WHAT DO I DO IF I AM INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT?
- Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention either at the hospital, your family doctor or a walk-in clinic.
- Obtain the information of the other driver(s) involved including license plate and insurance details.
- Obtain the name and phone number of any witnesses.
- If it looks like there could be a dispute as to how the accident happened, take photographs of the cars and their positions before they are moved.
- Report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible and no later than 7 days after the accident. Tell them how the accident happened and report your injuries.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to discuss your rights.
WHAT COMPENSATION I AM ENTITLED TO IF I AM INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT?
- You are entitled to claim compensation for all your losses. The compensation should attempt to put you back in the same position that you would have been in if the accident did not happen.
- Regardless of how the accident happened and who is at fault, you are entitled to make an accident benefit claim against your insurer or the insurer of another vehicle involved. Accident benefits are explained in further detail below, but generally speaking these are intended to provide immediate help, including payment for lost wages and medical expenses.
- If the accident was caused by the fault of another driver you can make a separate claim against that person and his insurer. This is known as the tort claim. This is also explained in further detail below, but generally speaking you may be able to claim money for pain and suffering and all past and future monetary losses and expenses not covered by your insurer.
WHAT WILL MY INSURER DO AFTER I REPORT THE ACCIDENT?
- They will send you forms to be completed to start your accident benefit claim.
- They may want to meet with you to take a statement as a way of getting more detailed information.
- Before submitting the documents or agreeing to a meeting you should strongly consider consulting a personal injury lawyer to discuss your rights and your options.
WHY DO I NEED A LAWYER?
- An insurance company, even your own, is not your friend. Insurers are in business to make money and they make more money if they pay less in claims.
- The only way to get a complete explanation of your legal rights is by speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
- We will give you a free, no obligations consultation and fully advise you of your rights.
- There are several deadlines that have to be met to advance your claims and we work immediately to meet these.
- In many cases, early investigation and information collection is critical to the success of a case. We move quickly to do everything necessary right from the beginning.
- If your injuries do not get better you will likely have to sue the person responsible by starting a court case.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO SPEAK TO OR HIRE ROMEO PITARO SCHNEIDER?
- We recognize that our clients have been the victims of trauma and the last thing they need is to worry about legal expenses.
- All consultations are free.
- We encourage you to contact us to get a full explanation of your legal rights. There are no obligations, there will be no pressure and if you decide not to hire us there will be absolutely no charge.
- If you do decide to hire us, you pay absolutely no legal fee or expenses until the end of the case and only if we recover money for you. To repeat, if you recover no compensation you pay nothing. This is because we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay a very reasonable percentage of your monetary recovery at the completion of the case.
- We pay for all necessary legal expenses, including the substantial cost of medical reports, and seek reimbursement for these from the insurers involved.
- The specifics of the legal fee that you can expect to pay, including a clear example, will be discussed with you during your initial meeting.
- If you hire us we will both sign a legal agreement which clearly sets out our agreement and we will both keep a copy.
THERE ARE SO MANY LAWYERS OUT THERE, HOW DO I DECIDE?
- Experience and a history of results matter.
- Ask the lawyer about their experience in similar cases, their track record and their reputation in the industry.
- Pick a lawyer and a firm that are dedicated exclusively to representing injured people. A lot of lawyers "dabble". Some lawyers represent insurers and only take on a small percentage of cases on behalf of the real victims.
- Above all, trust your instincts. You have to feel comfortable with and confident in the person you hire to represent you and your family.
WHAT IF I SUE SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THE INJURIES THEY CAUSED? WILL THEY GO BROKE?
This is a common worry. Most people don't have the money to properly compensate someone they may have injured in a moment of carelessness — because they made a driving error, forgot to clear their front steps of ice and snow, or made some other mistake.
This is why we have insurance policies.
In almost every case, your injuries are not paid for by the person who injured you, but by their insurance company. This is what insurance companies are here for: so that nobody who is injured by someone else's mistake has to pay for their own injuries, and so that nobody has to go broke paying for their own mistake.
WHAT ARE ACCIDENT BENEFITS?
Accident benefits are designed to provide injured Ontarians with basic necessities in the event of injury, including income benefits for lost wages if you cannot work and payment of medical expenses.
Income Replacement Benefits (IRB):
Income replacement benefits are paid to individuals who cannot work as a result of their injuries.
- To qualify for IRB you must have been employed at the time of the accident, or on EI at the time of the accident or you must have worked at least 26 of the 52 weeks before the accident.
- The amount of your IRB is 70 percent of your average gross income using either the 4 weeks or the 52 weeks before the accident, whichever is higher.
- If you are self-employed, the amount of your IRB is based on 70 percent of your average gross income using either the 52 weeks before the accident or your last fiscal year.
- The maximum IRB payable is $400 per week unless you have paid for optional benefits to increase this amount.
- IRB are not payable for the first week after the accident.
- If you are unable to work and are receiving short term or long term disability benefits, these benefits are deductible from 70 percent of your average gross income. The difference, up to $400 per week, is payable as an IRB.
- IRB are potentially payable for life.
- For the first two years, they are paid if you are unable to do the essential tasks of your regular job.
- Beyond two years, they are payable if you are unable to do any employment for which you are reasonably suited by virtue of your education, training and experience.
- After the age of 65, the IRB is reduced based on an established formula and is payable for the rest of your life if you are unable to work.
Medical and Rehabilitation:
You are entitled to payment of all reasonable and necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses.
- If your injuries are not "catastrophic" you are entitled to medical and rehabilitation coverage for a maximum of 10 years, up to $50,000 if you do not have a "minor injury".
- If your injury is deemed a "minor injury", which usually includes whiplash injuries and sprain or strain injuries, you have up to $3,500 in medical and rehabilitation coverage.
- Insurers will conclude early on that most claimants have a "minor injury". Often times, these individuals experience long term pain and significant disability and do not belong within the "minor injury" classification. Only with the help of an experienced lawyer can this be successfully challenged.
- If you have suffered a "catastrophic impairment" you are entitled to medical and rehabilitation coverage for life, up to $1 Million.
Non Earner Benefits:
- If you do not qualify for an IRB, but are unable to do most of your regular previous activities you may be entitled to a non-earner benefit in the amount of $185 per week.
- The non-earner benefit is only payable beginning 6 months after the accident.
- Some severe injuries come within the definition of "catastrophic impairment" contained in the legislation that regulates automobile accident benefits. This gives rise to enhanced benefits.
- A determination of whether an individual has sustained a catastrophic impairment usually requires a thorough review of all available documents and, in some cases, the passage of time.
Attendant Care Benefits:
- If you do not have a "minor injury" you can claim attendant care benefits to compensate for expenses incurred to provide assistance with personal care and activities of daily living that you cannot perform.
- If you have not sustained a "catastrophic impairment", attendant care benefits are only payable for the first two years following the accident and the maximum attendant care benefit that you can receive is $3,000 per month and not more than $36,000 total.
- If you have sustained a "catastrophic impairment", attendant care benefits are potentially payable for life, the maximum attendant care benefit that you can receive is $6,000 per month and a maximum of $1 Million total.
- If you have sustained a "catastrophic impairment" and at the time of the accident you were responsible for caring for a child or other person and after the accident you can no longer care for the child or other person you can claim a caregiver benefit to compensate you for the expense incurred to provide alternative care.
- The maximum payable is $250 per week for each person in need of care.
- This benefit is potentially payable for life if your disability is severe.
IF I AM NOT AT FAULT, WHY IS MY INSURER INVOLVED AND WILL MY PREMIUMS GO UP IF I MAKE AN ACCIDENT BENEFIT CLAIM?
- Regardless of fault everyone injured in a car accident can make an accident benefit claim and it must be made to your insurer.
- This is the case even if you were not driving, or if your car was not involved in the accident, or if you are at fault for the accident. This is the "no-fault" part of our insurance system. We all pay for accident benefit or "no fault" protection.
- Everyone with automobile insurance pays a sizeable portion of their premium for accident benefit coverage. Most people do not know that they have this coverage.
- Not only should your premium not be affected if you are not at fault, but by making an accident benefit claim you are simply accessing coverage that you have paid for, in most cases, for many years without every having made a prior claim.
WHAT IF I WAS NOT IN MY OWN CAR AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT?
- If you are injured and a motor vehicle is involved, you have the right to claim accident benefits from your insurer, even if you were not driving your car at the time.
- This includes injuries sustained if you are a passenger in another vehicle or if you are struck as a pedestrian or cyclist by another vehicle.
WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE INSURANCE?
- If you are injured and a motor vehicle is involved, you have the right to claim accident benefits, even if you do not have insurance of your own.
- If you are injured in a car accident but do not drive or have automobile insurance, you would still have access to accident benefits against:
- The insurer of your spouse, parents or someone else upon whom you are dependent;
- The insurer of the car that you were in; or
- The insurer of the other car involved in the accident.
- In some rare cases there is no automobile insurer available to provide accident benefit coverage. In these cases, you can make a claim to the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. This is a department of the Ontario government that provides insurance coverage to injured people when there is no other possible insurance coverage.
WHAT IS A TORT CLAIM?
- Your tort claim is your claim against the at fault driver. Tort law deals with claims for monetary compensation or damages when an individual is harmed as a result of a wrong done by another.
- In the car accident context, if you are injured through the fault of another driver, you may be able to make a tort claim against the at fault driver and his insurer for compensation.
- The first factor that has to be considered is liability or, who is responsible for the collision. In some cases, this is a clear cut issue - the other party has been charged and is fully responsible for the collision. In some cases, responsibility for the collision may be shared. Civil liability is not always an "all or nothing" proposition. It is quite common for parties to share responsibility and this is usually expressed in terms of percentages, for example, 50/50 or 75/25. Your ability to recover against the other driver depends on the other driver's degree of responsibility.
- You can sue the responsible driver for damages, which simply means money compensation. There are several potential types or "heads" of damage. These include:
- Pain and Suffering.
- Claims of family members (spouse, parents, children,
siblings, grandparents) for loss of care, guidance and
companionship and out of pocket expenses.
- Past and future loss of income.
- Housekeeping and home maintenance expenses.
- Health care expenses, including medical treatment costs and
attendant care expenses.
- To recover damages for pain and suffering, family claims or health care expenses, you must have a permanent, serious physical, psychological or mental impairment. This does not mean that you have to be bedridden or in a wheelchair. It does, however, require that your injuries are continuous and of indefinite duration and that they substantially interfere with your ability to work or function daily.
- Pain and suffering is the intangible part of your claim. Canadian courts have set an upper limit or "cap" on these claims. This cap increases annually with inflation. The cap on pain in suffering is approximately $350,000.
- There is no "permanent serious" requirement to recover damages for loss of income or housekeeping and home maintenance expenses. However, you are only entitled to recover 70 percent of your gross loss of income until the date of trial. You are entitled to recover 100 percent of your gross loss of income from the date of trial forward.
- Loss of income does not only apply if you are completely unable to work. You may lose income if you are forced to work reduced hours or reduced overtime, if you lose the opportunity for promotion or advancement or if you experience delay in employment.
WHAT IF I AM AT FAULT FOR THE CAR ACCIDENT?
- Even if you are fully at fault for the car accident, you are entitled to receive accident benefits from your insurer.
- You are entitled to receive the full compliment of accident benefits available, depending on the severity of your injuries, including income replacement benefits if you cannot work and payment for medical expenses.
- If your injuries are severe or catastrophic, you could be entitled to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in accident benefit compensation.
WHAT IF MY INJURIES ARE NOT FROM A CAR ACCIDENT?
- If you are injured in circumstances where someone else is at least partially responsible for the circumstances that led to your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation.
- The most common examples are falls that occur because of slippery or dangerous conditions. If this has happened to you, contact us immediately to discuss your rights.
DO I HAVE A DEADLINE TO MAKE A CLAIM?
- The moment you are injured, the clock starts ticking and if you do not act your rights could be compromised.
- You have to notify your insurer of a car accident within 7 days.
- You have to submit your accident benefit claim within 30 days of receiving the claims forms from your insurer.
- You have two years to sue the responsible driver if you are injured in a car accident.
- In many other cases of injury in an incident that is not a car accident, the deadline to sue is two years from the date of the incident.
- In some cases, there are much shorter limitations or requirements of almost immediate notice to the wrongdoer.
- To ensure you do not miss the applicable deadline, contact us immediately to discuss your rights.