To be involved in an accident can be overwhelming as it is, but if you are already receiving support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), you may feel especially uncertain about your legal rights.
For example, you may be wondering how you can afford a lawyer, whether you will owe ODSP a portion of any funds received, and whether you are entitled to continue receiving ODSP at the conclusion of a lawsuit.
What is ODSP?
ODSP is a provincial assistance program. It provides income and employment supports to eligible Ontario residents who have disabilities.
Most personal injury lawyers in Ontario work on a contingency fee basis, which means that clients are not required to pay any fees unless there is a settlement of their case.
The contingency fee arrangement provides access to the expertise of a lawyer that would otherwise be unavailable. Without this type of arrangement, few could afford a lawyer to bring forward a case for compensation.
How can being on ODSP impact my legal case?
Those who are receiving ODSP are obligated to report to their caseworker if they have an ongoing lawsuit.
Whether ODSP has to be repaid from compensation received following a court award or an out-of-court settlement depends upon what the settlement is for and the amount of settlement.
A recipient of ODSP is entitled to maintain his or her ODSP funding while as at the same time receive compensation for personal injuries up to a maximum amount of $100,000 for:
Pain and suffering as a result of injury to or the death of a member of the benefit unit; or
Expenses actually and reasonably incurred or to be incurred as a result of injury to or the death of a member of the benefit unit.
An ODSP recipient can exceed the $100,000 limit only with approval of the Director of ODSP. The Director may approve this type of increase if the surplus amount is used, or will be used, for disability related expenses, such as future treatment. In addition to obtaining the Director’s approval, there is an annual reporting requirement.
If, however, the court award or settlement is paid for lost wages for the period that the person received ODSP, then ODSP is entitled to be repaid for that period, regardless of the amount of the settlement.
The law in this area is complicated. It is necessary for lawyers to consider different strategies to address the individual circumstances of each client in order to maximize the benefit of a court award or settlement.