In a Nutshell:
Passengers involved in motor vehicle accidents in Ontario need to understand their rights and legal recourse to receive full compensation for any and all injuries and damages sustained.
If you are a passenger injured in a car accident in Ontario you have the legal right to make a claim for injuries and damages. This holds true if the driver of the car you were a passenger in is at fault, or if a driver of another car caused the accident. As a passenger you almost assuredly hold no fault and Ontario law dictates that auto insurance must cover injured passengers. To ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you will be fully compensated for your injuries and damages, the issue of what to do after a car accident is key.
What to Do First and Foremost After the Accident
There are a number of actions you should take if you are a passenger injured in a car accident in Ontario. Naturally, the first concern should be the health and wellbeing of yourself, any other passengers, the driver, and occupants of other vehicles involved. Due to serious injuries to yourself or others, you may not be capable of taking any steps relating to compensation at the time of, or shortly after, the accident, but you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as reasonably possible.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help navigate you through the complexities of Ontario motor vehicle accident and insurance laws. Your personal injury lawyer will make sure that you cover all legal recourses to receive full compensation for injuries and damages, and ensure that all legal deadlines relating to claims are met.
To the extent possible, also consider taking these actions during the immediate aftermath of a car accident:
- Refresh the details of the accident in your mind or write them down.
- Make sure the on-scene police are aware of your involvement as a passenger in the accident.
- Get contact information about the investigating police officer(s).
- Try to determine the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- If you have a smartphone or camera take photos of the accident scene.
- Even if not seriously injured go to the hospital or health care provider for a full check-up. The full extent of some injuries may not become apparent until many hours, or even days, after the accident.
Can I Make a Claim for Being a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Ontario law expressly includes passenger rights to claim injury in car accidents, and being a passenger in a car accident claim makes you fully eligible for insurance proceeds. Passengers are typically not at fault in motor vehicle accidents and claims should be made against the insurance of all vehicles involved in the accident, especially in cases which result in severe injuries and/or debilitation.
Ontario motor vehicle insurance policies operate under a “no-fault” car insurance program, which means that regardless of who may have caused the accident, those injured make the initial claim with their own insurance provider (the driver’s insurer in the case of passengers). Any benefits provided by this claim are governed by Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), which provides maximum compensation up to $3,500 for minor injuries, $50,000 for non-catastrophic injuries, and up to $1 million for catastrophic injuries.
In many cases the amounts provided through no-fault claims fail to provide full compensation. In fact, the $50,000 maximum for non-catastrophic injuries often fails to go far enough to account for serious injuries that may lead to extensive medical and rehabilitation costs, along with months of recovery time.
And this is why it is imperative to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer to ensure that you make all available claims for compensation when injured as a passenger in a car accident.
Can a Passenger Sue the Driver in an Accident?
If you are injured as a passenger in a car accident the driver at fault can be sued, and likely should be sued, whenever Ontario’s no-fault insurance regimen fails to provide adequate compensation for the injuries and damages. And while such a lawsuit may be filed against the driver, in reality it’s the driver’s insurance company that is being sued for a car accident in Ontario. As such, the insurance company is responsible for defending against the claim and for ultimately paying whatever compensation is determined through mediation or litigation.
This point is important because many passengers injured in a car accident in Ontario may be reluctant to make a claim if their husband, wife, family member, or friend was the driver believed to be at fault. Such reluctance is misplaced, though, because in just about every case, the family member or friend’s insurance company ends up paying the entire judgement or settlement claim without any deductible or payments due from the family member or friend. This payment typically extends to paying the cost of any legal fees that would otherwise be the responsibility of the friend or family member.
Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance?
Ontario law generally dictates that car insurance covers passengers, though where passengers stand in relation to car accident claim settlements often seems confusing. Technically speaking, in the event of an accident causing injury, passengers are covered under the insurance of the car’s driver. However, should a driver in another car be deemed at fault - for example a two-car accident hit on passenger side causing injuries - the claim would likely go against the other driver’s insurance. In some multiple-vehicle accidents fault may be shared by varying degrees among the drivers with resultant insurance claim settlements paid accordingly. A passenger is also covered under one’s own automobile insurance, with claims filed in cases in which the at-fault driver is uninsured.
Even if no one is insured, injured passengers are entitled to compensation through Ontario’s “insurance payer of last resort,” the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. As a last recourse, accident victims seeking benefits from the fund must exhaust all other options first. For example, determining whether a family member’s insurance may provide coverage through a “family protection endorsement” clause. Additionally, the fund will not pay any claims until the final settlement of any tort claim filed against the at-fault driver.
Can I Claim Whiplash as a Passenger?
If you suffer a whiplash injury as a passenger in a car accident you may be able to claim damages. The at-fault driver’s (or your own) insurance may cover whiplash-related damages as a minor medical condition ($3,500 maximum), or, if considered severe and disabling enough, may qualify as a non-minor and non-catastrophic injury ($50,000 maximum). With most cases of whiplash considered as soft-tissue injuries, it may prove difficult to sue for additional medical costs beyond the maximums provided by SABS. However, diagnosed third- and fourth-level whiplash cases include a fracture, which represents much more serious potential impairment and pain typically worthy of seeking additional compensation beyond that provided by SABS.
Your Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Receive Full Compensation
If you have been injured as a passenger in a car accident in Ontario, turn to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help guide you through the complexities of auto accident and insurance law to make sure that you are fully compensated for your injuries. As a passenger, your injuries were a result of no fault of your own, so don’t let insult get added to injury by a system that often shortchanges those it is supposed to help.
Ontario personal injury lawyer Steven Polak has a stellar reputation for his work helping car accident victims receive full and just compensation for injuries and damages. Steven works diligently to collect all evidence needed to successfully resolve each case, and strives through negotiation or litigation to ensure each victim is justly compensated.
Steven has acted as counsel in lawsuits in numerous Ontario cities, including Toronto, Ajax, Whitby, Mississauga, Scarborough, Oshawa, Newmarket, Thornhill, Markham, Brantford, and the GTA.
Contact Steven today at (905) 409-2438 to schedule your free consultation.