Busting Five Common Myths About Making a Claim After a Car Accident
In Ontario, we all know that driving a car without automobile insurance is against the law. The penalty for driving uninsured is hefty and the insurance slip is one of the very first things a police officer asks for if a motorist is ever pulled over. Consequently, most Ontario drivers have insurance, but premiums in Ontario, and particularly in the GTA, are extremely high. Most people spend significant time annually rate shopping for the best price to be able to afford insurance. If you are a young driver under the age of 25, or live in a high risk area like Brampton, then you especially feel the sting of high insurance premiums.
Although everyone knows they need insurance, most motorists don’t really understand the protections and coverages they are paying for. This information becomes important if you are ever involved in an accident. Since many people don’t understand their coverage or how it affects their premiums many people never utilize their benefits, often for fear that their already costly premiums will increase.
Here we provide answers to five myths people believe about making an automobile insurance claim:
1. IF I MAKE A CLAIM MY INSURANCE PREMIUMS WILL INCREASE
This is incorrect. You must be found to be either partially or fully at fault for the accident for there to be a risk to your insurance premiums. If you are in an accident that is not your fault, your premiums should not go up, and if you have “first at-fault accident protection” this coverage is not affected.
2. IF THE ACCIDENT IS MY FAULT, I CAN’T MAKE A CLAIM
This is incorrect. Every insured motorist is entitled to certain accident benefits, regardless of fault. These benefits include the following:
a. Income Replacement or Non-Earner Benefits
If you are employed or self-employed at the time of the accident, you may be eligible for some income replacement if you can’t work because of your injuries. For those who aren’t employed, there is another weekly benefit called a “non-earner” benefit if you cannot engage in most of your daily activities.
b. Medical Rehabilitation
This covers medical treatments that are generally not covered by OHIP such as chiropractic, massage therapy, physiotherapy, psychological treatment, and medical aids and devices, among other things. There are monetary limits to this benefit depending on the level of severity. Insurers will generally categorize your injury as a “Minor Injury”, a “Serious Injury” or “Catastrophic”, each with its own monetary and time limits.
c. Caregiver, Attendant Care and Housekeeping
Unfortunately, these benefits are limited to people who are categorized as “catastrophically” injured, and include compensation for housekeeping responsibilities, child care, and personal care needs.
Most people don’t realize that they have access to medical rehabilitation benefits after an accident, regardless of fault. A Lawyer’s role is to ensure that you obtain the maximum coverage available to you by, for example, ensuring that the insurance company has properly categorized your injury.
3. IF SOMEONE HITS ME – THEIR INSURANCE COMPANY PAYS FOR EVERYTHING
This isn’t true. Ontario has what is referred to as a “no-fault accident benefits regime”. This means that accident benefits are payable by your own insurance company. Although you may be able to pursue a separate claim against the at-fault driver for compensation, you must apply for accident benefits from your own insurance company first. Your right to benefits from your own insurance company are completely different from your claim against an at fault driver.
4. IF THE ONLY ISSUE IN THE ACCIDENT IS DAMAGE TO THE CAR I’M BETTER OFF PAYING CASH FOR THE REPAIRS THAN GOING THROUGH INSURANCE
In Ontario, if damage to the vehicles is estimated in excess of $2000.00 or personal injury is involved you are obligated by law to report the accident to the police. This usually means that insurance companies will come to know about the accident as it is inputted into a database. Paying someone for the damage to their vehicle out of pocket may not be a good idea, as there is nothing that precludes that person from still reporting that accident to their own insurance company, and still suing you. Further, if an insurer discovers down the road that you failed to report a serious accident, they might decline to offer coverage based on a misrepresentation.
5. IF I GET HEALTH BENEFITS FROM WORK THERE’S NO POINT IN CLAIMING ACCIDENT BENEFITS THROUGH MY AUTOMOBILE INSURER
This is not true. If you are fortunate enough to have health coverage through your employer, usually this coverage for medical rehabilitation is very limited, often capped for most at five hundred dollars annually for things like physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment. Your automobile coverage will extend your access to medical rehabilitation beyond your employment benefits. How far it will extend your access will depend on what category your injury falls into.
Knowing your right to make a claim and how any claim will affect your premiums is important so that you can get the proper care that you need to help you recover if you are injured in a car accident. It’s always a good idea to contact a lawyer to help navigate the complexities involved in accessing proper benefits that you pay for through your expensive automobile insurance premiums.