Protect Yourself Against Under-Insured Drivers

If someone hurts you in a car accident, they might have insufficient insurance – or no insurance at all – to compensate you for your injuries.

In BC, drivers are legally required to buy liability coverage from ICBC to pay for the injuries for anyone they hurt in a car accident. Under the Basic Autoplan package, the standard minimum is $200,000.

But if you’re seriously injured, you may be entitled to much more than that. Say you’re in hospital for a month, then have to recuperate at home for six months, and then need to scale back at work indefinitely when you do return or can’t work at all. You could have a very significant loss of income claim, not to mention other losses like pain and suffering.

With your Basic Autoplan package, you automatically get up to $1 million of Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) – meaning your insurance (subject to certain deductibles) will pay any balance up to $1 million, if the other driver only has the $200,000 liability coverage and your claim exceeds that liability limit.

But for a very modest sum – an extra $25 – you can increase your protection to $2 million. You can buy what’s called Excess Underinsured Motorist Protection. It’s a good deal, considering the benefits and peace of mind you receive.

It covers you, plus any passengers with you, when driving your own vehicle. It also covers you no matter what vehicle you’re driving at the time – so you’re covered if you happen to be driving your husband’s car when involved in the accident. And it covers members of your household riding in any vehicle that they don’t own. You also don’t have to be in a car to be covered – you get the same protection if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist mowed down by a vehicle.

Your Excess UMP (and UMP) coverage also applies throughout Canada and the US, so if you’re hurt in an accident in Seattle, you’re still covered.

When you go to buy your Autoplan, make sure to ask for “Excess UMP.” The agent won’t automatically offer it; you must ask for it.

By the same token, you may want to buy extra liability insurance to cover you if you’re the one responsible for an accident where someone else is hurt. If you only have the minimum $200,000 liability coverage, you could be on the hook for much more if the person you hurt suffers serious injuries. Say they receive a court judgment against you for $500,000. Through ICBC, they could come after your house and other property or investments you own to help pay the $300,000 balance of the judgment.

To protect you in these circumstances, ICBC offers Extended Third Party Legal Liability insurance, where you can buy up to $5 million worth of coverage.

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to make use of your Extra UMP or Extended Third Party Legal Liability coverage. Of course, if you are hurt in an accident, you should see a lawyer, even if your injuries are minor. Sometimes even minor injuries can bother you for some time or flare up after you think they’re resolved. A lawyer can advise you about the value of your claim and your insurance coverage, protect your interests when negotiating with ICBC, and help you receive a fair settlement in the circumstances.


Written by Janice and George Mucalov, LL.B.s with contribution by COBBETT & COTTON. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please contact COBBETT & COTTON for legal advice concerning your particular case. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer. “You and the Law” is a registered trade-mark. ©Janice and George Mucalov.

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