The Alberta Motor Vehicle Claims Act
You know, in general, what happens when you get into an accident with an insured driver in Alberta. But do you know what happens when you get into an accident with an uninsured driver?
While you could sue the driver directly, the chances that any given driver who can’t afford insurance will also be able to cover your injury claims is slim-to-none. Alberta recognizes this fact. That’s why the Motor Vehicle Claims Act was passed in 1947. This program gives drivers a way to receive compensation after an accident with an uninsured driver.
How does MVAC work?
Essentially you file a lawsuit and a claim with MVAC, putting MVAC on notice that they may need to be involved with your claim. Your lawyer forwards all court filings, legal documents, and other information on to MVAC throughout the process. The defendant driver still has a chance to defend themselves. If they fail to respond within a certain deadline MVAC receives the right to negotiate a settlement on their behalf.
The MVAC then pays the settlement and then charges the amount negotiated to the defendant as a debt. Collecting that debt becomes their problem, instead of yours.
If the defendant does show up to defend themselves you may negotiate a settlement with the defendant as normal, but if you want the MVAC to pay that settlement and then pursue the victim for the funds then they have to agree to the settlement amount. Your lawyer requests this consent from them. If you or your lawyer fails to do this then MVAC does not have to pay.
All of the normal personal injury laws governing payouts apply, such as the Alberta pain and suffering cap on soft tissue injuries, or the general Alberta pain and suffering cap. The settlement must adhere to these guidelines. Usually when we are pursuing an MVAC claim the goal is to obtain enough to pay your bills and expenses while covering your lawyer’s fees so you don’t sink into financial ruin, rather than trying to maximize your settlement, since the overall MVAC payout cap is even lower than Alberta’s general pain and suffering cap.
Once your lawsuit is settled your lawyer will work with you to get paid, and to get anyone who has a claim on your money (such as medical clinics or hospitals) paid.
Who is eligible for MVAC funds?
You are eligible for MVAC funds if:
- You were involved in an accident that took place in Alberta. This could be a driver-on-pedestrian accident, a driver-on-driver accident, a driver-on-bicycle accident, or a driver-on-motorcycle accident.
- There is at least one at-fault person for that accident.
- The accident was a hit-and-run and you’ve taken reasonable steps to identify that person, or that person was uninsured. Note that if you have an opportunity to get contact and insurance information from a driver at the scene of an accident is absolutely vital, because if you fail to make a reasonable attempt to do so you can lose your MVAC claim. It’s vital to get names and contact information from witnesses for the same reason.
- You notify MVAC within 90 days that you intend to make a claim.
- You are an Alberta resident.
How do you start the process of claiming MVAC funds?
MVAC requires you to file a lawsuit against the person or persons who are responsible for the accident. They do this because once you sue them they can then turn around and use this lawsuit to subrogate against the other driver. That means they’ll apply that debt to the other driver. The government will now have the legal right to bring all sorts of collection measures to bear that you would not have access to.
This gives some of our clients pause, as they are worried about hurting the other driver. Keep in mind that there are legal remedies that low income uninsured drivers can tap into in order to deal with a subrogation, and that a hit-and-run driver literally committed a crime against you. You should also be advised that MVAC will put together a fair payment plan with these individuals that takes their household income, size, and expenses into account.
Don’t sacrifice your own ability to get back on your feet by failing to file an MVAC lawsuit if you need to.
In the lawsuit, you name every party who might be held responsible for the accident. Your lawyer can help you identify these parties.
You are unlikely to be successful making an MVAC claim without a lawyer’s help. The process is somewhat labyrinthine, there are deadlines you have to meet, and there are processes you have to go through to get settlements approved. There is a diagnostic and treatment protocol that you’ll have to adhere to. You even have to make strategic decisions about which court you’ll need to file in. Your lawyer can help you do this.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver then you need to move fast. Other accident victims benefit from a 2 year statute of limitations, but you have just 90 days from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit if you wish to file an MVAC claim.
How much money does the MVAC pay out?
The MVAC does not compensate victims for damages to the vehicle, to the content of your vehicle, for insurance policy deductibles, or for your loss of vehicle use. They are only concerned with paying for your medical bills.
These payouts are also capped. You can only receive a maximum of $200,000 from the MVAC.
How can you contact the MVAC?
You can call them at (780) 427-8255 or dial toll free at 310-0000. Their address is:
Suite #600, 6th Floor, 10123 – 99 Street
Edmonton AB T5J 3H1.
You can also visit their website at www.gov.ab.ca.
What about your own insurance policy?
You can purchase additional insurance which will cover items that MVAC doesn’t cover, such as the loss of your vehicle. If you have an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy then they may pay for those damages as well as for damages that MVAC won’t cover because those damages are over and above the MVAC payout limit.
It is for this reason that our lawyers always recommend that people purchase as much car insurance coverage as they can afford, with as much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as they can afford. It is an excellent way to protect one’s self and one’s family.
You can also purchase a Family Protection Endorsement, known as an “SEF 44 endorsement,” which is a separate policy that specifically exists to cover these kinds of damages.
You will also get some medical insurance coverage under your Section B coverage on your own auto insurance policy. This coverage usually gets used up pretty fast, but it can be a relief to know that you’ve got a few additional safety nets.
Why trust us with your MVAC claim?
MVAC claims can be especially tricky personal injury cases. It pays to have an experienced lawyer by your side.
Most of our lawyers have 20 to 30 years of experience helping Calgary residents navigate claims like yours. We have handled everything from accidents involving multiple drivers to accidents with drunk drivers where the establishment that sold them their liquor was additionally responsible.
We’re known as some of Calgary’s toughest litigators and savviest negotiators. We’re also known for our courtesy and responsiveness to our clients. If you want to work with a law firm that will treat you with respect as you navigate an especially difficult process, then reach out to us.
You don’t have to leave your bed if you don’t want to. We’ll meet with you via Zoom and start the process on your behalf. We can even deal with insurance companies for you! Call (403) 225-7777 to get started today.