This is the story of four men – Alan, Bob, Chuck and Dan.

One day in December, a terrible ice storm hit Toronto.

Alan got up, showered, kissed his wife goodbye, stepped out of the front door, went flying ass over teakettle on the ice and broke his hip.

Bob managed to get to his car, but after driving a few blocks, spun out of control on the ice, struck a hydro pole and broke his hip.

Chuck made it safely to work, but walking out of the company parking lot on his way to the office, he slipped on the ice and broke his hip.

Dan worked a full day and on the way home stopped at the mall to do some shopping. He slipped on a patch of ice right in front of the main entrance and broke his hip.

What happened after that:

Alan was rushed to hospital, and after a suitable wait in the ER was taken to the operating room and had his fractured hip repaired. He spent about a week in hospital. After waiting for about three weeks, he got into his local hospital outpatient rehabilitation program, where he was seen twice a week for a couple of months.

After about three months, he returned to work. While he was off work, he was responsible for purchasing or renting any equipment he might need: crutches, a wheelchair, a hospital bed and so on. He was not paid during this period and because his wife worked and couldn’t stay at home, he and his wife had to pay for any additional help that he required.

Bob, because he was injured while in his car, was covered by his auto insurance, so when he left hospital the insurance company provided him with additional physiotherapy.

This started the day he left hospital. All his equipment, transportation costs (to get to his medical and physiotherapy appointments etc.) were paid for. If extra help were required around the house, they would also provide that. He did not get paid while off work.

Chuck, because he was injured at work (and therefore covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) received everything that Bob got, and in addition was paid for the money he lost by being unable to work.

Dan, because he was injured on a commercial property owned by a corporation with good insurance, ended up getting everything that Chuck got, plus a healthy cash settlement for his pain and suffering.

A good case can be made for universal disability care, similar to universal health care. The costs would be huge, but so would the savings.

A major portion of the costs in any disability claim is involved in the assigning of blame, or liability. In cases that involve injuries on private property and in autos, the legal costs are very often higher than the costs of the medical care. Under universal disability insurance, this would not be an issue.

I don’t pretend that this plan is either easy or cheap. However, a broken hip is a devastating injury and should not be made worse by the luck of location.

Originally published in The Toronto Star.