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Why you should add Family Protection Coverage to your auto insurance policy

Oct. 11, 2023
4 mins
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What is Family Protection Coverage?

Family Protection Coverage is an optional rider you can add to your motor vehicle insurance to protect you and eligible family members. It applies in the event there’s a collision that leads to injury or death with a motorist who is underinsured, uninsured, or even unidentified. Most importantly, it provides enough coverage to protect you if the at-fault driver doesn’t have sufficient auto insurance coverage – or any coverage at all.

In Ontario, Family Protection Coverage is called OPCF 44R. In Alberta, it’s known as SEF 44. This type of vehicle insurance coverage is also offered in Atlantic Canada, but not in the province of Quebec.

No matter what it’s called, family protection coverage is applicable in several scenarios, including hit and runs, and collisions involving an uninsured driver, providing you with maximum liability coverage when you are not at fault.

Related: At-Fault Accident Rules: 10 Common Accidents and Who Is at Fault

How does Family Protection Coverage work? 

In both Ontario and Alberta, drivers are required to have a minimum of $200,000 in third-party liability insurance. However, OPCF 44R/SEF 44 kicks in when the insurance of an at-fault driver isn’t enough to cover any damages that may be inflicted on you.

For example, if another driver rear-ends you and causes significant injury to you, their third-party liability coverage may not cover your medical treatments. Having this endorsement in place ensures that your costs from the collision are covered.

If your policy has liability coverage of $1 million under OPCF 44R/SEF 44, for example, it will cover up to $800,000 if the other party only has the minimum $200,000 coverage. Typically, in Ontario, you can only file a claim if your coverage does exceed liability coverage of the other driver, and there can be a time limit for filing a claim.

The OPCF 44R has a two-year claim window that starts a day after the insurer receives a claim under the coverage. If you don’t have this coverage and the third party doesn’t have sufficient coverage, or none, at all, you could be on the hook for costs stemming from the collision.

What makes Family Protection Coverage different from Direct Compensation – Property Damage? 

Family Protection Coverage shares a lot in common with Direct Compensation – Property Damage (DCPD), a form of mandatory car insurance that allows injured parties to recover damages in a timely manner without having to go through the rigmarole of negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

While DCPD will apply when you’re in an accident that’s not your fault, it does not apply to some specific incidents, including hit and runs and incidents with an uninsured driver.

Family Protect Coverage even kicks in in the event that you are not behind the wheel — or even in a car.  If you (or a member of your family) are a passenger, pedestrian or cyclist injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, you can claim coverage for costs relating to recovery from your injuries, home care, or loss of income.

Lastly, as the name suggests, Family Protection Coverage doesn’t just protect the primary driver. It also provides access to insurance an eligible family member should they be injured in an accident. This includes children under 18 who are financially dependent and spouses.

In Ontario, even spouses who don’t live under the same roof are also eligible for family protection coverage, according to a recent court ruling. If you are a common-law couple, you may also be eligible for coverage.

How much Family Protection Coverage should you have?

You can never have too much liability coverage. In Ontario, you must have at least a $200,000 limit and $1 million is standard, while insurers recommend you have $2 million to cover all your bases.

The good news is even at the higher amount, family protection coverage is affordable and less expensive than other optional riders on your vehicle insurance. But as with all automotive insurance products, your driving records and claim history will determine your premium costs, and it never hurts to shop around to compare insurance providers.

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Gary Hilson

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has produced thousands of words for print and pixel about business and technology for a variety of publications and corporate clients. When he’s not tapping on the keyboard, Gary collects comic books, attends live theater, constructs Lego, and buys books he always intends to read.

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