If late-night television commercials are to be believed, car accidents are a ticket to a payday the size of Niagara Falls. While no kind of payday makes the pain and devastation worth it, the question remains: is there any hope for reasonable financial recovery for Canadians who are injured in a motor vehicle accident?
Car accidents remain a primary cause of personal injuries in Canada, making them a public health concern as well as a pain point for insurance companies. With so many motor vehicle collisions on our roads, you would expect a smooth process when it comes to getting access to the financial resources you need to make the best recovery possible — but is it?
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
The first thing every Canadian needs to understand about car accident settlements is that there are generally two avenues to financial compensation for motor vehicle accident injuries: accident benefits claims and tort claims.
- Accident benefit claim: This is considered a no-fault claim, and the compensation is available to virtually anyone who is injured and files a claim with their insurer, who is responsible for paying the benefits.
- Tort claim: This is filed against the at-fault party for additional expenses or benefits not covered by the statutory benefits, such as pain and suffering or loss of companionship.
Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI), and Quebec are all covered by a no-fault system for accident benefits. Car accident settlement payouts may include one or both of the above types of benefits, and the average car accident settlement will vary depending on what is included.
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What Are Statutory Accident Benefits?
First, let’s look at accident benefit claims. Ontario law includes the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, or SABS. This core piece of legislation is a combination of no-fault benefits that are required to be part of all auto insurance policies in our province. This law provides access to different kinds of benefits to those who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents:
- Income replacement benefits: This compensates up to 70 percent of your gross wages, or $400 per week, to replace lost income while you are unable to perform your usual work duties. The $400 per week can be increased up to $1000 per week if you have purchased optional benefits before your accident.
- Non-earner benefits: This pays a rate of $185 a week to those who were unemployed at the time of their collision and have suffered a complete inability to carry on a normal life.
- Caregiver benefits: This covers reasonable expenses for those who have been injured and are unable to care for those people for whose care for which they were responsible before the collision.
- Medical and rehabilitation benefits: This compensates injured people for reasonable and necessary expenses, dependent on the level of injury.
- Attendant care benefits: This pays for services provided by a personal support worker or care at a long-term care facility as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.
- Other expenses: This covers a wide variety of expenses related to the consequences of the accident and the injuries suffered, from lost educational expenses to damage to some personal property.
These benefits all fall under the category of no-fault benefits and may be awarded to any party injured in the accident, even if they are found criminally responsible for the collision with some limited exceptions.
What Is a Tort Claim?
Tort law is the set of laws that governs the ability of people to sue one another for harm done to them. Personal injury law, like for auto accidents, falls under tort law. When you have been injured by someone in a car accident and they are found to be at fault, you may have the ability to sue them. If you are successful, you will have the opportunity to receive compensation for a variety of damages that are not covered under the statutory benefits.
Canadian tort law is extremely structured, and you have to act quickly. In some personal injury cases, you have a little as 10 days to put the at-fault party on notice of your intention to sue.
What About Long-Term Disability Claim Settlements?
In some cases, if you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may qualify for long-term disability benefits. Just as with any other insurance policy, there is a chance that your insurance company, even if it’s a personal policy you took to receive enhanced benefits, will try to minimize the amount paid out to you. They may even try to deny you LTD benefits altogether, especially if the extent of your injuries is not obvious to the adjusters up front.
How Much Can I Expect From A Car Accident Settlement?
While the laws are very clear on how much you might be able to receive, there is no way to determine each individual’s potential total compensation. However, we can look at the figures that are clear.
Accident benefits have clear limitations. Not only are the weekly income replacement-type benefits limited, but so are the total medical and rehabilitation care amounts available to those who have been injured:
- Minor injuries: up to a maximum of $3,500
- Non-catastrophic injuries: up to a maximum of $65,000
- Catastrophic impairment: up to a maximum of $1,000,000
Catastrophic impairment under the SABS includes paraplegia and tetraplegia with a permanent grade on the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale of A, B, or C. While medical benefits of $1 million sounds adequate for many people, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation estimates that the lifetime costs for a person catastrophically injured to this degree at the age of 25 will be between $3 and $5 million. Seeking additional compensation from an at-fault claim can make all the difference when it comes to getting a lifetime of adequate care.
Can I Get a Car Accident Settlement for Pain and Suffering?
When it comes to what are known as non-pecuniary damages, or the kinds of damages that are not quantifiable in the way that medical costs are, Ontario has a cap of around $350,000, adjusted occasionally for inflation. That means you cannot be awarded more than this amount for pain and suffering, no matter how severe the injuries and impacts.
Ontario also has a statutory deductible that applies to many pain and suffering claims, payable to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Depending on the circumstances of your claim, you can expect either $19,877.16 or $39,754.31 to be deducted from your total settlement.
Additionally, many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee. This is generally a good thing. For one, it means you can expect that any lawyer who takes your case is confident they can build a strong claim. It also means you are not out any money owing to your lawyer if your claim is less successful than you hoped. However, you do need to account for the legal fees when considering the final settlement amount you can expect to receive. Understanding the contingency fee process is important, and you should be prepared to ask any lawyer you speak to about their fee arrangements.
How Can Derek Wilson Help?
Because I’ve worked for insurance companies in the past, I know what it takes to get a settlement that is fair. If I see holes in the medical evidence, I can help to arrange additional medical assessments that demonstrate the full scope of your situation. I know the avenues and additional resources that are available to my clients to ensure they have access to the financial compensation they need to focus on recovery and healing. Call us at 855-769-0418, or get in touch online to schedule a free consultation.