Cyclists and motorcyclists know that two wheels can be more fun than four. Few things in life compare with the feeling of banking into a long curve on a sunny spring day. There is a unique perspective being part of the scenery and a joy in the knowledge that your vehicle’s contact with the road is so tenuous. However, experienced riders know that these joys don’t come without risk. The freedom and maneuverability which are the essence of the two-wheel experience can mean potential injuries sustained in a crash are much more difficult to recover from than for occupants of an automobile.
As the days get longer and warmer and the open road beckons, it is worth taking a few moments to make sure that your safety net is in good repair.
In the case of a motorcycle, it is probably the insurance coverage provided by the standard Ontario motor vehicle owner’s policy. That coverage responds to claims brought against you by people injured as the result of your actions and contains coverage for medical and rehabilitation treatment made necessary if you are injured as the result of a crash. This coverage after is provided on a “no fault” basis and is called the Statutory Accident Benefit (SABs).
You will need to understand that not all SABs are the same. In June 2016, the legislature of Ontario dramatically reduced standard benefits available in Ontario and made the tests for coverage much more stringent. In the case of serious injury (catastrophic cases), the medical & rehabilitation benefits and attendant care benefits have been reduced from a total of $2,000,000 to a combined total of $1,000,000. Housekeeping benefits have been reduced and the threshold for entitlement to the highest level of benefit has been considerably tightened. The rationale for these changes is that it will reduce the cost of automobile insurance In fact; this has not happened and is unlikely to happen as a result of these changes. The real results are the changes significantly reduce the financial assistance available to seriously injured riders during their acute recovery period and, in the worse cases, for long term care.
The current government announced that it intends to restore SABs limits to their previous level, but for now the resources available to you in the event of a serious injury are limited.
The problem facing cyclists is a bit more complicated. If you are hit by an automobile while you are riding your bicycle you may be eligible for no fault (SABs) coverage from the owner of the vehicle or your own automobile insurance policy. The amount of this coverage will depend on whether the policies have been upgraded to restore the medical and rehabilitation benefits and attendant care benefits to their pre-June 2016 levels.
How can you prepare?
The first and most obvious step is to sit down with your insurance broker.
- Review your insurance coverage. Sit down with an insurance professional who is well-equipped to discuss strategies to improve your safety net.
- Purchase optional coverage which will restore your no fault accident benefit resources to the amounts that were available before the legislated changes. This relatively low cost strategy will provide a significant increase in the assistance available to you and your family in the case of a serious accident.
- Find an insurer that has the right philosophy – one designed to resolve cases and help its insureds rather than create conflict – will help you make those decisions.
A more challenging problem results from a bicycle accident which does not involve an automobile – or more importantly automobile insurance. In that case, you will be dependent on the resources available through OHIP unless you have supplementary coverage through your employer. In the absence of coverage through your employer, there is a very basic plan available through Cycling Canada which will provide coverage for a very modest premium ($50.00 or $100.00 depending on the level selected).
Craig Brown is one of just 14 plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers in Ontario recognized as an expert in personal injury litigation in every available peer-reviewed publication: The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory, The Best Lawyers™ in Canada and Martindale-Hubbell®, as a Certified Specialist in Civil Litigation by the Law Society of Ontario and as a partner at a Top 10 Personal Injury Law Firm in Canada as acknowledged by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.