Who is covered by the public plan?
All Québec residents have insurance coverage for injury or death resulting from a motor vehicle accident whether as:
Is the person at fault entitled to compensation?
Under the plan, victims of bodily injury sustained in an accident are compensated regardless of which party is to blame. The need for proceedings before civil courts is accordingly eliminated, replaced by the right of all Quebecers to compensation for injuries.
People who commit driving-related Criminal Code offences (impaired driving, hit and run, dangerous driving, etc.) are, of course, still subject to prosecution.
Income compensation to an accident victim who is imprisoned for a driving-related Criminal Code offence is reduced. The income replacement indemnity to an incarcerated victim without any dependant is reduced by 75%; if that prisoner had dependants, the rate will be set according to their number, and paid directly to them.
What about property damage?
To round out the protection offered by the public plan, the Automobile Insurance Act requires the owner of a motor vehicle travelling in Québec to hold liability insurance for at least $50,000. This additional coverage, for property damage that might be caused by the holder's vehicle to another party, is available from private insurers.
While holding such insurance, accident victims who sustain property damage may find themselves without coverage in a hit-and-run situation or insolvency of the person responsible for the accident. The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec compensates those victims for damage to their vehicle or other property sustained in the accident, under certain conditions. The coverage provided by the SAAQ does not replace insurance contracted by a person for collision damage to the policyholder's own vehicle, theft, all-risks or damage to property other than the vehicle. Rather, it complements the universal no-fault plan administered by the Société for bodily injury sustained in a road accident.
Depending on whether the case if one of hit-and-run situation or insolvency, the SAAQ pays compensation up to $10,000 for property damage and up to $50,000 for injuries as well as any interest and legal costs that apply but to a sum not in excess of $50,000. All compensation payable for property damage is subject to a $500 deductible set by regulation.
Are Quebecers covered outside Québec?
Whether or not they are at fault, Quebecers injured in a road accident while they are outside Québec are entitled to the same compensation under the public plan.
However, if a Quebecer is responsible for the accident, he or she may be sued in the courts of the jurisdiction where the accident occurred for compensation of bodily injury and property damage caused. The Quebecer is then protected by the liability insurance mandatory for travel in Canada and the United States, which in such a case covers both bodily injury and property damage to another party. The insurance protection must be of a sufficient amount.
It is important that Quebecers who expect to operate a motor vehicle elsewhere in Canada or in the United States check with their insurer that the amount of liability insurance coverage they will have in the jurisdiction is sufficient to pay for all property damage and bodily injury caused to other parties. The same precaution is called for prior to travel to other countries.
If the Quebecer is not responsible for the accident, he or she retains the right to sue under the laws of the jurisdiction where the mishap occurred, if this is allowed, in order to recover damages or seek greater compensation than what the Société might pay.
Before suing, however, the Quebecer must advise the Société, which has the right of first remedy, which it may decide to exercise.
Non-residents also covered
A non-resident travelling on Québec roads who is the operator or passenger of a motor vehicle registered in Québec is entitled to the same compensation as a resident for an accident sustained in Québec.
Where the motor vehicle is not registered in Québec, non-resident operators and passengers qualify for compensation in inverse proportion to their share of responsibility for the accident that occurred in Québec (ex.: the non-resident bearing 20% of the blame will be entitled to 80% of the benefits provided under the plan), unless the person's home jurisdiction has entered into a reciprocal agreement with the Société, providing for other terms..