Fortunately in British Columbia, if you have ICBC coverage, you have wage loss benefits available to you. The downside is that these benefits may not fully replace your income when you need it. In many cases, full wage loss is not reimbursed until a personal injury claim is resolved, which can take years.
You do not choose to get in a car accident, and once one occurs you have no choice but to move through the recovery process. One aspect of recovery that many people do not consider is the financial recovery. As you lie in the hospital or at home in the comfort of your bed, it is difficult to focus on your physical healing when you are concerned with missed work days, limited to no incoming paychecks, and bills that you simply cannot cover.
Just calling your employer to inform them that you are in the hospital or are injured and cannot return to work for an undefined period of time can bring on intense anxiety and pressure. As the days tick by and you are unable to work, the financial strain only increases. Even if you are able to work with certain restrictions, the worry that those limitations will cost your job can be overwhelming.
Family members and friends may be able to help sustain your financial responsibilities in the short term, but you cannot expect others to cover all of your bills and other financial needs if you are faced with a long-term recovery or permanent disability.
The solution (or part solution) to this painful financial recovery is income replacement. You basically need to find ways of making money that are compatible with your physical condition. Hopefully you will not need to find permanent replacements for your income, but you may find that some of these income recovery strategies do fit you for the long term.
The worst thing you can do for yourself is sit back and throw your hands in the air. You have to take responsibility for your financial recovery, no matter what obstacles your physical recovery or limitations may present.
ICBC Wage Loss Benefits
You never know when an accident is going to occur, which is why it is so important to pay into short and long term disability policies. You cannot sign up for these policies after the fact, so this is an investment that you have to make before something tragic takes place. The benefit to paying into these policies is they pay you at least a portion of your wages if you are in an accident that leaves you unable to work. You basically continue to get paid while recovering in the hospital or at home.
Whether you receive all of your lost wages or just a portion of those wages is determined by the terms of your policy. If you have short and/or long term disability insurance, or you are covered through someone else’s insurance, you need to file a claim shortly after your accident. You will get the most benefit if you are approved to start receiving this type of replacement income as soon as you are eligible.
You will have to apply to start receiving these benefits, and that will likely require your doctor to fill out some paperwork to prove your injuries or disabilities. If you are not familiar with the terms of your policy, ask your human resources department for information or visit the insurance provider’s website to learn about the claims process and determine if you are eligible for benefits.
It can take a month or sometimes longer for this type of benefit to kick in and start arriving in your bank account, and it won’t be enough in most cases to completely fund your financial recovery. You will need to explore other forms of income replacement even if you have these benefits.
Canadian Employment Insurance
Approval for Canadian Employment Insurance tends to be quick, but you will have to wait two weeks before your benefits kick in. You won’t be paid as much as you were paid while working, but every little bit counts when you are unable to financially care for yourself. If you receive a payout for your injuries from your accident claim, then you will be expected to repay the money obtained through the Employment Insurance program.
Not everyone is approved for Canadian Employment Insurance. If you are denied, make sure to ask for the decision in writing including the reasons for denial. Keep a copy of this, but make sure to give a copy to your lawyer as well.
You can learn more about this income replacement option and apply directly from this website: www1.servicecanada.gc.ca/en/ei/menu/eihome.shtml.
ICBC Benefits (Part 7 Benefits)
You may qualify for wage loss benefits from ICBC, or part 7 benefits, if you do not have private wage loss insurance and do not qualify for Canadian Employment Insurance. You may also receive benefits from ICBC for the first two weeks after your injury that Canadian Employment Insurance refuses to cover. These benefits are temporary, but again, every little bit counts.
You have to file a claim with ICBC to receive benefits, and in most cases you will need an application form known as the CL22. This form allows you to file for benefits that come under your insurance policy. They are known as part 7 benefits.
You will be required to speak with an ICBC adjuster. Think of the adjuster as an employer, and remember their job is to make sure you are legitimate candidate eligible for benefits. Do not make any statements or sign authorizations to release your information at this time. Speak to your lawyer about how to best handle the adjuster meeting.
ICBC benefits are not limited to workers laid up without their paychecks. Homemakers can also receive these benefits to cover the cost of hired help when they are unable to do housework themselves.
There are a few things you will need to get a fast decision from ICBC and start receiving your money:
1. Employment and wage verification
2. Medical validation from your doctor
3. Proof of Canadian Employment Insurance denial
Your lawyer can help you with all of this paperwork so you get the maximum amount of benefits in the shortest period of time. If you simply cannot afford to pay a lawyer, then you will have to make sure the proper forms get to the proper people and then returned to ICBC as quickly as possible. This may require you to make some phone calls if your employer and/or doctor seem in no hurry to fill out the paperwork on your behalf.
Once approved, you will not receive payment for the first week away from work. You will also have to live with the cap of $300 per week.
Go to www.icbc.com to start the claims process and learn more about these benefits.
These replacement income options are not designed to sustain you financially in the long term. You will need to focus on physical recovery and keep working toward resolution of your accident claim with your lawyer to secure long term financial stability.
Employer-Approved Income Options
Depending on where you work and what your employer allows, you may be able to use vacation time and sick days to cover the first week or two of your time away from the workplace. These are benefits that you would typically use over the course of the year when you suffer minor illnesses or need a day off for personal reasons, but some employers will allow you to cash in whatever you have left to help you get through a difficult time when you are unable to work.
Some employers have programs that allow employees to collect their normal wages or part of their wages while they are out with an injury, even if they do not have sick days or vacation time to utilize. This is not something every employer offers, but it never hurts to ask your employer if they have this available.
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Benefits
Have you been paying into the CPP? Are you between the ages of 18 and 65? If you answered yes to both of these questions, you may eligible to receive some financial award through the CPP disabilities plan. Go to www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/isp/cpp/disaben.shtml to learn more about this benefit and get the application process started. You will likely need your doctor to fill out some paperwork to prove your injuries.
BC Employment and Assistance
The BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development operates the BC Employment and Assistance program. You will not qualify for these benefits if you were approved for Canadian Employment Insurance and/or other options listed above. This is an option solely for those who have no other options for financial recovery while they are recovering from injuries and/or while they wait for their legal claims to deliver compensation for an accident.
To determine if you are eligible for this assistance and to learn more about the program and start the application process, visit www.eia.gov.bc.ca/bcea.htm.
Tips for Borrowing Money in Difficult Times
If you cannot secure enough replacement income to cover your bills and ensure financial stability to some level, you may have no choice than to take out a loan. Borrowing money in difficult times is scary, especially if you are uncertain how long you will be out of work. Follow these tips to make sure you borrow responsibly and do not back yourself into a corner that you will not be able to get out of after recovery:
1. Bank loans can be risky, especially when you put your vehicle, home, or other valuables up as collateral. You may be forced to do this in order to survive until your claim comes through and pays out, but remember that the bank will not flinch at repossessing your collateral if your loan needs to be repaid before your receive payout on your claim. Banks provide the best interest rates in most cases, but you will have to make monthly payments that begin soon after you take out the loan.
2. If you are willing to accept high interest rates and have a trusted lawyer to look over the loan agreement, you may take a loan from lenders that deal directly with people waiting for accident claims. Unlike a bank, they will allow you to take the loan without making payments right away. You will agree to repay the loan with sizable interest once you receive your claim settlement. Some policies will even let you off the hook if your settlement is less than the amount owed on the loan, meaning you won’t have to hand over the entire settlement plus pay out of pocket.
3. Take a personal loan from a family member or friend with all the legal responsibilities covered. Most people will not hand over a sizable amount of money under casual terms because they fear they will never see the money again. If you agree to sign legal documents stating the terms of the loan, and you each see your own lawyer so your lender feels secure, you can successfully borrow from a friend or family member in times of need. This is a good option if you have someone with this type of money to loan, and it helps if you are unable to secure approval through a bank.
Following Doctor’s Orders at Work
If your doctor allows you to return to work but limits the duties you can perform, make sure your employer is aware of your limitations. If you are asked to perform duties that fall outside of the limitations your doctor has ordered, tell your employer that these duties are against doctor’s orders. If your employer refuses to give you lighter duties that prescribe to your doctor’s recommendations, visit your doctor and tell them about the situation. You may also want to inform your lawyer of this problem.
It is important to be open and honest with your employer, and that includes all supervisors who give you orders. If you let them know which duties cause pain or discomfort, they can give you different duties. They may also be valuable when it comes time to prove your injuries so you win the settlement you deserve. Most employers will work with you if they see that you are willing to work and do not want to slack off or make excuses.
Co-workers and members of management who work directly with you on a daily basis are excellent sources to document your injuries. Do not feel shy to give names of these people to your lawyer so they can be utilized as you try to prove your claim. You will need to document names and contact information for all co-workers, employers, and supervisors who may help you over time. Your claim may take years to finalize, so you may not work with the same people throughout those years.
What happens if you don’t receive all the income replacement you’re entitled to while your claim is handled?
This is a common and unfortunate part of the process. The fact is all of the above income replacement sources simply do not fully replace one’s income in many cases. If this happens, can you recover all of your lost wages and income?
Yes. The balance owing to you is obtained through your personal injury claim/lawsuit that will be paid upon resolution … by way of settlement or Court decision. Part of a personal injury lawyer’s job is to assess the full income loss of a client and present evidence supporting that wage loss so that a client is fully reimbursed for all financial losses.