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Is driving safer in Canada?

We all know that driving can be dangerous, from motorists using their smartphones to speeders and drunk drivers. So is it any safer driving in Canada compared to the United States and similar countries? YES! In ratio, Canada has about 40% fewer vehicle fatalities than their southern neighbor. For the last few decades, Canada has steadily reduced their national vehicle fatalities rate, in part because of their national campaign for safer roads. In contrast, the U.S. has become a pretty damn dangerous country for drivers!

That’s good news for Canadians as long as they avoid any tourists from the States. But even though Canada is far safer for drivers, the country still has its share of car accidents resulting in personal injuries. If you get in a car wreck because some idiot is yarning on their cell phone or had a couple of mickeys, and suffer a personal injury, here is what you need to know to cover your ass.

In British Columbia, The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) rules the roads

In the United States car insurance can be purchased from many different sources, but in British Columbia, the ICBC is the only source for getting certain auto insurance. Under the ICBC, all motorists are required to purchase a Basic Autoplan at a minimum.

The ICBC Basic Autoplan covers five areas:

  1. Third-party liability insurance covers both bodily injury and property damage up to $200,000.
  2. Underinsured motorist protection covers your medical bills if the other vehicle involved in the accident had no insurance or didn’t have enough coverage, up to $1 million per person.
  3. Medical coverage up to $150,000 per person.
  4. Hit-and-run coverage up to $200,000.
  5. Inverse liability coverage: If you’re in an accident where the local laws don't let you make a claim against the at-fault party, you’re covered under the inverse liability coverage(in Canada and the U.S).

The ICBC mandatory coverage doesn’t cover vehicle replacement and repair because the program is designed to cover personal injury. If you want to protect your car, then you will need some additional coverage. In British Columbia, you can turn to private insurance companies for this coverage, but you will always have to have at least the minimum plan through the ICBC.

How personal injuries from an automobile accident work in British Columbia

If you are injured in a car wreck in British Columbia, the ICBC will probably be handling your personal injury situation with two types of compensation:

  • No-fault accident benefits:The ICBC offers compensation called “accident benefits” to any covered parties injured in an accident. Because the coverage is “no-fault” insurance, even if you caused the accident, the ICBC will pay the accident benefits. The compensation from the accident benefits will cover lost wages, medical and rehabilitation benefits, and other financial losses.
  • Damages:This is often referred to as a tort claim. Unless you are found to be completely at fault, you can receive compensation for as pain and suffering, lost wages both past and future, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

It’s wise not to settle a personal injury claim until your injuries have stabilized and your doctor can determine when your injuries will most likely be resolved. Since it’s difficult to know if your injuries will continue or worsen, or if you will suffer from effects that you haven’t discovered yet, it’s best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney before making this very important decision.

Once you file a claim with the ICBC, they will offer a settlement and you can either accept the offer or seek other recourse. Keep in mind that once you settle your claim, you can’t make any further requests for compensation related to that accident.

Making a claim with the ICBC

An auto accident should be reported to the ICBC as soon as possible. You report the accident and start your claim by calling the ICBC’s Dial-A-Claim at 604.520.8222 in the lower mainland and 1.800.910.4222 elsewhere in British Columbia. You also have the option of reporting and filing online. Since filing a claim and receiving adequate compensation can depend on so many factors, some drivers will contact a personal injury lawyer before contacting the ICBC. The ICBC will accept a claim through a licensed attorney, so you may want to let your lawyer handle the claim from the start.

After your claim has been received, an ICBC adjuster will investigate the accident, talk to any passengers, other drivers, and witnesses to determine who is at fault. This same adjuster will later review your medical information regarding treatment, etc. and review any out-of-pocket expenses and other financial losses related to your injury.

Once you have filed a claim, you should consult a doctor right away. The quicker you learn the extent of your injuries, not only will you get the medical treatment needed immediately, you will be better able to estimate how your personal injury will affect you later. It’s important to keep detailed documentation of all medical care because the ICBC adjuster will continue to review your treatment and progress to determine how much the ICBC will reimburse you.

What to do if you disagree with the ICBC’s decisions

If you disagree with the ICBC’s investigation, determinations, or settlement offer, then you will need to contact a personal injury lawyer if you haven’t already. If your attorney can’t reach an acceptable agreement with the ICBC, you can resort to the ICBC’s appeal process. You have the right to appeal any decisions regarding fault, denial of claims, and settlement offers. The ICBC also offers what they call a Fairness Process for resolving other issues that fall outside the realm of the appeal process.

If you still aren’t satisfied, then you can sue the owner/drivers of other vehicles involved in the wreck. It’s important to know that the ICBC’s decision regarding fault or the compensation offered isn’t legally binding. A court can conduct their own investigation and determine fault, fair compensation, and more.

Where and when you can file claims and lawsuits

If you decide to file a lawsuit, you must file the suit within 2 years from the accident date, or you could lose any rights to recover damages. If you received any no-fault benefits, then the 2-year deadline to sue runs from the date of the last benefit payment instead of the date of the accident. Also, if you were under the age of 19 at the time of the accident, the 2-year deadline to file a suit doesn't start until you turn 19.

In British Columbia, where you file your lawsuit depends on the amount you are suing to recover. If the amount is $5,000 or less, then you will file through the Civil Resolution Tribunal. For amounts over $5,000 but under $35,000, you will file through Small Claims Court. If your suit is seeking damages that exceed $35,000, then you will have to take your case to the B.C. Supreme Court. Regardless of the amount you are seeking, it’s always wise to consult a personal injury attorney.

So there you have it. If you drive in British Columbia, then you’re going to be dealing with the ICBC every mile of the way! But now that you know how things work, if you’re ever injured in a car accident, you can rest a little easier knowing what to expect and what to do.