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Car Accident Season is Upon us - Are You Adequately Insured?

Date: November 7, 2012
Author: Darren Paulsen

With colder, more unpredictable weather moving in, now it’s even more important for motorists in Kamloops and the B.C. Interior to consider whether they are carrying adequate insurance. If you are an innocent driver or passenger in a motor vehicle accident, you have the option of making a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the accident. In British Columbia licensed vehicles must carry a minimum of $200,000.00 in third-party liability insurance. If you are the only person injured in the accident and your injuries are relatively minor, it is likely you will be fully compensated for your injuries even if the at-fault party is only carrying a minimum third-party liability coverage. If, however, your injuries are significant and/or you are one of several individuals injured by an at-fault motorist the minimum $200,000.00 in third-party liability coverage may not be adequate to properly compensate you for your injuries.

Fortunately British Columbia has a program called Under-Insured Motorist Protection (“UMP”). UMP is statutory program which allows for compensation to injured parties in situations where the at-fault driver is not carrying adequate insurance, or is not carrying insurance at all. UMP is a policy of additional insurance that you can purchase to protect you in case of serious injuries from a motor vehicle accident. It also protects the other residents of your household.

Everyone in your household is covered for injury or death under circumstances such as:
  • When driving or riding in a BC insured motor vehicle;
  • When you are a passenger in a bus or taxi; or
  • When you are a pedestrian or cyclist.

It is also worth noting that UMP coverage may protect you or your family members if you are injured while driving in the United States. In the United States drivers are often only required to carry very low levels of insurance. Your own UMP coverage may insure you against under-insured motorists in the United States as well.

Drivers in British Columbia automatically get $1,000,000.00 of UMP coverage under their standard insurance policies, even if they are only insuring their vehicle for the minimum third-party liability limits of $200,000.00. In the event of a serious accident UMP will pay up to $1,000,000.00 from your own policy towards the cost of the injury claim after the crash.

Although $1,000,000.00 is a significant sum of money, it still may not be enough to ensure full compensation for your injuries. As an example, assume you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by an impaired driver. Now assume that the injuries you sustained caused you significant pain and suffering and resulted in a prolonged absence from your employment, such that your personal injury claim totals $350,000.00. If the at-fault driver only has a statutory minimum of $200,000.00 in insurance, your UMP policy will pay the remainder of your claim (i.e. $150,000.00 less deductibles).

If you are severely injured, or if you are just one of a number of people injured in a significant motor vehicle accident, it is not hard to imagine the total damages flowing from the motor vehicle accident exceeding $1,000,000.00. MJB Lawyers have been involved in a number of claims where the damages have exceeded $1,000.000.00. For this reason we urge you to consider purchasing additional UMP coverage to protect you and your family and ensure that you are adequately insured.

In British Columbia you can purchase excess UMP coverage to boost your coverage to $2,000,000. Excess UMP coverage can generally be purchased wherever you buy your ICBC insurance for a premium of approximately $25.00. If you or a loved one has the misfortune of being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, this may be the best $25.00 you have ever spent. So, as you mount your winter tires and top-up your anti-freeze, why not check your ICBC insurance policy as well.

Finally, UMP is a last line of insurance coverage. ICBC can insist that you exhaust all steps to recover against the driver at fault before you can access your UMP policy. This can include forcing you to sue the at-fault driver and obtain a judgment. There are also a number of expenses that ICBC may be entitled to deduct from UMP. Once you obtain judgment, you may have to go to arbitration to determine the amount you are entitled to under your UMP policy. As you can see, the UMP program can be difficult to negotiate for people not familiar with it. That’s why we strongly urge you to seek legal advise before dealing with ICBC on UMP issues and motor vehicle accident issues in general. At MJB Lawyers, our team has the knowledge and experience to help you through these difficult issues.