In Ontario, compensation for most automobile accidents that do not result in serious injury or death, is handled entirely through the individual's insurance company and cannot involve a lawsuit. However, in a few limited circumstances, it may be possible to pursue additional compensation by suing the driver who was responsible for the accident.
If you have been in an automobile accident, you should begin by telephoning the police while you are still at the scene. Depending on the severity of the accident and where the accident took place, the police will either attend at the scene or will tell you to drive to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre to report the accident and file the necessary paperwork for an insurance claim.
If the other driver was at fault, you may be able to sue for compensation in addition to your basic insurance coverage. You should discuss this with your lawyer. Fault is determined by the Fault Determination Rules established under the Ontario Insurance Act. There are generally five circumstances under which claims can be made for compensation over and above basic coverage:
1. Pain and suffering
First, if your injuries are permanent and serious, you can sue the other driver for compensation for your pain and suffering. The permanent and serious injuries can be either physical or psychological. Whether your injuries are permanent and serious is decided by a judge based on medical evidence. If a judge awards you compensation for such injuries, a $30,000 deductible will be subtracted from the amount awarded.
2. Loss of income and earning ability
Second, you can sue the other driver for compensation for both present and future loss of income and earning ability, if you can prove that his or her negligence led to your loss. There is no requirement that your injuries be serious or permanent. Compensation for loss of income is limited to 80% of the net income you lost, starting seven days after the accident and continuing until the end of the trial. After the trial, compensation may be based on 100% of your gross income loss.
3. Health costs
Third, you can sue for recovery of health care expenses if you suffer a "catastrophic" injury as a result of the accident. For example, if an accident renders you a paraplegic or you suffer complete loss of vision, you will probably be able to recover your health care expenses.
4. Housekeeping and home maintenance
If, because of the accident, you are unable to maintain your home as you did before the accident, you can make a claim for reimbursement of the expenses you have to pay for housekeeping and home maintenance work. Usually such expenses will be part of the insurance claim you make with your own insurer. However, if the insurance benefits for this type of expense do not cover your actual costs, you can sue the person responsible for the accident for the difference.
5. Claims of family
Fifth, your family can sue for loss of guidance, care and companionship if the accident caused permanent and serious injury, whether physical or psychological, or resulted in your death.
If you plan to sue as a result of an automobile accident, you are usually required by law to notify the person being sued within 120 days of the accident, and you must normally begin the lawsuit within two years of the accident.
For more information, you can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada. For legal advice and assistance, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines.