled to will come from your auto insurance policy, or, if you are a passenger or a pedestrian, the policy of one of the drivers involved. Under Ontario law, you are entitled to “statutory benefits” – coverage that must be provided by your insurance policy if you are injured and require it. These benefits are “no fault,” meaning that they are provided by your insurance provider, regardless of if the other driver was at fault. These benefits include:
- Income replacement. This is compensation for the money that you will be unable to earn during your recovery due to your injury.
- Caregiver benefits. If you are no longer able to care for your children or somebody for whom you have been providing care, this will cover part if not all of your costs to hire a caregiver.
- Non-earner. This is a very specific benefit that is only provided if you have been injured such that you have an inability to carry on a normal life..
- Medical and rehabilitation costs. This covers your additional costs and fees during initial treatment and your rehabilitation.
- Attendant care. This covers your expenses if your personal injury has caused sufficient damage that you need a caregiver during your recovery.
- Other costs and expenses, such as out-of-pocket costs for family visits, replacement of property damaged during the accident, etc.
If the driver does not have insurance and you are not at fault for the accident, and you do not have your own policy of insurance, either, you are still entitled to benefits. These benefits come from the Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund, which is a government insurance payer of last resort.
If the other driver was negligent, then you have the right to sue him or her for damages. The claim must be made within two years of the accident (different timelines apply for people who are less than eighteen years old), with the compensation based on the court’s determination of the degree of responsibility for the accident each party in the lawsuit bears. The damages that you are entitled to include the same statutory damages as when no negligence is involved, along with:
- Past and future income loss. If you are successful in your claim, you are entitled to 70 percent of your gross income up to the trial, and 100% of your gross loss of income into the future.
- Pain and suffering. This is a type of damages that is only used when you have been disabled by your injuries so badly that they cross a “threshold,” leaving you permanently impaired in your work and daily life.
Due to the long recovery caused by a back injury after a car accident, it is important to know your rights. Being able to claim the compensation you are due is vital for paying your medical fees and recovery costs. Knowing where to turn to get the help and support you need is invaluable, particularly when you are facing a long recovery.