©2019 by The Biking Lawyer.

  • Dave Shellnutt

Hit by a Car? How to Access Free Health Benefits and Lost Wages

With Bike Month upon us I have been hosting a number of “know your rights” workshops and discussion groups with local cyclist organizations across Toronto. One of the most common issues I find cyclists unaware of is what benefits they may be entitled to if they are unfortunately involved in a crash with a car. Whether at fault or not, if you are involved in a crash with a car you are entitled to Accident Benefit insurance coverage.

Accident Benefits are provincially mandated insurance benefits that provide no fault support to people injured in a car crash. That includes cyclists and pedestrians.

If you are injured, you are entitled to health benefits such as physiotherapy, concussion, treatment, massage, chiropractic, psychotherapy, acupuncture and more. If you are off work, part of you lost income can be covered. If you now need help at home, that is can also be covered, from housekeeping to more serious cases of around the clock nursing care, this is all provincially mandated free coverage you could have access to.

Of course the degree to which you are injured impacts the amount of resources available to you. But, at a minimum, you could receive $3,500 in medical treatment benefits.

Instead of accessing this $3,500 in treatment, I see cyclists who have been hit, cut off, or involved in non-life-threatening crashes with cars do nothing. Despite suffering soft tissue injuries such whip lash, a strained wrist, sore back, bruised knee, etc. Those injured people often think that since they are not seriously injured, it will not be possible to sue the driver for their pain and suffering.

Well, you may not be able to sue, but you could still get $3,500 in physiotherapy and massage benefits.

The reason you cannot sue is because these “minor injuries” are covered by no fault Accident Benefits in Ontario. Your right to sue has been taken away and replaced with automatic coverage. The hope is that by contributing $3,500 to your recovery, you will get back on your feet rather than having to go months without help as you fight for support in court.

Of course you should always check with a lawyer to see what category your injuries fall into and whether it would be a good idea to sue the driver for injuring you.

As some of you may know, I was recently hit by a right turning car in a bike lane in Toronto’s East end. Immediately, I took down all the driver’s information. I knew that his car insurance Accident Benefits coverage could apply to me and assist in whatever my recovery would be. Next, I went to the hospital. After I was assessed medically, I requested an Accident Benefits application package from the car insurer (in this case it was from my car insurer - if you have insurance, your own auto insurance coverage applies even if the driver was at fault).

I got help from Well Calm Therauptic Care and Massage to assess my injuries and determine my treatment needs (in conjunction with my doctors' diagnoses). Well Calm helped me apply for Accident Benefits. They determined the physiotherapy and massage treatment plan I would need to assist in my recovery.

Without any court process, or having to sue anyone. No one argued that this was my fault (it was not). With the Accident Benefits regime I now have access to treatment twice a week for several weeks. It is so important, even with minor injuries to take time to heal and recover. That means when you are ready, seeking treatment recommendations from your doctor and other treatment providers (physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, etc.) and following it.

Now aside from my physical injuries, I did not think I had any other crash related side effects. However, about two weeks after the crash I started noticing that I had a real fear and anxiety around cycling. I was stressed and emotionally down. Having been through trauma myself and having worked with victims of crashes and violence I realized that these were trauma related mental health symptoms and associated crash related mental health barriers. Unfortunately, I see this all the time with my clients who have been hit by cars while cycling.

Being involved in a crash with a fast moving ton of steel is traumatizing! Being hit by a car can really impact your thoughts and feelings.

Thankfully, treatment for these road phobias and crash related mental health issues there is also coverage under the Accident Benefits regime. I approached a psychotherapist I have worked with and who has experience with these kinds of crash related mental health conditions. He helped me add psychotherapy sessions to my Accident Benefits application.

Do not ignore the signs of illness or injury, whether physical or mental. Seek medical attention no matter how minor you think your injuries may be.

From my perspective, it makes sense that most cyclists move past crashes and injuries unaware of the Accident Benefits available to them. We bike so we do not have to drive. We bike because often a car is a luxury. Many of us do not pay for or think about car insurance coverage on our bikes.

If you do not have a car or car insurance coverage, which most of us do not, you would never know about how Accident Benefits coverage could help you as an injured cyclist. Unsurprisingly the province and insurance industry has not really advertised this coverage. However, I hope I have shed some light on what your rights are and what benefits you are entitled to.

I will be accessing Accident Benefits after my crash and so should you.

Ride safe friends.

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