I WAS IN A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT; DO I HAVE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
Motor Vehicle Accident Claims and Compensation
In Ontario, car accident victims may be eligible to file a lawsuit both in tort and in Accident Benefits. It’s also possible that you may have a disability benefits claim if you have short-term or long-term disability benefits.
A tort claim may be available if another driver was at fault for the accident and you were injured. If that is the case, you may be able to start a lawsuit to recover damages for your losses. If you are in a car accident, and your injuries are serious, you may be able to sue the driver that hit you provided they were at fault, or partially at fault, and recover compensation for your injuries. Another example would include if you are a passenger in a vehicle that was in an accident, and the driver of that car was at fault; you would sue the driver of the vehicle you were in. There are endless scenarios that at-fault accidents occur. Usually, if there are two or more vehicles involved, someone is at fault.
If you are in a motor vehicle accident, you may also be able to file a Statutory Accident Benefits claim for compensation. Accident Benefits are provided to victims of car accidents regardless of who is at fault, and are part and parcel of one’s own insurance policy. Since you are working with your own insurance company, one would think they would ensure you get all of the benefits you deserve. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it may be important to work with a lawyer to ensure you receive all of the benefits that you are entitled to. Additionally, typically near the end of your claim, you could end up settling the Accident Benefits file. An experienced Accident Benefits lawyer should ensure that you receive maximum recovery.
Ontario Car Accident Settlement Amounts
As with any type of personal injury claim, the compensation that you may be eligible for is dependent on a number of factors. Coming up with a value of a claim is more an art than a science. The value of your claim could depend on such things as the type of claim you are filing, the actions of the other party, the nature and extent of your injuries, whether past and future lost wages are a factor, and any number of issues that can affect the value of a claim in one direction or the other.
Personal injury claims vary from case to case. Some auto insurance companies attempt to settle claims in an amicable and efficient manner, whereas other insurance companies, may have a strong tendency to spend a dollar to save fifty cents, by paying more on their legal fees than it would cost to settle.
How to Pursue Maximum Compensation in a Car Accident
You and your loved ones may have the right to obtain compensation from the party responsible for the accident. These claims are separate and apart from the Statutory Accident Benefits claim. Suing a driver that is at fault for the accident is called a tort claim. The claims process with tort cases is nuanced and complex. There are a number of hurdles a claimant must be able to navigate in order to succeed in their claim. For instance, your injuries must be considered permanent and serious before you can receive compensation for pain and suffering. There is also a deductible of nearly $40,000, which increases with inflation unless the claim exceeds roughly $130,0000 in pain and suffering. This means that the smaller cases, with minor injuries, are often tossed out by the courts, and victims are left to suffer without any compensation.
Am I Entitled to Accident Benefits?
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to certain benefits, including, Medical Rehabilitation, Income Replacement, Non-earner, and Caregiver benefits. You should note that these benefits often change and are subject to cutbacks as the government passes new legislation. These cutbacks often are enforced to protect the pockets of large insurance companies at the expense of peoples’ health.
Medical Rehabilitation benefits are there to help you get medical treatment and assistance as soon as possible. Since tort claims usually take several years, these benefits, in theory at least, are designed to get you the treatment that you need right away without the red tape. Don’t be mistaken though; there is still red tape and often times treatment plans are denied by insurance companies. These benefits can include physiotherapy, psychology, chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, occupational therapy, and other forms of treatment that are not covered under OHIP. The idea behind this benefit is to pay for the care you need and help reduce the impact of your injuries. Unfortunately, in practice, insurance companies often deny many of these benefits without a good reason. Once you get denied, they will send you to one of their paid Insurer Examinations by one of their physicians they have hired. The examiner does not want to bite the hand that feeds them, and often denies the application. It’s the job of your lawyer to advocate for your benefits until you no longer need them to ensure you are not cut off your benefits prematurely.
There are also Income Replace benefits that may be available if your accident injuries have prevented you from returning to work and earning an income. The intention of this benefit is to cover those who were working prior to the accident, but there are a number of exclusions that could apply. For instance, if you had just started at your job, you may not be entitled to this benefit. The payments total 70% of your gross income, paid biweekly, with a $400 cap per week. Unfortunately, the $400 cap can really take a toll on victims and their families if the weekly income typically is far greater than the cap. If an accident victim owns a home, or pays rent, rarely will these figures provide enough money to support their family, and cover a mortgage or rent.
Caregiver benefits are an optional benefit and not part of a standard auto policy. This benefit allows $250 per week for the first dependent, and $50 thereafter, if you have acted as the primary caregiver to a dependent child or adult. These benefits are only available if your injuries preclude you from carrying out your caregiver duties.
Steps to Take After a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, your first priority should be to get to safety, and ensure the safety of your passengers. Once your safe, you should contact, or have someone contact, the first responders. You will want to have the following information gathered from the other motorist: the driver’s name, the registered owner of the vehicle, their car insurance, license plate number, driver’s license number, and policy number of their auto insurance. If it was a hit-and-run, contact the police immediately. The motor vehicle accident claims fund may be available in situations where coverage is an issue such as with an uninsured driver, or if the other driver took off.
It is usually best practice to have the accident documented properly by the police and have your injuries recorded by the medical professionals as thoroughly as possible. You should follow up with your treating physicians and report all of your symptoms.
You should also speak to a lawyer to evaluate your case and discuss whether you have a viable claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer should be able to investigate your case, ensure your rights are protected, calculate the value of your claim, negotiate with the insurance companies, and ensure that you get the maximum recovery for your injuries. If your file is unable to settle, your lawyer should file the necessary court documents and prepare your case for court. You should keep receipts and invoices in a neat file, as you may be able to be reimbursed by the insurance company.
Within 7 days of the accident, you must call the appropriate motor vehicle insurer and alert them to the fact that you want to apply for Accident Benefits. If you miss this deadline, you may not get your benefits in a timely manner. Within 30 days of receiving an application for Accident Benefits, you must send the completed application to the Accident Benefits insurer. Your lawyer should assist you in the application process for Accident Benefits. It is very important to apply for Accident Benefits as soon as possible. These benefits can help you get better and also build up the documentation in your file which can be very important to your case. It is important for your tort claim to have a thorough Accident Benefits claim on file. If a client receives little to no treatment, the insurance company will often assume that you are either fully recovered, or your injuries are very minor.
Once the insurer has been notified of your claim, an adjuster will be assigned to your personal injury file. The adjuster is typically the main contact at the insurance company. If you decide to hire a lawyer, from that point on, all contact with the insurance company will be between the adjuster and the lawyer. Provided you have insurance coverage, the property damage aspect of the accident is separate from your personal injury case and you should be compensated for the damage to your vehicle. Typically, a claims adjuster will assess the damages to your car and determine the value of the damage, and decide whether your vehicle should be repaired or written off. If it can be repaired, you will be referred to a couple local repair shops. If your insurance company is not offering you a fair value for the property damage, discuss this with your lawyer to ensure you are being treated fairly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Can Make a Car Accident Injury Claim?
You and your family may have the right to obtain compensation from the at-fault party for the accident and pursue legal action. These claims are separate from the Accident Benefits claim. Family members may obtain compensation for their loss of care, guidance and companionship in some cases. To decide whether or not to include one or more family members in a claim, you should seek legal advice. It will depend on the circumstances of the case, the relationship between the family members, and the impact that the accident had on each family member individually.
How much should I settle my car accident claim for?
Compensation for a car accident is a complex process. After a car accident, you may suffer pain and suffering, incur medical expenses, miss time at work, and participate in an extensive rehabilitation program. Many of our clients wonder at the first meeting, “how much should I settle for?”, and the answer is not straight forward. Generally speaking, you can typically expect to get a higher settlement for very serious injuries than you would for less serious injuries. However, it really depends on the victim, and how it affects their life. For instance, if a surgeon loses his or her ability to carry out the job of a surgeon because of a fractured hand, that would look very different than that of the effect of a broken hand on a retiree. The one claim may be worth millions, while the other may be worth thousands.
How do I claim compensation after a car accident?
To claim compensation after an accident you will want to put your insurance company and the at-fault driver on notice. At the Bernstein Law Group, we use the police report and any other information we can, to do a proper search of the other driver, and serve the at-fault driver with proper notice and providing their insurer with a copy of the notice as well. The claims process in Ontario is very complex, even for a skilled personal injury lawyer. Automobile insurance legislation has made the legal process of advancing car accident claims very difficult and often tedious. By hiring a personal injury lawyer, they should help you feel at ease and guide you along the way.
How much compensation do you get for whiplash?
Every case of whiplash is different. If you suffer from minor whiplash that resolves in a couple weeks, you likely have no claim. On the other hand, if the whiplash you sustained in the accident is serious, and prevents you from working, or from carrying out your daily activities, you could have a viable claim. To understand whether you have a personal injury claim for whiplash, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to evaluate your case. At our law firm, we offer free consultations so that prospective clients can properly weigh their options. Unfortunately, some whiplash cases do not make practical sense to pursue, for the client, or the lawyer, because of the length of litigation and the costs involved, as well as the legislation that is in place to eliminate minor claims from succeeding. With that said, some whiplash claims could be worth a lot, and a skilled personal injury lawyer should be able to provide a sense as to whether the claim is worth pursuing or not. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact our law office for a free case evaluation and begin your auto insurance claim now.
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