10 Things Some Lawyers Won’t Tell You About Auto Accidents
1. If you file a claim against another driver due to their negligence causing your accident, you’re effectively suing the other driver’s insurance company. One of the terms of any auto insurance contract is that the insurance company handles the defence and pay-out of any lawsuit against the driver after an accident up to the limits of the policy. This means that if you file a personal injury claim against another driver there will be money available from an insurance policy to pay out any settlement or jury verdict.
2. Even if you win a case after suffering a serious injury, there may still be a deductible that reduces the compensation you will receive. In Ontario, as of 2015, any compensation award under $121,799 for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life has a deductible of $36,540. This means that if you are awarded $100,000 in damages, you will only receive $63,460 – and these numbers will increase to account for inflation every year starting in 2016.
3. Medical and rehabilitation compensation for serious injuries – injuries that require weeks or months of recovery – are limited by law to $50,000 in a claim for accident-benefits.
4. Compensation for “minor injuries” are limited by law to $3,500 in a claim for accident-benefits.
5. If you dispute your own insurance company’s handling of your claim, you can seek mediation before going into a trial or hearing. Mediation regarding car insurance disputes is handled by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), who will appoint a mediator and attempt to find a resolution. However, the mediator can only clarify and attempt to bring both sides into agreement on an issue, and cannot make legally binding decisions.
6. You can’t directly sue your own insurance company in court in most circumstances. Prior to 2015, it was possible to sue car insurance providers directly after a dispute and failed mediation. However, the law was changed so that all disputes between a driver and their own insurance company must first go through the Licence Appeal Tribunal. If after the tribunal has made its ruling you still disagree, you can then appeal it in court.
7. If the other driver does not have insurance, there may still compensation available, either from your own policy or from the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. This latter coverage is not unconditional, however. You cannot receive it if you were at fault for the accident, and after a payout the government will pursue the uninsured driver for recovery of the funds.
8. Your insurance company can find you at fault, even when the police do not. The police and insurance companies use different criteria to determine if somebody is at fault after an accident. While many times the police and insurance company may agree, there are many instances where they do not agree.
9. You can always get a second opinion. There are any number of reasons that you might want a second opinion – you may feel that your lawyer has missed something important, or been turned down when you’re certain you have a strong case. Not only are lawyers required to allow you to get a second opinion, they are ethically obliged to facilitate the transfer of files and your case if you decide to retain new legal counsel.
10. If you are a pedestrian or passenger, you are still covered by insurance. The drivers are not the only people injured in car accidents; passengers and pedestrians are too. If you are a passenger, you are covered under the insurance of your car’s driver. If you are a pedestrian, on the other hand, and the driver who hit you has no insurance, or you have no recourse to any insurance after the collision, you are still covered by the Ontario’s insurance payer of last resort, the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund.