car accident

Optional Auto Insurance Benefits

Working with victims of car accidents makes you very aware of car insurance benefit coverages. I am referring to “accident benefits” rather than any entitlement you may have if you are injured in an accident caused by the fault of someone else. It is interesting that while many people know what they are covered for if their vehicle suffers physical damage, most have no idea what benefits they would be entitled to if they were involved in a serious crash. Unfortunately, most have inadequate protection for such a tragedy.

Here is what you need to know.

If you suffer a personal injury, under the Ontario auto insurance system, you have a basic level of coverage for your medical and rehabilitation treatment expenses of up to $65,000 for a limited period of five years. These are for non-OHIP funded services such as physiotherapy, medical equipment, in-home care, etc.   While this is a substantial amount of money, I can attest to the fact that it doesn’t go very far if you or a family member suffers a serious brain or orthopaedic injury.  I have seen many client’s treatment costs exceed  this amount during the first year after the injury with nothing left over for on-going treatment and care needs.

The good news is that you can do something to increase your protection by buying optional protection which does not cost very much.  You can “buy up” your protection to $1 million for medical and rehabilitation expenses  payable over your lifetime. The cost on a yearly basis for this additional protection is not significant.

You can also purchase additional benefits to help offset the cost to have someone in your home after an accident for housekeeping if you are badly injured and unable to take care of your home.  Again, the additional cost is minimal.

There are other optional benefits that could really help out if you are seriously hurt and unable to work.   For example, you can increase the weekly income replacement benefit from  the basic coverage of $400 per week up  to $1000 per week.  You may want to consider adding this if you do not have short term disability benefits through your work. 

The bottom line is that you need to have a conversation with your insurance company about accident benefits. Your broker should be able to explain to you in detail what the basic benefits are, and how little it costs for the extended coverages.  Your broker will want to know from you whether you have any health benefit coverage through work and/or any disability insurance protection.    Here are some questions you could ask:

  1. What is our existing coverage for medical and rehabilitation treatment on our auto policy if my family suffers injury in a car collision?
  2. Does this coverage come into play if we suffer a serious but non-catastrophic type of injury?
  3. Do we automatically have increased benefits available to us if one of us suffers a catastrophic injury?
  4. How much more is the premium to increase each of the accident benefit coverages available?
  5. Do we have to pay for the increased coverage protection on every vehicle we own or is it sufficient if we pay for it on one of our insured vehicles?

Another note of caution. Benefit coverages changed as of June 1, 2016. Don’t assume that if you had optional benefit coverages on your auto policy before that date, that it will automatically carry over after.  Surprisingly, my broker didn’t contact me when my automobile policy renewed to ask me if I wanted to continue with the increased coverages. I had to contact them and specifically ask for the optional auto insurance benefits to be added. 

A little bit of effort on your part to inform yourself and be proactive when it comes to accident benefits will provide you with peace of mind in the event the unthinkable should occur.

Kimberley Munro

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