I’ve wrestled more than a little with the morality of our insurance process here in Canada. Last spring I was hit by a car. I was not at fault, and my leg was very nearly destroyed. When I got a suspicious call, shortly afterward, from the other driver’s insurance company, who were clearly trying to mitigate their exposure, I knew it would be prudent to work with a lawyer. I consulted a directory of Christian lawyers in Canada, and found one in our area who had a track record of success and integrity — even putting his career on the line to advocate for Christianity in our government system.
Over the past months since that happened, I’ve met with him occassionally, updating him on my progress as I spent time with my surgeon, physiotherapist, massage therapist, and in recent months, in the gym rebuilding strength. On our last meeting, he proposed that we pursue a settlement. We chose a round number, based on a history of precedence he had available, and I left it with him — not really expecting, certainly not needing, anything. The number was large, and the counter offer about half what we asked, but still eye-brow raising… I would balk at it, if it weren’t for the things I’ve learned along the way:
– The Ontario government limits your insurance company from having to pay out more than $2500 in rehab costs. Once you’ve exhausted your health coverage through work (assuming you had any), you may then begin to draw on that $2500. Once that amount is gone, you have to pay for recovery yourself. This virtually guarantees that you’ll have to go to the other driver’s insurance company to cover costs.
– The Ontario government limits your insurance company from having to cover “care” costs outside of medical needs, except in carefully documented exceptional cases. Again, the system all but requires legal action.
– For settlements under $100,000 the Ontario government allows the other driver’s insurance company to take a tax-free deductable of $30,000! This has multiple implications. For one, a legal settlement for less than $30,000 only benefits the offender’s insurance company: they get that amount as a tax write-off, you get nothing. This also encourages a wasteful and litigious process where, even if your costs are less than $100,000, you still need to start the negotiation at at least that amount, because at $99k or below, you have to immediately subtract $30k from whatever you settle on.
The end result is a government-backed scam (much like automotive insurance is to begin with) by which, in the event of an accident, everyone profits except for the person at fault. The lawyers, both insurance companies, and (if you’ve been shrewd enough) you. I do feel something for the person at fault — in my case a little old lady who for some reason believes she doesn’t need her prescription eye-wear — but the actual cost to them is only in increased premiums (as well as whatever ticket she incurred for her erratic driving.)
I would have liked to have found a way to cover my costs without a legal process. I feel bad retaining a lawyer “against” a little old lady. But she and I are just pawns in a game — she’s not actually involved in the process. I’m sure they put her premiums up even before I called a lawyer. This all happens despite her, and as an individual, she hasn’t the resources to find a solution at this level anyway. The fact is, if I hadn’t found an advocate, I would have been screwed. I’d have a ruined leg, medical bills beyond what the systems I pay into cover, and nothing to show for it except the bent license plate of my sweet old Honda Shadow hanging sadly on the garage wall…
So we played the game, and now we’re getting more than we need — so that everyone else can get the profit they expect from the process. What do we do with it?
Well, frankly if this had happened 10 years ago, we would have had a blast spending it. Praise God for his discipleship over the years: now we know exactly what to do.
We’ll be paying off the van and the car. Two nice vehicles, appropriate for where we are in life. Both a few years older, but in great shape and with the features we need for our different responsibilities. Hopefuly we can get 5 years out of each of them.
We’ll be paying off the remainder of Nicole’s school debt, the last vestiges of which have been hanging on for far too long.
We’ll be updating the kitchen, and taking care of a few other things around the house that need to be addressed: the air conditioning went two summers ago, and although we’d been trying various cheap fixes, now’s the time to bite the bullet and deal with it thoroughly. A few minor equipment replacements for the hot tub, some paint, and this house should be ready to sell.
We’ll be tithing at our reguar target percent, as if this were any other income we make. We’re actually very excited about the impact we’ll be able to make with this — and praying a lot about where God would have us direct it.
The rest will go into savings, or easy-to-access investments. We feel we need to stay fairly liquid to be agile for whatever God is preparing us for next. From this position: a house worth more than our investment and with a sizable equity, no debt, and cash in the bank, we can literally turn on a dime. Wherever God wants us, and whatever He wants us to do, we can obey immediately and without hesitation.
And we will… even if its with a slight limp.