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What to do immediately following your car accident (Ontario): The blitz

The time immediately following your car accident can me the most difficult time; and the most important time in terms of getting your case on to the right start.

There is a LOT of work to do immediately following your car accident. Lawyers know this. Insurance adjusters know this. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t know this.

I can say with utmost certainty, that the amount of work required on behalf of accident victims and their families has gone up exponentially with the introduction of no-fault accident benefits in Ontario. This no fault accident benefit scheme was supposed to protect consumers (that means every day Ontario drivers like you and me).

In the beginning, I’m sure that it did. The system was not as complicated, not as adversarial, and did not have a myriad of forms or medical experts who focus on only in accident benefit claims. Nowadays, the system has more forms than you could ever possibly imagine; concentrated clinics and health care professionals who only handle treatment for car accident cases; along with a backlog of over 60,000 mediation and arbitration cases dealing specifically with accident benefits before the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).

By completing one form incorrectly, you may be jeopardizing your case from the start. How so? Take the example of electing or FAILING TO ELECT for the proper benefit following your car accident. If you elect an Income Replacement Benefit, but you weren’t making any income before your accident, you may have been better off electing the Non-Earner Benefit. How do you make an Election? You have to complete the OCF-10 Election Form. If you aren’t a lawyer or somebody who works in the car insurance industry, you likely don’t have the foggiest idea about the variety of benefits available, how to claim those benefits, and what on earth to do with all of these forms. This is why the start of the case is such an important and difficult time. Getting your case off on the wrong foot can forever jeopardize an otherwise meritorious claim.

After you’ve been involved in a car accident, the very first thing you need to do is get the medical attention you need.

Co-operate with the police if they are investigating the accident. If you haven’t already done so, report the accident to the police.

Once those two steps are completed, THEN and only then should you contact your OWN insurance company to report the car accident. If you cannot do so because your injuries have kept you hospitalized, then have a friend or family member do so on your behalf. It’s important to note that your health and letting the police know about the car accident takes precedent over the needs of the insurer at this very early stage. We are always amazed that people call their insurer BEFORE they get medical attention or BEFORE they contact the police to report the car accident.

The next step is to contact a personal injury lawyer. They will have all of the paperwork you need to help start your claim. And here is where the rain of paperwork begins.

The insurer will send you an Accident Benefits Package which is chalk full of forms which aren’t as easy to understand as you would think.

Complete those forms with your lawyer. For some of the forms, you will need to get your doctor to help or your employer. These forms are known as the OCF-3 Disabilty Certificate and the OCF-2 Employers’ Confirmation of Income Form. These forms are important because the Disability Certificate helps the insurer understand the nature and severity of your injuries. The Employers’ Confirmation of Income Form helps the insurer understand how much money you were earning prior to the car accident so that they can calculate an income replacement benefit which may be owing to you.pierce

Take photos of any property damage done to your vehicle or clothing. Take photos of the accident scene if you’re able to do so. Take photos of your injuries as well. The injuries will change over the course of time, so getting a picture at an early stage helps everyone better understand the injuries which you had to go through.

Part of the claim at the early stage will also involve a negotiation with a property insurer regarding the damage done to your vehicle along with the associated repair costs to the vehicle. Get all the damage documentation together and provide it to the insurer. They will often send out a field adjuster to take photos of the damage to the vehicle, and recommend a body shop to get an estimate of the repair costs. You’re NOT limited to the insurer’s estimate. You can get MULTIPLE ESTIMATES from an appraiser of your choosing. If the vehicle is a total write-off, you’re NOT limited to the replacement figure which the insurer first suggests. You can negotiate.

Collect all out of pocket receipts in relation to the car accident. Things like hospital bills, parking receipts, invoices for canes, crutches, wheelchair, even food! Hold on to ALL OF IT and submit those receipts on an OCF-6 Expense Claim Form.

If you’ve been in hospital following the accident, a big part of your treatment might entail the discharge plan. Where are you being discharged? Is it an appropriate facility given your pressing health care needs? Is it close to friends and family? Is there nothing better in the immediate area? Will they be able to look after the injured party; or is the injured party better off staying in hospital a bit longer? These are all questions which you, your doctor and your social worker ought to consider. None of these questions are easy ones, particularly given the restraints on our Health Care System in Ontario.

If a representative from your own insurance company, or the other driver’s insurance company happens to contact you or your family; you are under NO OBLIGATION TO SPEAK WITH THEM. Wait until you consult with a lawyer because it’s likely you will say something to hurt your case; OR this insurance adjuster will conveniently “mishear or misrecord” what you might have said.  It happens.

Notify your employer about the car accident and that you won’t be able to attend at work on account of your injuries. Inquire about whether there is a Short Term or Long Term Disability Plan at work which will cover a portion of your lost wages.

See you family doctor as soon as possible; even if you’re being monitored by doctors at the hospital. At some point in time, your family doctor will be the main person who handles your care. It’s best to get that person involved early on, as opposed to waiting on it and catching them by surprise. I realize that family doctors are copies on some hospital records, but having your own consultation goes a lot further and does a better job at keeping your doctor in the loop as oppose to relying on the hospital to relay message and records.

If that’s not enough of a file opening blitz for you, then give us a call and we can share more tips on what to do immediately following your accident case.

Enough law talk? Sure. I still can’t get over how feeble Toronto’s professional basketball team performed in this year’s playoffs. If I owned the team, the Coach would have been fired immediately, with EXTREME PREJUDICE. That sort of display is unacceptable at the professional level when these players are payed millions of dollars to perform, to care, and to prepare. I guess we will just have to wait another year. Bruno is still 2 years away from being 2 years away….

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