Worker’s Compensation after an Auto Accident

An auto accident can cause serious injuries that can disable somebody, leaving them unable to work or attend school for weeks, or even months.  In the worst cases, an injured person may never be able to return to work or school.  During recovery, one of the big questions is how to handle lost income.  In the province of Ontario, this can be a complicated issue, as there are multiple organizations providing public insurance, key among them the Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Employment Insurance (EI).

The WSIB, formerly known as “Worker’s Compensation,” is a provincial agency operated by the Government of Ontario providing loss of income coverage to workers injured on the job, or on the employer’s premises.  In the case of an injury, they provide 85% of take home pay until such time as the worker can return to full employment.

While WSIB coverage is provided to all employees, regardless of whether they are part-time, full-time, temporary, or permanent, it is also limited to on-the-job injuries that are closely connected to the nature of the work done in the ordinary course of employment.  When an employee is injured while operating a motor vehicle in the course of his or her employment there is often an “election” that can be made about whether to proceed with a WSIB claim or elect instead to receive accident benefits and pursue a traditional lawsuit.

On the federal level, Employment Insurance (EI) is a program providing coverage to those who have been rendered unable to work due to unemployment, sickness, or injury.  Unlike the WSIB, EI coverage is determined by the loss of income, rather than whether the injury or accident took place on the job or was work-related.  It also provides considerably less money than the WSIB – EI replaces 55% of one’s weekly earnings, to a maximum of $524 per week as of 2015.  So, if a person were left unable to work after an auto accident not covered by the WSIB, that person could receive EI.

EI is also designed to be a band-aid solution – a worker must put in 600 hours before he or she can be eligible for EI, and the injured person will receive no more than 45 weeks of coverage (as opposed to WSIB, where in the case of an accident causing a long-term disability, the coverage lasts until the injury is no longer causing a loss of income or retirement).  Likewise, somebody who is self-employed or an independent contractor would need to go one year before being able to file a claim.

Because the two overlap in coverage – and because claims to WSIB can take time to process – any compensation received through EI is expected to be repaid once a WSIB claim has been approved.  Additional assistance can be found through Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and Canada Pension Plan Disability, both of which have their own requirements.

To complicate matters further, any person injured in an auto accident is also entitled to “accident benefits”, regardless of whether they are at fault.  These benefits are provided by private insurance companies — usually the injured person’s own insurance company or the insurance company of the motor vehicle they were using at the time they were hurt –, and are not government benefits.  The size and scope of these benefits, which can cover income replacement, caregiver allowances, and medical treatment, among others, depends on whether the injury is considered catastrophic or non-catastrophic in nature.  A catastrophic injury tends to involve incapacitation, such as paralysis, blindness, and serious head trauma.  To receive these benefits, an injured person or his or her representative must contact the motor vehicle insurance provider within seven days of the accident and ask to apply for them.  It is in this particular situation that a personal injury lawyer is very important, as negotiating with an insurance company can be difficult indeed.

If you have been injured in an auto accident, recovering your health needs to be your top priority.  Knowing where to turn to cover your lost income is vital, and can help you regain your health without having to worry about where to get the money to support yourself.
Author Robert B. Marks is a writer, editor, and researcher in Kingston, Ontario, who spent several years working as a writer and editor for the Queen’s University Faculty of Law.

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