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Suing a Family Member or Friend After a Car Accident

Getting hurt in a motor vehicle accident is a stressful experience. A whole other level of stress is added to the situation when the motor vehicle accident was caused by a friend or loved one. You may feel as though you have to choose between getting the compensation you need and preserving your relationship with the person responsible for the car accident. 

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Reluctance to sue a family member or friend is completely understandable. However, any Ontario motor vehicle accident lawyer will tell you that these types of lawsuits are extremely common and that in reality, your claim is against the insurance company. Essentially, the insurance company steps into your loved one’s shoes to defend and pay the claim. 

Read on to gain an understanding of the auto insurance claims process and why it is sometimes necessary—and completely appropriate—to file a personal injury lawsuit against a friend or family member.  

The truth about personal injury lawsuits against loved ones 

Bringing a lawsuit against a friend or family member after a car accident is nowhere near as bad as it sounds. In fact, it’s very common (e.g., you are a passenger in a car driven by your spouse, parent, child, best friend, etc. that runs a yellow light and is involved in a collision). Here are the key points to know about personal injury lawsuits against friends or loved ones who have valid third-party liability auto insurance coverage in place:  

  • The lawsuit is against your friend or family member in name only. If your loved one was wholly or even just partly at fault for the car accident, your lawsuit is legally required to name them as a defendant. But that is simply a procedural requirement. In reality, the insurance company is the one being sued and it is responsible for handling all the details.  

  • In response to your lawsuit, the insurance company will choose a motor vehicle accident lawyer to defend the claim. The insurance company pays that lawyer’s bills, so your loved one won’t be out of pocket.  

  • The insurance company and the lawyer it hired decide if they are going to settle the claim, and if so, for how much. Your friend or family member will have very little involvement, beyond providing their testimony about how the accident occurred.  

  • Your loved one will not have any personal financial exposure to pay the award of damages, so long as you restrict your claim to the third-party liability limits of your loved one’s auto insurance policy. For example, if they have $1,000,000 policy limits, you can agree through their motor vehicle accident lawyer to limit your claim to the policy limits in exchange for an admission of liability on the part of the insurance company.  

  • If your loved one’s car insurance premiums increase, it is because of the at-fault car accident itself, not because of your lawsuit or anything you did. 

  • Whether your lawsuit is settled by negotiation or resolved after a trial, it’s the insurance company that pays your settlement or damage award. Your friend or family member is not personally responsible for paying monetary compensation to you.  

You must protect your own needs and get financial support to help you cope 

It may be necessary to sue a loved one to get full compensation for your injuries and losses, especially if you were severely injured as a result of the car accident. No-fault accident benefits (which you are entitled to claim regardless of who caused the car accident, and which are geared toward supporting you during the recovery process) may not be sufficient to cover your losses if you sustained “permanent, serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function.”  

It’s also important to know that no-fault accident benefits do not cover certain types of damages, such as future medical expenses, future wage losses/loss of earning capacity, and damages for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. You must bring a personal injury lawsuit (also called a “tort claim” or “civil claim”) to get those types of damages in Ontario. To find out if you should bring a personal injury lawsuit, reach out to our Sault Ste. Marie law firm today. An experienced personal injury lawyer at our firm can review your case, give an opinion on what your claim is likely worth, and explain your legal options for securing compensation.  

Get trusted advice from a motor vehicle accident lawyer 

At our Sault St. Marie law firm, we have commenced hundreds of actions on behalf of innocent accident victims naming their friends, parents, children, siblings, and other loved ones as defendants. We at Feifel Gualazzi understand how delicate these situations can be. 

We suggest that our clients speak with their friend or loved one who must be named in advance of the lawsuit. We offer to meet with that person, along with their legal representative, to explain the ins and outs of the legal process and to lay to rest any fears they may have about losing their home or their assets. In our experience, those steps can take the sting out of the legal process and smooth over tensions that could otherwise damage important relationships.   

Contact us at our Sault Ste. Marie law firm for a free case evaluation and to learn how we can help you navigate Ontario’s motor vehicle accident claims process. 


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