What To Do if You Are Injured and Off Work in Ontario
We post a lot about personal injury claims, and there is a good reason for that. We get a lot of people coming to us looking for personal injury lawyers because, well, a lot of people are injured in car accidents every year. Do you know how many? We do - we checked!
According to Transport Canada's National Collision Database (NCDB), in 2018/19 in Canada (not including Quebec), there were 140,801 injuries from motor vehicle collisions reported. If we add in the number of car accident related injuries in Quebec in that same year, the total jumps to 175,558!
6 Options to Cover Your Wages After You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident in Ontario
Many clients are unable to work following an accident. For some it’s a short-lived thing - they just need a few weeks or 1-2 months to overcome their injuries, and then they’re able to get right back to it. Many others, however, aren’t so lucky.
Many of my clients are unable to work for long periods of time due to injuries that limit their ability to do the things their jobs require. And what most insurers forget, unfortunately, is that most people want to work. They don’t want to linger at home, in pain, waiting for a cheque to arrive. With that said, what options do car accident injury victims have when they are unable to return to work?
Here are 6 of the most common options available to you when you can’t work:
Short-Term and Long-Term Disability
If you are employed at the time of an injury, you may have access to short-term disability (STD) and/or long-term disability (LTD) benefits through your employer’s group insurance plan. Many people have no idea what benefits they have, which is why it’s important to contact your HR department or the group insurance company immediately to find out what you have access to. Long- and short-term disability benefits are typically the most comprehensive of all of the available options out there. Short-term often pays close to 90-100% of a person’s salary, and long-term often pays 50-80% of a person’s salary. I always encourage my clients to apply for these immediately.
Income Replacement Benefits
If you were injured in a car accident and cannot work, you may have access to Income Replacement Benefits (IRB) through the Accident Benefits under your own auto insurance policy. However, if you have access to LTD or STD, Income Replacement Benefits won’t pay until you apply for those benefits first. Sadly, the maximum basic IRB coverage is only $400 per week - unless you purchased optional benefits (which very few people do).
If you meet the criteria, you can qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness benefits. This is often the easier and faster employment related benefit to get, so clients often go here first because, well, they need money to live and they need it quickly. This option pays less than benefits through your group insurance plan, but for those who do not have access to STD and/or LTD, it might be your best option.
The basic amount you could receive is calculated at 55% of your average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573 per week at the time of writing. If you have children and are considered a low income family, this amount can be increased to up to 80% of your regular earnings, depending upon your net family income, how many children you have, and their ages.
Ontario Works, also known as welfare, is available to people living below a certain income line. If you’re unemployed and have few or no assets (and your partner is also unemployed), you may very well qualify for it.
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
ODSP is similar to Ontario Works, and based on similar income criteria, but ODSP is an extra benefit available to people who suffer from disabilities. It is not an easy threshold to qualify for ODSP. To be eligible for ODSP employment supports, claimants need to prove that they meet all the following criteria:
- have a physical or mental disability/impairment that is continuous or recurrent and expected to last one year or more, and that the disability or impairment results in substantial barriers to employment that is verified by a prescribed professional (excluding people with disabilities receiving ODSP income support);
- is 16 years of age or more;
- is a resident of Ontario (not including tourists, visitors or temporary residents); and
- is legally entitled to work in Canada.
CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) Disability
CPP is something most people who work and earn a living are eligible for at a certain age (usually 65 years old). The CPP disability plan allows for people under the age of 65 to benefit if they have been disabled indefinitely from substantially gainful work and have made enough contributions into the CPP. Once you’re on CPP disability, the benefit will change over to CPP retirement automatically when you turn 65.
The Good News, and the Bad News
The good news is you've got quite a few options to get your wages covered when you're off work due to a car accident, and in some cases you can apply for more than just one of the benefits available to you.
However, many of these employment and disability benefits interact with one another and prevent double compensation. For example, if you have LTD that pays over 70% of your gross income, then you will likely be ineligible for the income replacement benefit from your auto insurance (at least until LTD denies you). Similarly, ODSP will claw back any income you may have received that covered the time you were on those benefits, and LTD payments will be reduced by the amount of any CPP disability you are receiving, etc. There are many such deductions, so you won't be able to stack up all the coverage to make some extra money, and none of the options will cover your wages completely.
If you have a tort claim, though - a claim against an at-fault driver - you can sue for the shortfall of your loss of income. However, in Ontario, car accident victims are only entitled to claim up to 70% of their gross lost earnings up until trial date (and 100% after), which means the system prevents you from ever being fully compensated.
If you are unable to work because of a car accident injury, take Joshua's advice and first find out what benefits you have through your employee extended health plan, if you have one. Then, find out what options you have through your auto insurance, and if needed, apply for EI sickness benefits as soon as possible. Meanwhile, reach out to a good personal injury lawyer for a consultation to find out what your options are for a personal injury claim. If the accident was not your fault, you could make a claim against the other driver for any unrecoverable wages, as well as many other expenses and compensation for pain and suffering, as well.