CAR ACCIDENTS

By Zayouna Law Firm  

Car Accidents - Zayouna Law Firm

 

CAR ACCIDENTS

Being a good driver does not completely guarantee safety on the road. Even the best, safest drivers can get into accidents. It only takes one drunk or distracted driver to change your life forever.

Every driver is required by law to carry auto insurance. But with over 36,000 collisions in Ontario each year and not all drivers carrying nearly enough liability benefits, the price of recovery — or life itself — is a lot steeper.

What is a Car Accident Claim? 

When you think of a car accident claim, the first thing that might come to mind is an insurance claim to repair your vehicle. However, there is more to understand about car accident claims. 

Statutory Accident Benefits

If you are involved in a car accident, you should report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Through your insurance or the insurance of the other drivers involved, you can receive compensation to cover the damages to your property and expenses associated with any injuries you have incurred. 

In Ontario, all car insurance policies are required to include Statutory Accident Benefits. These no-fault benefits are required so that individuals injured in car accidents can receive prompt financial assistance to help pay for medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses related to injuries caused by the accident. 

Statutory Accident Benefits are nice, but there are limits on what you can claim which may be insufficient to cover your damages. These benefits are limited to cover the following expenses with some opportunity to expand the limits with optional coverage:

  • Lost wages and non-earner benefits of 70% of your income, up to $400 per week
  • Rehabilitation and attendant care up to $65,000 to $1 million depending on the severity of the injuries
  • Death and funeral benefits, including $25,000 to the spouse, $10,000 to dependents, and up to $6,000 for funeral expenses
  • Other expenses such as lost education, home maintenance, cost of examinations, and some other options

Car Accident Tort Claims

In addition to car accident claims through your insurer, you may have the right to pursue a tort claim against the at-fault driver or other third party who may be responsible for the accident. A tort claim is a civil lawsuit against an individual or organization whose negligence caused the car accident. 

Through a car accident tort claim, you can receive additional compensation for your losses or damages that go far beyond statutory accident benefits. The total amount that you can receive for a tort claim will depend on the severity of your injuries and the cost of treating them.

Why You Need to File a Tort Claim for a Car Accident

The price of a driver’s negligence is deadly — one you should not have to pay with your own life. The compounded effects of physical injuries and lasting trauma, medical and rehabilitation expenses, and lost wages and future earnings can leave victims and their families feeling confused, hopeless and lost. Added to this is the stress of a tedious insurance claims process and the long wait until benefits are paid.

Criminal Charges vs. Tort Claim

While driving under the influence or distractedly are crimes, seeking justice in the form of a criminal verdict can also be a long and fraught process. A criminal suit alone does not guarantee enough compensation for the losses you and your loved ones have incurred in a car accident.

To claim damages you are entitled to under the law, seeking legal action is important to restoring your quality of life. Remember that you only have 120 days to notify the at-fault driver of your intent to sue and two years to commence a lawsuit.

Failing to exhaust your legal options can be the difference between recovering full accident benefits and a lifetime of the lasting emotional and financial impact on you and your loved ones.

Who can file a car accident claim?

Anyone who has been injured in a car accident can file a car accident claim. This includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc. 

If you or the at-fault driver have a car insurance policy, you can file for Statutory Accident Benefits by filing a claim through this insurer. If no one involved in the accident has insurance, you may still be able to receive benefits through the Motor Vehicle Accidents Claim Fund – a government fund created specifically for accidents with uninsured drivers. 

Direct vs. Indirect Victims

In car accident claims there are direct victims and indirect victims. Direct victims are those who have experienced injuries directly related to the car accident. Indirect victims are those who were not involved in the car accident but have experienced loss or damages caused by the accident. The most common example of an indirect victim is the spouse or dependent of someone who lost their life in a car accident. 

Through the Statutory Accident Benefits, indirect victims can access death benefits as well as compensation to cover the cost of medical care and funeral costs of the deceased. Indirect victims may also be able to file a car accident tort claim for losses such as:

  • Costs associated with caring for the victim, including lost income while acting as a caregiver
  • Loss of income the deceased would have provided the family
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Funeral expenses

Criteria for Filing a Claim

There are relatively few criteria for filing a claim for accident benefits. If you are an Ontario resident and you were injured in a car accident, you can file a claim for accident benefits. The details of the coverage available will depend on your specific circumstances. 

The criteria for filing a car accident tort claim are a bit more specific. To be eligible to file a tort claim the following must be true:

  • Injuries sustained must be serious enough to cause permanent deformation or impairment
  • Injuries must be caused by the accident
  • The defendant must have had a duty of care to the plaintiff
  • It should be evident that the defendant breached that duty of care
  • The plaintiff must be able to provide evidence to support the above claims

Types of Car Accidents and Catastrophic Outcomes

Were you or a loved one recently involved in a car accident? The nature of a life-altering collision is important in determining who is at fault, as well as the damages you are entitled to. Common car accidents include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to obey traffic signals
  • Speeding
  • Failure to heed weather and road conditions
  • Driver fatigue
  • Improper lane changes
  • Vehicle and parts defects and neglected maintenance
  • Improper cargo loading.

These can lead to catastrophic outcomes, such as:

  • Death
  • Spinal cord damage and/or paralysis
  • Fractures and torn ligaments
  • Herniated discs
  • Burns and disfigurement
  • Limb amputations
  • Injuries to vital internal organs and internal bleeding
  • Traumatic brain injury and/or cognitive impairment.

Gaps in Auto Insurance Accident Benefits

The law requires drivers to carry auto insurance, with basic coverage for third-party liability, direct compensation for property damage, and coverage for accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists.

Insurance companies dispute, minimize, and even deny otherwise valid claims, resulting in emotional, physical, and financial impact. Even with a successful claim, the amount is rarely enough to cover other lasting costs of a car accident, such as long-term care and lost wages.

Car Accident Damages

No amount of money can bring back a loved one lost to a car accident, nor identify the full extent of such a catastrophic event. A legal claim can help substantiate your losses and alleviate some of the emotional and financial burdens. You can claim for:

  • Medical bills
  • Therapy and rehabilitation
  • Lost wages and earning potential
  • Attendant care
  • Home accessibility modifications
  • Housekeeping and home maintenance.

The Legal Process Post Car Accident

Unfortunately, the legal process begins at the scene of the accident. The car accident claims process is made much simpler if you can collect evidence and information at the accident scene. Immediately after the accident, call 911 and try to collect:

  • Photos of the damages and accident scene
  • Documentation of the events leading up to the accident including how, when, and where it happened. Take note of all details that may be relevant.
  • Contact information, driver’s licences, licence plates, and insurance information of all drivers involved
  • Police reports
  • Recorded or written witness statements and witness contact information

Of course, this is not always possible, in which case you will rely on information and evidence that can be collected after the fact like police reports and video evidence. However, the more evidence you can collect, the better. Immediately after the accident, you should seek medical attention for any injuries sustained. Keep a record of all medical costs incurred for treatment, rehabilitation, diagnosis, etc. 

Navigating the Insurance Claims Process

Try to file the accident report with your insurer as soon as possible after the accident. Insurance claims should be filed within seven days of the accident, but ideally within 24 hours. To file an insurance claim you will need:

  • Your policy number
  • Make, model, year, registration, and licence plate number of the vehicle
  • Driver names and licence numbers (if the driver was not the registered owner)
  • Date, time, and location of the accident
  • The extent of damage to the vehicle
  • The extent of any injuries
  • Number of passengers involved
  • Your description of the accident
  • Names and driver’s licence numbers of all drivers involved
  • Names of insurance companies, and auto insurance policies of all drivers involved
  • The name and badge number of the investigating officer – if the accident was reported to police

Once you have filed the accident report, a claims adjuster will contact you with further instructions. If you were injured, you will receive an Accident Benefits application package from the claims adjuster. 

The insurance companies will then investigate the accident to determine fault. In Ontario, fault is determined based on a collection of scenarios outlined in Ontario’s Fault Determination Rules. Each driver will be deemed 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% at fault, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

If your claim is denied or if you disagree with the fault determination, you can challenge the decision by contacting your insurance company’s complaint officer. If you plan to challenge the insurance decision, you should consult with a car accident lawyer before filing your complaint. 

Initiating Legal Action

If you plan to file a tort claim against the at-fault driver or another third party, you should consult with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Bring all of the evidence and records that you have to your consultation to help your lawyer assess your case accurately.

In Ontario, you must provide the defendant with written notice of your intention to file a claim against them within 120 days of the accident. Then, the claim must be filed within two years of the accident as per Ontario’s Limitations Act.

Your lawyer will help you understand your rights following the accident and discuss the next steps. If you proceed with a tort claim, your lawyer will work with you from documentation to resolution to help ensure you receive a fair settlement.