Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can have a serious impact on your health, as well as your wallet. Insurance benefits and compensation can help ease the financial burden.
Understand your legal rights
Everyone who owns a motor vehicle in BC must have basic vehicle insurance from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), called Basic Autoplan. You can choose to buy additional insurance coverage — from ICBC or a private insurance company.
Autoplan includes basic third party liability coverage
If you injure someone or damage their vehicle in an accident, your third party liability insurance will pay their claim up to the limit of your insurance. The minimum third party liability coverage you must have is $200,000. This insurance will also pay for most of the legal and investigative costs arising from an accident.
Underinsured motorist protection
Underinsured motorist protection means you don’t have to rely on other drivers having enough insurance coverage. Basic Autoplan insurance includes underinsured motorist protection up to $1 million.
Here’s how this type of coverage works. Say you are hurt in an accident that is the other driver’s fault, and that driver has only the basic $200,000 third party liability insurance. But your claim is worth $800,000. What happens? ICBC will pay your full $800,000 claim through your underinsured motorist protection.
Protection against hit-and-run accidents
All BC residents — even if they do not own a vehicle — are insured up to $200,000 by Autoplan if a hit-and-run driver kills or injures them.
In motor vehicle accident cases, courts often award much more money (also called compensation or damages) than $200,000. Sometimes they award $1 million or more — especially if the victim was seriously injured. You can choose to buy much more third party liability insurance than $200,000 — up to several million dollars. And most people do.
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 drive to the United States. The costs of an accident (especially medical costs) can be much higher there.
Similarly, you can choose to increase the underinsured motorist protection from the $1 million in the Basic Autoplan coverage. ICBC offers optional coverage up to $2 million, $3 million, $4 million or $5 million.
You can lose your insurance coverage by:
- driving while you’re prohibited from driving
- driving while your licence is suspended
- committing a crime while driving
Any of these acts may breach your third party liability insurance, and you may have to pay for any damage or injury you cause in an accident.
If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident, there are two sources of compensation:
- no-fault accident benefits, and
- damages for losses if another person was at fault.
No-fault accident benefits are paid no matter who caused the accident
No-fault accident benefits are available to almost everybody in BC who is injured in a motor vehicle accident — no matter who caused the accident.
Anyone who is in a vehicle licensed and insured in BC is eligible for accident benefits. So is a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a vehicle, if they or a member of their household has a BC driver’s licence or an Autoplan policy. The accident could occur in BC, elsewhere in Canada, or in the United States.
You must meet the conditions of the insurance to get accident benefits. For example, if you were injured while driving without a valid driver’s licence, or while racing your car, ICBC will not pay you any accident benefits.
Accident benefits are limited
Accident benefits help with medical care and wage loss. They include rehabilitation and medical expenses, as well as disability benefits for workers and homemakers. We explain these more fully shortly.
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 also be entitled to additional damages for losses caused by the negligence of others, explained in the next section.
If another person was legally at fault for (or caused) the accident, you can also be paid damages for your losses. There are several types of damages. For example, you could be fully paid for the loss of your future earnings if you can’t work because of the accident. Or you may be paid for the pain and suffering the accident caused you; these are called “non-pecuniary” damages. (Note as of April 2019, the law in BC limits the amount that can be awarded for pain and suffering for “minor injuries”.)
For more details, see our information on making a personal injury claim (no. 188).
You cannot collect twice for the same accident
You cannot collect twice for the same loss. Accordingly, ICBC will subtract the accident benefits and other insurance benefits paid to you from any damages (or compensation) you receive arising from someone’s negligence.
No-fault accident benefits help with medical care and wage loss if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who is at fault. See the ICBC website for updated information on benefit amounts.
Rehabilitation and medical expenses
Accident benefits cover reasonable expenses for medical and rehabilitation services, up to $300,000. This can include chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments and nursing attendant care.
Disability benefits for workers
If you were working before the accident but were disabled in it and can no longer work, you can receive weekly disability benefits. Your benefits are based on 75% of your average gross weekly earnings (up to a maximum amount).
Disability benefits for homemakers
If before the accident you looked after your family and home, and your injury makes you unable to perform most of your household tasks, you can get weekly homemaker benefits. These benefits continue for as long as your disability lasts or until you turn 65, whichever comes first.
Yes. If you are injured as a pedestrian or cyclist in an accident with a vehicle, you can get accident benefits if you:
- are named in an Autoplan insurance policy, or
- have a valid BC driver’s licence, or
- are a member of the household of a person who is named in an Autoplan policy or has a valid BC driver’s licence.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in February 2019
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