Everyday, our personal injury law firm receives calls from people who have been involved in car accidents in Ontario.
Some people reside in Ontario.
Other people reside outside of Ontario.
Some accident victims have their own car insurance.
Others have no form of car insurance whatsoever.
Their common connection is that they’ve been involved in a car accident in Ontario; and now; don’t know what to do; or where to turn.
They don’t know the right things to do. They don’t want to do the wrong things either. It’s their first time being involved in a serious car accident and they are looking for answers.
People tell me that they weren’t taught in school how to handle a car accident case with an insurance company. Nor is there any quick and easy book on what to do after they’ve been involved in a car accident. They are right in stating that what to do after a car accident isn’t on the standard school curriculum. But, there is a fast and quick guide on what to do after they’ve been involved in a car accident in Ontario. The Goldfinger Guide to Fair Compensation is a great starting point and it can be found in the link above. Reading the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog (as you are right now!) is another great resource.
The first step is to make a very important call. That call is to your own insurance company. That might seem counter intuitive if you were either:
a) Not in your car at the time of the car accident
b) You were a cyclist or a pedestrian
c) You were not at fault for the car accident; so why should your own car insurer have to respond to the claim?
All of these are valid points which make for great common sense. The dirty secret in the car insurance industry is that the laws dealing with car insurance don’t make much common sense.
In Ontario, we have a no fault system of car insurance. First party response. That means that regardless of fault, and regardless of whose vehicles were involved in the car accident; you must report the car accident to your own car insurance company first. Your own car insurer has a legal obligation to respond to the claim. If your car insurer disputes the priority of the claim (meaning who should be paying for the accident benefit claim), they can file a “Notice of Dispute Between Insurers” Form. A dispute between car insurance companies in terms of who should be paying for what accident benefits is of no concern to the accident victim; so long as benefits continue to be paid as the dispute proceeds. This is what is supposed to happen. The priority dispute between insurers happens in the background, while the accident benefit claim continues to proceed in the normal course. If the accident benefit claim gets transferred from one car insurance company, to another, this will happen by way of letter and the transition ought to be seamless. These priority disputes occur more often than one might think, because fact patterns involving who is insured, vs. who is not insured can get rather complicated and are very fact specific.
Either way, regardless of fault, and regardless of whether or not the accident victim was driving his/her vehicle at the time of the car accident; the first call is the to accident victims own insurance company.
Don’t think of needing to report the car accident; or making an accident benefit claim to your own car insurance company as a “bad thing“. It won’t impact your premiums if you aren’t at fault for the accident; or if you weren’t driving at the time. It’s actually a good thing. It’s a good thing because you have an insurer to respond to your claim in what should be a quick and efficient manner.
Not having insurance of your own is a bad thing. It’s a bad thing because insurers generally aren’t as responsive to people who aren’t in their “system“, who have not been paying premiums. You make the call that you’ve been involved in a car accident, and they will immediately need to investigate on the accuracy and veracity of your claim. This investigation can take a while. It can take a while to get the accident benefit claim set up. Waiting for the insurer to set up the claim (because they don’t believe you or don’t have you in their system) can be very frustrating. There is no guarantee that they will respond in a timely manner so that you can get the treatment and financial benefits you need in order to make ends meet. This isn’t fair to the innocent accident victim; but it’s the cold hard truth about how the claims work.
It gets even more difficult when you’re a pedestrian or cyclist, and you weren’t able to get the insurance information of the drive who hit you. This might be the case in a hit and run accident; or because you were too injured to get that information. Sometimes, the police don’t even share the insurance information with the injured accident victim; or make the injured accident victim pay to get a copy of the police report (which takes time to process as well). This should not be the case, but it happens more than you might think. In these sort of cases, the injured accident victim will have no insurance company to make their accident benefit claim until the police are so kind as to release the insurance information. This again, can take a lot of time.
Even worse? You find out after the fact that the other driver was either driving without proper car insurance; or that their car insurance had expired at the time of the car accident. All this does is create delays for the innocent accident victim in receiving his/her benefits, and additional hurdles for him/her to jump through. This is not to say that the case is lost. It just shows how not having your own car insurance to respond to an accident benefit claim can create delays and difficulties for an innocent accident victim.