Accidents, Injuries and Suing

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Auto Insurance

Am I required to have automobile insurance?

Yes. It is an offence under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act to drive without insurance. In addition, drivers must provide a Statement of Insurance to the Registry of Motor Vehicles when registering or renewing a vehicle registration.

Mandatory types of automobile insurance coverage

Nova Scotia drivers must have:
1) third party liability coverage;
2) accident benefits coverage, and;
3) uninsured and unidentified drivers coverage.
These three types of automobile insurance coverage are mandatory in Nova Scotia. They are found in sections A, B, and D, respectively, of your automobile insurance policy.

Third party liability coverage

Third party liability coverage, also called PLPD, insures you if you injure someone, cause someone's death, or damage someone else's property in a motor vehicle accident. You must have at least $500,000 of third party liability coverage, although it is common to have $1,000,000 of coverage. Third party liability coverage is found in section A of a standard automobile insurance policy.

Accident benefits

Accident benefits, also called 'section B' or no-fault benefits, provide coverage if you and/or passengers are injured in a motor vehicle accident. They include medical and rehabilitation expenses, death and funeral benefits, and loss of income. Accident benefits are no-fault. This means you are generally entitled to accident benefits even if you caused the accident. There are some important limitations. For example, if you are convicted of impaired driving in connection with the accident, or if you were not licensed to drive, you would be denied accident benefits. However, any passenger injured would still be able to make a claim.

What accident benefits cover

Accident benefits cover:
1) reasonable medical and rehabilitation expenses up to a maximum of $50,000 per person;
2) funeral expenses up to $2,500, and some death benefits;
3) loss of income, generally at the rate of $250 per week if you were working at the date of the accident.

The above accident benefit amounts apply to any crash that happened on or after April 1, 2012. Benefit amounts for a crash before April 1, 2012 are lower:  maximum $25,000 per person medical and rehabilitation expenses; $1,000 funeral expenses; $140 per week loss of income.

Uninsured and unidentified driver insurance coverage

If an unidentified driver, or a driver without insurance, injures you or damages your vehicle you may make a claim under the uninsured and unidentified driver section of your own automobile insurance policy. This is section D of a standard automobile insurance policy.

Can my insurer increase my premiums if I get in an accident, but pay the costs of the damages myself?

You must report collisions to your insurance company even if you decide to cover the cost of damages yourself.

Previously, insurers could increase premiums when a collision was reported even if no claim had been made and the insured had covered the cost of damages themselves. Changes to the law that came into effect April 1, 2012 mean Nova Scotia drivers can now report a collision to their insurer without increasing their insurance premiums, if no insurance claim is made and they cover any damages arising from the crash themselves.

Types of optional automobile insurance coverage

Collision and comprehensive coverage, or section C in a standard insurance policy, is optional. Collision insurance covers damage to your vehicle from an accident, even if you are at fault for the accident. Comprehensive insurance covers loss or damage to your vehicle if you hit an animal, or if your vehicle is stolen, vandalized, damaged in a fire.
Further, you may choose to get additional section B benefits coverage.

More information

For more insurance information you may wish to contact:

  • the Insurance Bureau of Canada's Information Centre at 1.800.565.7189 ext. 227 or visit its website at www.ibc.ca. The Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national trade association of private insurance companies;

  • Nova Scotia's Office of the Superintendant of Insurance at 902.424.6331 or online at novascotia.ca/finance (under 'Insurance').  The Office of the Superintendant of Insurance regulates Nova Scotia's insurance industry and enforces the Insurance Act
  • General Insurance OmbudService at 1.877.225.0446 or visit its website at giocanada.org.  The General Insurance OmbudService is an independent dispute resolution service that helps Canadian consumers resolve disputes or concerns with their home, auto or business insurers;
  • the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada at 1-866-461-FCAC (3222) or visit its website at fcac-acfc.gc.ca.  The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada  is an independent body which provides consumer information on financial services and products, and also monitors and supervises federally incorporated or registered insurance companies.

Last reviewed: August 2017

Lost Income from Motor Accident

I was injured in a motor vehicle accident and now I can't work. How can I recover that lost income?

You can make a claim for lost income under the no-fault accident benefits section of your own automobile insurance policy. These are also called section B accident benefits. You can claim these benefits no matter who was at fault for the accident. To make a claim contact the insurance company as soon as possible. An insurance adjuster will be appointed to process your claim. You should talk with a lawyer before you meet with the adjuster. You may be asked to have a medical examination and to sign a release form before any benefits are paid to you. This form may limit your legal options down the road, so read it carefully and take it to a lawyer before you sign it. The insurance company will also require that you complete a proof of loss statement. If another driven caused the accident, you may be able to claim against his or her insurance. We'll talk more about this later.

How much money can I expect from the no-fault accident benefits for lost income?

You can get reimbursed for lost income if you were working at the time of the accident, and have been off work for at least 7 days. Also, if you are between the ages of 18-65 and have worked for six of the previous 12 months before the accident, you could also qualify for income replacement. The rate is generally 80% of your gross weekly income, to a maximum of $250 per week (as of April 1, 2012 and after). Lost income benefits from your automobile insurer will be reduced by the amount of money you get, or could get for your income loss, from other sources such as Employment Insurance or a workplace disability insurance plan. No-fault benefits for lost income will continue as long as you can show that your injuries prevent you from doing the essential duties of your usual work, generally up to a maximum period of 2 years. After two years you can only get benefits if you cannot do any type of work at all.

If the other driver was at fault, you can claim the full amount of lost wages from his or her insurance.

Are there any other restrictions on getting section B benefits?

Yes. For example, a driver who is convicted of an alcohol-related driving offence connected to the accident, or who was not properly licenced or qualified to drive the vehicle when the accident occurred, will not be eligible for these no-fault benefits. You should talk to a lawyer if you are denied section B accident benefits.

Do passengers and pedestrians also have access to no-fault accident benefits?

Yes, passengers can file a claim under the policy of the car they were in. Pedestrians can file a claim under the policy of the car that struck them.

Is there another way for me to recover lost income?

If someone else besides you is found to have been at least partly at fault in causing the accident, you can seek compensation from his or her insurance company. You may be able to negotiate a settlement, but if not, you may have to hire a lawyer and start a lawsuit. For collisions after November 1, 2003 such a lawsuit should be started within 3 years from the date of the accident. In some cases, such as those involving government employees, this period may be shorter. If you are awarded damages, the court may deduct any no-fault accident benefits that you received. You may also have disability benefits available in your own personal insurance coverage.

If my injury happened at work, is this process any different?

Yes, most work-related injuries are covered by the Workers' Compensation Board under the Workers' Compensation Act. You may not have to deal with anyone's insurance company unless you elect to do so instead of accepting workers' compensation benefits. 

Last reviewed: April 2017

Medical Malpractice & Complaints

I don't think my doctor is doing a very good job, and I don't trust the doctor's diagnosis, what can I do?

When dealing with an important health issue, it may be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor. If the conduct of your doctor seems improper, you may file a written complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. The usual process is for the College to send a copy of your complaint to your doctor, who then has 30 days to respond. In most circumstances you will be provided with a copy of the doctor's response. The College of Physicians and Surgeons will then investigate your complaint and, depending on their findings, may dismiss the complaint, counsel and/or caution the doctor, offer mediation, require the doctor to undergo an assessment, or attempt to resolve the matter with a formal hearing. You can contact the College's Professional Conduct Department at 902-422-5823 or 1-877-282-7767. Please note that the College of Physicians and Surgeons does not deal with medical malpractice or negligence claims - those are dealt with by the civil courts.

Can I sue my doctor for making a mistake?

Medical professionals are highly trained, but they may still make mistakes. Not all mistakes will result in liability. As a general rule, the courts will expect your doctor to meet the same standards as other similarly trained professionals in the same area. For example, the standards expected of a specialist in a hospital may be higher than those expected of a general practitioner in a rural clinic. Therefore, to be successful in court, you and your lawyer will need to show that your doctor's actions were below the standards for comparable doctors. Suing can be a long and complicated process. You should get legal advice before you decide what to do.

After surgery I was told that there were unexpected complications, shouldn't the doctor have warned me and can I sue for this?

It may not necessarily be malpractice if a treatment or surgery does not go as well as expected. Sometimes the body reacts to treatment in an unexpected way, or there are complications that a fully competent doctor would not have foreseen. Your lawyer's research will investigate whether your doctor should have been aware of the risks and whether you should have been warned. Based on this research, your lawyer can advise you on the chances for a successful lawsuit.

Will I be able to get copies of my medical records to support my complaint or lawsuit?

Yes, while your medical records are the property of the doctor or facility which provided the health care, you and your lawyer are legally entitled to copies. Click here for information about access to personal health records under Nova Scotia's Personal Health Information Act.

Is there a time limit for suing a health care professional?

According to a Nova Scotia law called the Limitation of Actions Act, you have two years to start a civil lawsuit, from the date you "discover" that you have a claim. If you are under 19 years of age or of unsound mind, then the two-year period starts from the time that you reach 19 or when you become mentally competent. In the meantime, however, your parent or guardian may sue on your behalf. The two-year limit also applies if you want to sue a healthcare professional other than a doctor, such as nurses.   You'll find more information about time limits for suing in Nova Scotia Department of Justice publication on the Limitation of Actions law.

If I received medical treatment outside of Nova Scotia, can I sue in a Nova Scotia court?

Most likely you will have to sue the doctor where the medical services were provided. However, under some circumstances, the courts have allowed patients to file their lawsuit within their home province. This is an issue you will need to discuss with your lawyer.

Can I sue a doctor who tried to help me at the scene of an accident?

Under Nova Scotia's Medical Act a doctor who voluntarily provides emergency first aid cannot be sued. The only exception to this is where the doctor's act or failure to act would constitute negligence when compared to another doctor of 'ordinary experience, learning and skill.'

Last reviewed: August 2017

Personal Injury Claims

What is a personal injury?

A personal injury can include physical injury, sickness or disease, psychological and emotional injury.

How much will my claim be worth?

Compensation is based on the difference between your life before and after the accident. Therefore, how much compensation you may receive will vary according to the seriousness of your injury. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to include some or all of the following in your claim: pain and suffering including loss of enjoyment of life, loss of income for missed work, loss of future income if your injury will interfere with working, no longer being able to perform daily household tasks and any out of pocket expenses, such as medical and travel bills and prescriptions. It is important that you get legal advice about your particular circumstances.

Does it matter where the accident occurred?

It might. For example, if the accident was related to your employment, the Workers' Compensation Act provides for a compensation program that will address your financial, medical and rehabilitative needs. Under Workers' Compensation, you don't have to prove that anyone else was at fault in order to receive benefits.

You don't need a lawyer to file a Workers' Compensation claim. For more information about Workers' Compensation, contact the Workers Compensation Board listed under 'Labour' in the government section of the telephone book, or call 1.800.870.3331 in the Halifax Regional Municipality or 1.800.880.0003 in the Sydney area, or visit their website at http://www.wcb.ns.ca

Does it matter who was at fault?

In some cases, this is very important. If someone else's negligence caused your injury, in most cases you can sue them for damages. However, if your own behaviour contributed to the accident, the amount of compensation you receive might be less than it would have been had you been a completely innocent by-stander. If your injury was simply an "act of nature", that is, it cannot be attributed to any person, then you may have to rely on your own accident insurance.

If I'm injured in a motor vehicle accident, what effect would the cap on general damages have on me?

The general damages cap limits pain and suffering awards for minor injuries.

There are two cap time periods. Neither affects claims for other types of compensation, such as lost income and medical expenses, which are in addition to the general damages cap compensation. 

The first applies to motor vehicle accidents that happened on or after November 1, 2003 and up to April 27, 2010. Pain and suffering awards for minor injuries during this period are limited to $2,500.   

Nova Scotia's Insurance Act defines a 'minor injury' in this cap period as a personal injury that:

a) does not result in a permanent serious disfigurement;
b) does not result in a permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature; OR
c) resolves within 12 months following the accident.

For motor vehicle accidents which occurred on or after April 28, 2010 the general damages cap has risen to $8,486 (2017- indexed to inflation; 2016 - $8,385) and now only applies to sprains, strains and certain types of whiplash and not broken bones, etc.

The legal definition of a minor injury is complicated. It is therefore very important that you speak with a lawyer about your particular situation.

Are there other sources of compensation for an injury?

Other potential sources include Employment Insurance sick benefits, Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, short term disability and long term disability benefits under a group plan that you may have through your employer, provincial income assistance, and benefits which are included in motor vehicle insurance policies.

Last reviewed: April 2017

Slip and Fall

Law that applies to a slip and fall

Nova Scotia's Occupiers' Liability Act, as well as principles established in court cases, apply to most slip and fall injuries. This Act says that an occupier has a duty to see that each person entering on the premises is reasonably safe while there. Almost all workplace injuries are covered under the Workers' Compensation Act.

Who is an occupier?

A. An occupier is a property owner and/or operator. More specifically, Nova Scotia's Occupiers' Liability Actsays that an 'occupier' includes:
i) a person who is in physical possession of the premises; or
ii) a person who is responsible for, and has control over, the condition of or activities on the premises, or over people allowed to enter the premises.
' Premises' include, among other things, land and buildings, water, ships and vessels, fixed structures, etc.
Most business and home insurance policy include a section that covers occupiers' liability.

Occupier's duty of care

A. The duty of care requires an occupier take reasonable care to prevent injuries to visitors from unusual dangers that the occupier knows about, or should have known about. This duty applies to the condition of the premises and activities on the premises, and to the conduct of third parties on the premises.

I slipped and fell on someone else's property. I hurt my back. Does the property owner have to compensate me for my injuries?

Maybe. The answer depends on the specific circumstances of the accident, and particularly whether the property owner satisfied its duty to take reasonable steps to protect facility users. For example, if the stairwell was poorly lit and you slipped on a broken step, and the owner had not taken reasonable care to repair the step and improve the lighting in the stairwell, they might be financially responsible for your injuries.

 

Will I have to go to court?

Usually you only go to court if you and the occupier or the occupier's insurance company cannot agree on liability and/or the amount of compensation.

What factors does the court consider in deciding if an occupier satisfied his or her duty of care to the injured person?

Factors a court would consider include :

  • whether the occupier knew, or ought to have known, that the person was on the premises
  • the injured person's ability to appreciate the danger. For example, there is a higher duty to protect children
  • the reason the person was on the premises. For example, was the person invited or trespassing or intending to commit a crime on the property
  • any efforts the occupier made to warn people about the danger, or to discourage people from running the risk. For example, was the property or the danger fenced or were there warning signs
  • whether, under the circumstances, the occupier should reasonably have been expected to provide protection against the risk.

The Occupiers' Liability Act also sets out a number of circumstances when a person entering certain types of premises is deemed to assume a greater degree of risk.

Last reviewed: April 2017