Drinking and driving in the summer is a hot topic. Our weekends quickly fill up with invitations to backyard BBQs and trips to the cottage. It’s never long before we get offered a cool beer or fresh summer cocktail, and of course, we want to enjoy it!
Many of us are acutely aware of the criminal consequences of drinking and driving, including the potential for serving time in jail and license suspension, the accompanying hike in insurance rates and the other drinking and driving laws.
What many of us are not aware of is that a conviction of a drinking and driving offence, which includes impaired driving, driving with alcohol over the legal limit, and refusing to provide a breath sample, has significant repercussions for our entitlement to the no-fault benefits in our insurance policies.
Chris Richard, Managing Partner of Graves and Richard, a well-known personal injury law firm serving St. Catharines and the Niagara Falls area, sat down with host Lee Sterry of Niagara’s 610 Newstalk Radio and discussed this topic during a recent episode of Legal Matters.
Disentitlement to Certain No-Fault Benefits if Convicted of a Drinking and Driving Offence
Income Replacement Benefits
With the coverage of your no-fault insurance benefits, even if you cause an accident while driving, you are entitled to receive income replacement benefits. This means that you would be paid 70 percent of your gross wages for whatever maximum you purchased.
If you are convicted of a drinking and driving offence, you do not have a right to get these income replacement benefits anymore. You will be completely barred from ever receiving them. Put in context, most people have $400 per week of coverage, which equates to $20,800 per year. If you are 25 years old, and you cause a car accident that prevents you from working for the rest of your life due to a long term disability and you are convicted under drinking and driving laws, you are now deprived of the income you would have made over the next 40 years, and you’re also disentitled to the $20,800 you would have received under your no-fault policy of insurance had you not been convicted of a drinking and driving offence. This is a lot more than any fine you would ever receive in a criminal law system.
Lost Educational Expenses
If you are a student involved in a motor vehicle or car accident and you are convicted of a drinking and driving offence, you also lose entitlement to lost educational expenses. This can total tens of thousands of dollars. This benefit allows a student who is involved in an accident and is unable to return to school to be reimbursed for tuition paid. So if you are a student at a party, you have some drink and drive after, and are then convicted of a drinking and driving offence, this benefit is lost.
If you are catastrophically injured in a car accident, conviction of a drinking and driving offence will also disentitle you from receiving the no-fault house-keeping benefit under your policy of insurance. This benefit pays $100 per week for some someone to come into your home and do all the household tasks that you would have done before the accident occurred.
Another interesting exclusion, if you are convicted under drinking and driving laws, coverage for reimbursement for the meal expenses, parking, transportation expenses, and hotel expenses for out-of-town visitors who visit you during your stay in the hospital.
Insurance coverage for property damage may also be affected by a decision to drive impaired. Under the no-fault benefit system, your own insurance company pays for the damage to your vehicle caused in an accident. However, if your ability to operate a vehicle is impacted by intoxicating substances then that damage to your vehicle may not be covered by your insurance policy.
Let’s face it; most of us are not spending our summer leisure time thinking about the potential future consequences of our summer time fun. That is why the auto accident lawyers at Graves and Richard are doing the thinking for you. We have found that people’s lives can change in a split second and for actions that many of us wouldn’t find that unusual.
So, enjoy your cold beer on the warm dock this summer, and now that you know there are very serious consequences for your entitlement to all of the life-supporting no-fault accident insurance settlements if you were involved in a motor vehicle or car accident and convicted of a drinking and driving offence, enjoy as well your sleep on your friend’s or family member’s couch at the end of the night. That lumpy night’s sleep may just mean an easy sleep for the rest of your life.