Script 185 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script discusses motor vehicle insurance from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (called ICBC), as well as insurance benefits and other payment for those injured in a motor vehicle accident. For information on insurance payments for vehicle damage, refer to script 186 on “Making a Vehicle Damage Claim.”
ICBC vehicle insurance is mandatory
Everyone who owns a motor vehicle in BC must have basic vehicle insurance, called Autoplan, from ICBC. You can buy more insurance than what’s offered under basic Autoplan – if you’re not sure what coverage you have, ask your Autoplan agent.
Autoplan includes “third-party legal liability” insurance
If you’re at fault for injuring someone or damaging their vehicle in an accident, your third-party legal liability insurance will pay their claim for you up to a certain amount. Under basic Autoplan, the minimum amount of third-party legal liability insurance you must have is $200,000. If you injure someone in a traffic accident, or damage their vehicle, your third-party legal liability insurance will pay them for their injuries on your behalf, up to your limit. In addition, this insurance will pay for most of the legal and investigative costs.
Should you buy more insurance than the basic $200,000?
Courts often award much more money (called compensation or “damages”) than $200,000 – sometimes $1 million or more – especially if the victim was seriously injured. So many people buy more than the basic $200,000 third-party legal liability minimum insurance. You can buy this extra insurance from ICBC or from a private insurance company. Buying more than the basic insurance is even more important if you want to drive to the United States.
If you don’t have more than the basic $200,000 insurance, and someone you injure successfully sues you for more than that amount, you may be personally responsible to pay the rest. That can be a financial disaster for you.
Be careful not to cancel your insurance
You must be careful not to void your insurance and have it cancelled by attracting criminal charges while driving or driving while prohibited or suspended. In these cases, your third-party legal liability insurance may not cover you, and you may become personally liable for any damage or injury you cause to someone in an accident.
Autoplan also includes “under-insured motorist protection”
Under basic Autoplan, your under-insured motorist insurance protects you up to $1 million. For example, you may be injured in an accident that is the other driver’s fault, and the other driver has only the basic $200,000 third-party liability insurance. ICBC decides your claim is worth $800,000. In this case, ICBC will pay your full $800,000 claim through your under-insured motorist protection.
To get more coverage, you can buy excess under-insured motorist protection from ICBC and increase the limit from $1 million to $2 million.
What insurance is available for a hit-and-run accident?
All BC residents – whether or not they own and insure a vehicle – are insured up to $200,000 by Autoplan if a hit-and-run driver kills or injures them.
What benefits can you get if you’re injured in a motor vehicle crash?
There are two main types of benefits:
- “no-fault” accident benefits
- payment or damages for losses caused by the negligence of others
When can you get no-fault accident benefits?
With accident benefits, it doesn’t matter who caused the accident. ICBC pays no-fault accident benefits to all injured drivers and passengers of any vehicle licensed and insured in BC, as long as those people have met the insurance conditions. You can apply for benefits if the accident occurred in BC, elsewhere in Canada or in the United States. Benefits may also be paid to you in other situations if the vehicle wasn’t insured in BC, for example, if you were hurt as a passenger in an out-of-province vehicle, but you had a BC driver’s licence.
But you must have met the conditions of the insurance to get accident benefits. For example, if you were injured while driving without a valid driver’s license, while trying to crash your car in a suicide attempt, or while racing or in a speed test, ICBC will not pay you accident benefits; instead, it will deny or refuse to pay your claim.
There are also many situations where, as a BC resident, you’re entitled to accident benefits if you’re hurt as a pedestrian or cyclist in an accident in Canada. For example, you’re entitled to accident benefits if you were hit by a BC-insured vehicle or a driver with a BC driver’s licence, if you have your own BC driver’s licence, or if you live with a family member or roommate who has ICBC insurance or a BC driver’s licence.
What no-fault accident benefits can you receive?
Accident benefits include the following amounts:
- funeral expenses up to $2,500 and some death benefits
- rehabilitation and reasonable medical expenses (including chiropractic expenses and nursing attendant care) up to $150,000
- income replacement payments
- homemaker benefits
Specifically, how much are the income replacement and homemaker benefits?
For income replacement, you can receive weekly disability payments if you were employed (i.e., working) before the accident, but have been totally disabled and unable to work since. You get 75% of your gross weekly earnings (minus any weekly total wage loss payments from other sources), or a maximum of $300 per week. ICBC considers that you were employed if you worked any six of the 12 months before the accident.
If you stayed home and looked after your family and home instead, ICBC may pay you up to $145 per week in homemaker benefits. But your injury must substantially or continuously stop you from regularly performing most household tasks.
The income replacement payments and homemaker benefits aren’t paid for the first week – they only start on the eighth day after the accident. Then they continue for as long as your disability lasts or until you turn 65, whichever comes first. However, ICBC can review your eligibility for income replacement and homemaker benefits each year.
You must apply for other benefits first
If you have other benefits like employment insurance, workers compensation or a private disability plan through your job, you must apply for these other benefits first. And ICBC will subtract these other benefits from the accident benefits it pays you.
Accident benefits are limited
Accident benefits only provide limited coverage. They’re not designed to pay you for all the losses you may suffer from an accident, especially if you were seriously injured. You may therefore also be entitled to payment or damages for losses caused by the negligence of others.
When can you get damages for losses caused by others’ negligence?
If someone else was legally at fault for the accident – even partly – then you’re entitled to be paid for at least some of your losses from the accident. For example, you could get payment for the suit of clothes you were wearing that was ruined in the accident. You could also get fully paid for the loss of your future earnings if you can’t work because of the accident. Also, you may be paid compensation for the pain and suffering the accident caused you.
You cannot collect twice for the same accident
Because you cannot collect twice for the same loss, ICBC will subtract the accident benefits that you’re entitled to from any damages (or compensation) that you receive as a result of someone else’s negligence. On the other hand, employment insurance and private disability benefits are not normally subtracted from damages, except in hit-and-run cases and some other situations.
Your compulsory Autoplan insurance will pay for motor vehicle claims against you up to $200,000. But it’s a good idea to buy more insurance – for both third-party legal liability and under-insured motorist protection. If you’re hurt in an accident, you may be entitled to certain ICBC accident benefits. If your injuries were caused by another person’s negligence, you may also be paid for all your expenses directly related to the accident, as well as damages for your other losses. But ICBC will subtract the accident benefits from the total damages amount.
Where can you find more information?
- See the ICBC website at www.icbc.com.
- To find out how to obtain accident benefits and damages for your losses, refer to script 188 on “Making a Personal Injury Claim.”
[updated August 2012]
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