Thousands of drivers take to the roads of Ontario every day and while all drivers are required to be insured, many Canadians drive while uninsured. When these drivers are involved in a car accident, they place a financial burden on all Ontario residents.
Approximately 2,100 uninsured vehicles are involved in car accidents every year on the roads of Ontario. These collisions are costly and sometimes fatal. Though there are penalties for driving a vehicle without insurance, the penalties do not seem to be enough to serve as a deterrent. This is likely because uninsured drivers seem to get a free ride in Ontario as they are not easily caught and the repercussions are relatively minimal.
One of the major reasons for the epidemic of uninsured drivers is that the police are ill equipped to handle the problem. More than a decade ago, Ontario’s Uninsured Vehicle project was announced to the public and was meant to crack down on the problem of uninsured drivers. However, the program only allows for verification of insurance annually at the time a licence plate is renewed. This proves to be relatively ineffective at catching the thousands of uninsured drivers on Ontario roads throughout the rest of the year.
By contrast, in Texas and many other states, police officers have access to electronic databases at routine traffic stops to verify insurance instantly. Unfortunately, the Ontario government is unable to afford a more effective system that the police have asked for, in order to adequately equip them to handle uninsured drivers. Without this type of tool for Ontario law enforcement officers, uninsured vehicles roam our streets and highways without being held accountable. Also, fraud artists are producing fake insurance cards that are not easily detectable by the police.
Society's Cost of Uninsured Drivers
Everyone pays for the cost of uninsured drivers. Insurance premiums are higher due to uninsured drivers and properly insured drivers often pay for the illegal actions of the uninsured. According to Mumby Insurance Brokers in Waterloo, insured vehicle owners pay an extra $11.50 per year per vehicle. This covers the damage caused by uninsured vehicles when involved in an accident. A portion of this money goes to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Claims Fund to cover claims for those who have been injured by an uninsured vehicle. Approximately $250 million of government funds have contributed to cover damages done by uninsured drivers since 1996. An estimated 400,000 vehicles are on Ontario roads without insurance.
It is mandatory, in every province and territory, to have insurance when driving in Canada. Regardless of whether or not the consequences are enough to deter uninsured drivers, there are punitive measures in place. Each province and territory handles the uninsured in a different way so it is no surprise that the fines vary throughout Canada. Ontario’s fines are a minimum of $5,000, one of the highest fines in the country. British Columbia fines uninsured drivers a minimum of $598 and Alberta fines a minimum of $2,875.
Unfortunately, many drivers are willing to accept the risk of being caught and fined. Multiple offences of uninsured driving increases the fines significantly. On top of the fines, if an uninsured driver is found at fault in causing a car accident and someone is injured in the accident, then the uninsured driver can expect to be found liable for the losses and damages caused. Personal injury cases commonly arise out of automobile accidents involving both insured and uninsured drivers.
Car accidents with an uninsured drivers
Insured drivers who are hit by uninsured drivers are covered under the “no fault” statutory accident benefits of their motor vehicle insurance policy. Pedestrians and cyclists that do not have insurance must seek coverage under Ontario’s government claims fund (see below). Fortunately, all auto policies in Ontario include coverage for damages caused by both insured and uninsured drivers. Insured drivers are not afforded the option to “opt out” of this coverage because it is automatically included in your car insurance policy. This means that if you are involved in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver, you will be covered under your insurance. The maximum amount that can be paid out for a plaintiff’s claim for damages is $200,000 for unidentified motorist coverage and uninsured motorist coverage. This is significantly less than the maximum pay out for most auto insurance policies.
Uninsured drivers do not have the same ability to sue. Under Ontario’s Insurance Act, an uninsured driver who was injured in a motor vehicle accident cannot sue for injury compensation. Many people believe that this is policy is fair for the majority of Ontario drivers who contribute to car insurance funding in this province.
It is possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable uninsured driver for injuries and damages. If all parties involved in an accident lack insurance coverage, accident victims still have access to coverage for their damages, through Ontario's Motor Vehicle Claims Fund. The MVCF compensates victims of uninsured drivers in a car accident up to a maximum of $200,000 in damages including property damage, for example, if an uninsured pedestrian is hit by an uninsured driver. This coverage is only available to residents of Ontario for accidents that occured within the province. The MVCF is considered to be the last option when there is no insurance to cover damages.
There is certainly room for improvement with respect to Ontario's handling of the problem of uninsured drivers. More efforts and resources need to go into punitive actions against the uninsured. Also, better policing and deterance of uninsured drivers can be effected if police are provided direct access to an integrated database that records a driver's insurance history, allowing this information to be readily available to police at routine traffic stops.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured driver, call an experienced Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) car accident attorney to learn about the optimal courses of action to receive compensation for your losses.