On September 23, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) issued a press release congratulating the Government of Ontario for ‘continuing to make auto insurance reforms a priority.’
“The government’s continued focus on auto insurance reforms builds on the progress already made and shows a strong commitment to helping Ontarians keep more of their hard-earned money for other household priorities,” said IBC President and CEO Don Forgeron, in the release. “Insurers look forward to continuing to work with Premier Wynne, her government, and all MPPs to best serve the consumers of this province while making their lives more affordable.”
Also on September 23, the Ontario government released its ministers’ mandate letters, which ‘direct the new cabinet and their ministries to work together to deliver more inclusive growth, with measures that will help people in their everyday lives,’ according to a provincial release.
In her letter to Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, Premier Kathleen Wynne asks for ‘recommendations for further improvements and reform to the [auto insurance] system to pass on savings to consumers while reducing costs and ensuring accident victims get the care they need.’
Together, the IBC release and provincial mandate letters suggest Ontario’s auto insurance system is benefiting insurance providers and consumers alike. But is this an accurate representation? Would a survey of accident victims and accident benefits lawyers come to the same conclusion?
Does Ontario’s auto insurance and accident benefits system help injury victims?
Though the Province of Ontario has been working since 2013 to reduce auto insurance rates, its efforts have not, thus far, offered much hope to consumers. On June 1, 2016, the province moved forward with its promise to cut rates, but in doing so substantially reduced available benefits as well.
According to Canadian Underwriter, coverage for “medical and rehabilitation for non-catastrophic injuries were combined and reduced to $65,000 in total from $50,000 and $36,000, respectively,” and “medical and rehabilitation for catastrophic injuries and attendant care for catastrophic injuries were combined and reduced to $1 million in total, from $1 million each previously.”
As we have discussed before (along with numerous victims’ rights advocates and personal injury and accident benefits lawyers), cutting the benefits available to accident victims is problematic. However, the issue is compounded by the fact that premiums do not appear to have dropped in any meaningful way. On September 10, the Toronto Sun’s Alan Shanoff reported that “our brief flirtation with premium decreases is in grave danger of being replaced with premium increases.”
Shanoff cites figures released by Financial Service Commission Ontario (FSCO), which show that after a roughly three per cent average decrease in insurance rates during the first quarter (Q1) of 2016, rates actually grew by 0.33 per cent in Q2. RBC General Insurance and TD General Insurance, in particular, filed rate increases of 3.7 per cent and 3.07 per cent, respectively, Shanoff writes.
“It seems the public has paid a stiff price for the promise of premium reductions,” Shanoff concludes. “That promise, or stretch goal, has resulted in reduced benefits, lower negligence awards, the taking away of the right to sue for accident benefits and now, higher premiums.”
Thus far, the government of Ontario has struggled to secure a better deal for accident victims. However, reforming the province’s auto insurance system is a complex, large-scale operation, and Ontario’s accident benefits lawyers and victims’ rights advocates will be carefully watching the process to ensure it’s done right.
If you or a member of your family has suffered a serious injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. Our accident benefits lawyers can help you access the compensation you need to facilitate your recovery.
In 2006, it was revealed during testimony for Macdonald v. SunLife Assurance Company of Canada that a doctor’s medical report had been rewritten by the clinic which had brokered it on SunLife’s behalf. Ten years later, not much has changed, and Macdonald is a familiar touchstone in arguments against Ontario’s troubled auto insurance and accident benefits systems.
Independent medical evaluations (IME) are common in insurance claims lawsuits. In an ideal world, medical experts would be brought in to provide unbiased evidence on the accident victims’ injuries. But according to Toronto lawyer Loretta Merritt, procuring a genuinely impartial medical evaluation has become a costly and complicated endeavor, and assessment clinics are part of the problem. read more…