At Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP – Ottawa Motor Accident Lawyers, we handle a great many car accident cases. It is the substantial part of what we do. We represent regular people who are injured in car accidents. In doing that, we negotiate significant financial settlements for our injured clients. Other times we sue and go to Court to recover compensation for our clients so that they can receive proper compensation for their injuries—this compensation is normally paid by the insurance. In doing this kind of work, we see the importance of being properly insured—unfortunately this is sometimes highlighted by the inadequate basic insurance policies that are legally sold but reflect only the minimums mandated by law.
Car insurance policies, as issued by any insurance company doing business in Ontario, are anything but straightforward. The law sets out a certain basic framework for every motor-vehicle policy in Ontario through a standard automobile insurance policy; the terms of which are dictated by the government. Aside from the standard minimum coverage, insurance companies are permitted to sell additional benefits as part of the insurance policy. These additional benefits, reflected in endorsements to the standard policy, are essentially amendments to the minimum basic coverage provided by the standard policy.
The question that anyone who is buying automobile insurance should ask is whether the basic coverage, provided in the standard policy, along with the minimum statutory amounts, provides a reasonable level of coverage. Is your family adequately protected by the standard insurance policy? In our opinion, the direct answer is an unqualified no. The statutory minimums are entirely unsatisfactory. Any person relying on the basic coverage in the event of a serious accident is at great risk of being underinsured and exposed to significant financial liability.
The risk of not buying enough coverage is, to a degree, understood. Increased coverage costs a little more. People seem to be conditioned to think that getting the cheapest possible insurance is the aim and purpose of shopping around and getting comparison quotes. It is fairly obvious to insurers, that people shopping for quotes, are shopping for the cheapest policy. Hence, there is a pressure to quote policies that reflect coverage based on statutory minimums as opposed to coverage that provides reasonable protection in the event of an accident.
The fact that Ontarians shop for “price” when getting insurance quotes is not entirely a factor of being frugal or however else you would like to say it. Certainly, everyone likes a good deal—but we at Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP believe that hardly anyone would consider an inadequate policy of insurance a good deal. So why then, is the focus on price and not on the content of the policy? The answer we believe lies in the fact that most people still trust the Ontario government to make sure a “standard” policy of insurance provides adequate and reasonable coverage. The sad fact, is that while this was true at one time, the Ontario government has allowed the standard policy of insurance to erode to the point that the minimum coverages are not reasonable—leaving people who rely on them at significant risk.
The endorsements, the additional coverage that your Ontario automobile insurers sell, are neither cash grabs nor unjustifiable extravagances. In our opinion, these additional coverages are so important that they should really form part of the basic coverage of a standard automobile insurance policy.
In this memo, we would like to provide you with following suggestion. In addition to this suggestion we strongly recommend that you contact your insurance broker to talk about all of the potential buy-ups, especially in relation to no fault accident benefits. In the name of consumer choice, the government recently slashed the coverage that comes with a standard automobile policy. The statutory accident benefits that now form part of a standard automobile insurance policy can easily result in inadequate protection for you and your family.
The concrete suggestion we have for everyone who is insured in Ontario is to two-fold. Firstly, you should buy up the liability coverage to whatever amount you can possibly afford. In our opinion, a reasonable base amount of coverage is $5 million dollars. Anything less is a risk.
Five million dollars of liability coverage is the amount your insurer will pay to the victims of any accident that you are deemed responsible for. The sum may sound like a lot, however, it doesn’t take much to imagine the extent of injuries in a serious accident involving multiple vehicles that are full of people. Those millions of dollars can be quickly used up helping the seriously injured.
The second concrete suggestion we have for everyone is to make sure that you have purchased the Family Protection Endorsement. The Family Protection Endorsement protects you and your family in the event that the person who hit you is underinsured or completely uninsured. Surely we have all had the thought that any accident we’re in will be the result of someone else being the “bad” driver and not ourselves. What if that “bad driver” is drunk or impaired by drugs. What if that driver has a suspended licence or is driving without permission? In all of these instances the person you are suing would potentially have no insurance coverage or the coverage would be limited to $200,000. There is no way that this is enough in the case of a serious accident.
The Family Protection Endorsement allows you to recover damages from your own insurer to the extent that the driver or responsible person who hit you was underinsured. The amount available under the Family Protection Endorsement is equal to the amount of your liability coverage. This is another great reason to have the $5 million coverage as you will have a total of $5 million dollars available to you should you be injured by a negligent underinsured or uninsured driver.
At Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP we strongly urge you to review your automobile insurance polices with your broker. Please do so before it may be necessary to make a claim. A review after an accident is simply too late. You will be quite surprised to learn that the cost of the “buy ups” is actually quite reasonable relative the significantly better coverage that you can get. Insurance is supposed to protect you in the event of a catastrophy. Only you can make sure that your coverage is right.