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Did you know if you’re injured in a car accident insurers deduct thousands from your compensation?

What Sudbury residents need to know about accident compensation awards

Imagine the unthinkable; you’re injured in a car accident. You’re suffering with pain and impairments which make it difficult to work and carry on with your daily life. You’re not at fault for the collision, but you are living with the physical and financial consequences.

You should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. They will begin the process to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

JM Bray is a personal injury lawyer at Orendorff and Associates in Sudbury. He says, “You’ve probably have never dealt with a personal injury lawyer before and don’t know where to turn. Ask a lawyer you do know and trust for a recommendation.”

Don’t expect a compensation windfall

In Ontario, the compensation you deserve and the compensation you will receive are not the same thing.

Many people form ideas of how our legal system works by watching U.S. television. When they see huge multimillion dollar settlements awarded to accident victims south of the border, they expect something similar in Ontario. “But that is not reality,” says Bray. “When people call us after they’ve been injured in a car accident, they have a lot of misconceptions about what they believe their level of compensation ought to be.”

Few people are aware that under Canadian law, there is a cap on damages which a court can award for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

The most a court can award for pain and suffering currently, and this is only if you become a quadriplegic from a car accident is approximately $425,000. Bray says, “Most people are shocked when they learn of this cap and justifiably so, as it is unconscionably low and does not nearly reflect the actual pain and suffering that these victims have to endure because of their catastrophic injuries.”

Bray adds, “When you look at how the court assesses pain and suffering, considering there is a cap, and then in Ontario with the statutory deductible, the result is that many injuries are not compensable in car accident cases, which is not fair.”

What is the no-fault deductible?

The “deductible” is taken from an injured person’s court award for pain and suffering. This year the deductible is more than $41,500. This means, if an accident victim is awarded $50,000 for pain and suffering, the amount they will actually receive is $8,500. Bray says, “The deductible is money stripped away from injured victims by Ontario government insurance laws. If you are awarded a $50,000 judgement based on your injuries you should receive the full $50,000, but in Ontario that’s not the way it works. Where is the logic or fairness?”

Furthermore, by way of example, if an accident victim is awarded $35,000, they will not receive any compensation because the amount is lower than the deductible. “To add insult to injury,” Bray says, “If the value of the award does not exceed the deductible, the injured person can be required to pay the defending insurance company’s legal costs.”

If the award for pain and suffering is more than $138,343.86 the deductible does not apply. However, in Ontario, pain and suffering judgements are rarely that high meaning that most cases will fall within the range of the deductible.

The deductible will rise each year. The insurance companies say it’s needed to keep insurance costs down. But Bray asks, “How many of us have seen our insurance rates decrease over the past 10 years? We have lost sight of the purpose of insurance compensation, which is to help victims of trauma and accidents recover and get back on their feet.”

The deductible rules affect anyone who is seriously injured in an automobile accident in Ontario. Bray says, “We pay a lot of money for insurance premiums and people might be surprised to know how unfair it is for many who are hurt through no fault of their own.”

Compensation is unfair

To make matters even worse for car accident victims, to receive compensation for pain and suffering, car accident victims’ injuries must meet a threshold of being “serious and permanent”.

Let’s use the example of a mechanic who was injured in a car accident. He was awarded $60,000 by a jury for pain and suffering, which the deductible then reduced to $18,000.

Following the jury verdict, the judge must determine whether the mechanic’s injuries meet the threshold definition of being permanent and serious. If the judge finds that the injuries do not meet the threshold, the mechanic’s pain and suffering award is reduced to zero. Nothing!

People only become aware of the paltry compensation amounts after they speak to a lawyer following an accident. JM Bray stresses, “Car accident victims and their lawyers are not greedy and abusing the system. It’s important to know what the law is in Canada and Ontario and how little it actually awards injured parties.”

Bray adds, “The insurance industry is saving significant money on the majority of car accident cases at the expense of injured victims.”

To change the compensation system, contact your local member of provincial parliament.

John Michael Bray is a personal injury lawyer at Orendorff and Associates law firm in Sudbury and a former Director of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. Contact JM Bray at (705) 673-1200. Email: [email protected]