Ontario 2015 provincial budget has serious repercussions for auto accident victims

Hamilton Spectator

Recent revisions to the new Ontario provincial budget mean significant changes to benefits for “catastrophic impairment” motor vehicle accident victims. Gerald A. Swaye & Associates Barristers and Solicitors, personal injury specialists in Hamilton, Ontario, explain the key points of these changes and the consequences to accident victims.

The new provincial budget was announced on April 23, 2015. Seriously injured motor vehicle accident victims now face serious negative repercussions concerning benefits. Previously, when the Ontario provincial government contemplated making changes to automobile insurance legislation, extensive discussion with stakeholders was a standard protocol — but not so with the April 23rd budget. The announcement concerning these changes came unexpectedly. Prior to that budget, benefits to the most seriously injured victims, who meet the definition of “catastrophically impaired,” were considered sacrosanct. The April budget slashed those benefits, while also further reducing benefits to victims who do not meet the test.

Five major changes have been announced. Each of the revisions reduces the available funding for accident victims. Additionally, the changes put additional pressure on the public health care system while diminishing the chances of catastrophic impaired accident victims regaining their independence. The changes include:

•    Maximum benefits for the catastrophically impaired will now be reduced from $2 million to $1 million. The $2 million maximum — which would cover $1 million in medical and rehabilitation benefits plus $1 million in attendant care benefits — has been in place for about 20 years. In addition, further accounting for inflation indexing makes the cuts tantamount to drastic for most seriously impaired accident victims. Only a very small percentage of accident victims are classified as catastrophic, requiring the highest levels of benefits.

•    A newly revised definition of “catastrophic impairment” will now apply only to those who have the most devastating injuries. The new definition constricts the meaning of the classification. As a result, a definition that had been previously clearer and more easily understood, and that used the Glasgow Coma Scale test (a common scoring system used to evaluate the effects of traumatic brain injury), now makes understanding who qualifies as catastrophic impairment less clear.

•    Tort deductibles are being indexed to the inflation levels of 2003. What this means is that an accident victim with a pain-and-suffering claim will face an increased deductible of approximately $37,000 on an award entitlement as opposed to $30,000. Only if the award for pain and suffering is evaluated as being greater than the inflated deductible might this not apply. Yet benefits that favour claimants, such as an income replacement benefit, are not indexed and remain at the same low rate.

•    Maximum benefits for non-catastrophic impairment claims are reduced. Before the announcement, the maximum for medical and rehabilitation coverage and attendant care benefits was $86,000, which is now being reduced to $65,000. (The amounts are totals that combine medical and rehabilitation benefits and attendant-care benefits.) Furthermore, the period for accessing these benefits changes from 10 years to five years (excluding cases concerning children).

•    Duration of eligibility for non-earner benefits is reduced from life to a maximum of two years (not including the current six-month waiting period). This will have a major impact on those who previously qualified for higher weekly benefits after two years. Students and teens, for example, who will never work again because of their injuries will have no right to the weekly benefit.

Clearly, the changes will have a devastating impact on accident victims in the stated categories. The new provincial budget provides more reasons why anyone who has experienced pain and suffering due to a motor vehicle accident should seek out legal expertise to benefit from the maximum possible compensation.

Gerald A. Swaye & Associates are personal injury specialists. Practice areas include catastrophic injuries and disability claims in addition to expertise in an extensive number of areas of personal injury law.

Barrie-Based Cornerstone Insurance Brokers Offering Auto Insurance Programs for Associations

Woodbridge, Canada, August 16, 2015 –(PR.com)– The company’s team not only designs insurance programs for associations but also helps the association to market the program, build the program’s revenue and create long-term program plans to help maintain success over the long-term. It’s the comprehensive insurance program design service for the community-focused organization.

For associations such as community groups, it’s important to continually bring in new members and to protect the long-term needs of those who currently hold memberships. Insurance programs provide the ideal foundation to this process, and can be harnessed to attract new members to the group through lucrative savings opportunities while protecting members with comprehensive coverage plans. The auto insurance specialists at Barrie-based Cornerstone Insurance Brokers are leaders in this field, and they’re now inviting associations across the region to review their auto insurance programs.

The team at Cornerstone Insurance Brokers can help create dedicated programs for their members. They currently act as the endorsed provider to a number of Ontario’s leading associations and they’re now offering their services to groups across the region. The company’s competitive products work to create value within membership of the association. They also work with companies to market their auto insurance program to outside groups, thereby increasing the income of the association. And one of the leading benefits of Cornerstone Insurance Brokers’ programs is that the association can have their brand name associated with the program, create a unique branding opportunity that will elevate the association’s standing in the marketplace.

The Cornerstone Insurance Brokers programs also include business planning and strategic elements. Their experts work with clients to continually improve their programs, and to report on the current performance of the program each quarter. It’s a trusted service for associations looking to expand their membership base and achieve low cost auto insurance coverage for their members.

To learn more on the auto insurance programs offered through Cornerstone Insurance Brokers, please contact their office team at 1-888-768-8001 or visit their business website at www.csib.org

Cornerstone Insurance Brokers Ltd
Nikolai Williams
416-798-8001
Contact
www.csib.org

 

I was suspended for blowing .05 – will my insurance rates go up?

If you had your licence suspended for blowing over .05, the province won’t rat you out to your insurer. But your driver’s abstract might.

In Ontario, the roadside suspension starts at three days the first time you’re caught with a BAC in the warning range. It’s an administrative penalty — so you can get one even if you haven’t been charged with anything.

Will it cost you more?

Insurance companies don’t routinely look at your driver’s abstract unless you’re a new customer. But, if your insurer does find out about your suspension, can they boost your rates?

As it turns out, there’s not an easy answer. We checked first with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), which regulates insurance. It told us to check with insurance companies.

State Farm Canada said insurance companies can raise rates based on anything that appears on a driver’s abstract.

“An administrative suspension would appear on your driving record and some insurers may look at that when determining your rate, or that of someone listed on your policy living in the same residence” said State Farm spokesman John Bordignon in an e-mail. “Each insurance company has a different way of underwriting, reviewing and determining risk so it’s best to check with your provider for clarity.”

But Aviva Canada spokesman Glenn Cooper said insurance companies aren’t allowed to use administrative suspensions of less than a year to raise rates.

So which is it? We checked back with the FSCO. Your insurer can hike your rates if it can show that a roadside suspension means you’re a risk.

READ MORE HERE: I was suspended for blowing .05 – will my insurance rates go up?

Vehicle insurance claims soon to be simplified

Read more

Recommended insurance for Uber drivers doesn’t exist in Alberta: insurance watchdog

BY ELISE STOLTE, EDMONTON JOURNAL

EDMONTON – Troubles continued for Uber this week as it was discovered the type of insurance their drivers need simply doesn’t exist in Alberta.

Although hybrid commercial/personal policies exist in at least a dozen American jurisdictions, Mark Prefontaine, Alberta’s Superintendent of Insurance, could only say Wednesday he hopes similar policies are introduced in Alberta “soon.”

“I would absolutely encourage the insurance industry to bring forward their suggestions,” he said.

Until then, he said, anyone who does not have a commercial insurance plan, which costs $6,000 a year or more, is at a “high risk” of having insurance claims denied, a warning to Uber drivers and passengers he first made Monday.

Edmonton Uber drivers have been expressing similar concerns in online forums for months. They want Uber’s insurance policy in Canada to at least mimic recent changes in the United States, which make Uber’s commercial insurance the primary insurance policy when a passenger is in the car.

In Canada, the Uber driver’s own insurance is primary, which is problematic because it could be declared void if their insurance company discovers they have been driving for hire on a personal policy.

Responding to Journal questions at Uberpeople.net on Wednesday, Edmonton driver MeekloBraca said he limits the amount he drives because of insurance concerns. He said he’d welcome the chance to buy hybrid insurance, even if it doubled his current $1,400 personal auto insurance bill.

He currently avoids rush hour and doesn’t pick anyone up from Jasper or Whyte avenues when the bars let out for fear of an accident.

But insurance concerns are unlikely to keep all Uber drivers parked.

Karen, an employee at one of Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions, drives a few hours a week for Uber and said she’ll keep at it because she believes Uber won’t leave her hanging.

“Uber is a very profitable company which relies on a positive reputation as the basis for their business operations worldwide,” she wrote in a email after reading the insurance watchdog’s warning Monday. She didn’t want her last name used because driving without proper insurance is illegal.

“I do not for a minute doubt that Uber will cover any liability that may arise,” she said.

Uber issued a brief statement Monday by email: “Ride-sharing is an innovative business and we are working with regulators and insurers in Alberta to discuss how auto insurance models account for new services such as Uber,” wrote spokesman Xavier Van Chau. “The bottom line is this: every ride on Uber is insured.”

Uber has said it aims to create 2,000 jobs in Edmonton by the end of this year. The California-based company has been signing up drivers to act as informal taxis, connecting them and their private vehicles with passengers looking for a ride through a mobile app.

Drivers can work as little or a much as they like and many work part time, which makes a commercial insurance package cost-prohibitive.

But it’s been a controversial business since the beginning. The taxi industry accuses Uber of sponsoring a race to the bottom by operating without the safety checks, fixed rates, licences and insurance requirements Edmonton demands of cabbies.

City council asked staff to seek a court injunction against the company over many of the same concerns. The city lost its first attempt to win a temporary injunction, but has a hearing on the permanent injunction coming this fall.

In the meantime, Uber continues to build its business, cutting rates 10 per cent this summer, delivering ice cream to offices and offering promotion codes to share with friends or even wedding guests.

City staff are scheduled to deliver reports Sept. 15 on how to both improve the current taxi service and regulate ride sharing to accommodate Uber and competitors Lyft and Sidecar.

When asked Monday if there are any current complaints of Uber-related insurance claims being denied, Transportation Minister Brian Mason said he had heard of one, but couldn’t confirm it.

Prefontaine said his office can’t legally comment on any complaints it gets because of privacy concerns.

Trio caught and charged in ‘passenger jump-in scheme’

Trio caught and charged in ‘passenger jump-in scheme’

Three Lower Mainland residents have been fined a total of $5,000 plus jail time after being found guilty of making fraudulent injury claims from a crash two of them were never even involved in.

Thai Yuen (Lisa) Vo, her sister Michelle Vo and friend Ryan Rillo all claimed they were injured in a crash while exiting a parking lot at a Surrey gas station in June 2013. As ICBC’s claims adjusters took a closer look, the stories didn’t add up and ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was brought in. Upon further inspection, SIU found these significant inconsistencies:

  • Passengers involved: Lisa, Ryan and Michelle, all of adult age, claimed they were each injured in the crash. However, according to the other driver involved in the collision, Lisa was driving the vehicle with two child passengers.
  • Bridge crossings: The guilty parties said the vehicle crossed the Port Mann Bridge four times claiming Lisa picked Michelle and Ryan up from Coquitlam, drove to Surrey for lunch where they were involved in a crash, returned to Coquitlam afterwards to drop off the two passengers and then Lisa drove home to Surrey. However, video footage from the Port Mann Bridge confirmed the vehicle only went over the bridge twice – once westbound and once eastbound – hours before the crash.
  • Time of the crash: Michelle and Ryan reported the crash occurred at 5 p.m., however, video surveillance at the gas station confirmed the crash took place just after 6 p.m. Further, evidence confirmed Michelle was working in Coquitlam when all this occurred and didn’t get off work until 7 p.m.
  • Cellphone records: Cellphone records were obtained and showed Lisa and Michelle spoke minutes after the crash which was interesting evidence given they both claimed to be in the vehicle together. The records also confirmed Lisa was in the Surrey area hours before the collision.

The judge declared the defendants lacked credibility, and since the trio could not explain their story’s discrepancies, the judge accepted the Crown’s case in criminal court. All three were charged under section 42.1 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act and found guilty of insurance fraud by “a passenger jump-in scheme” – a commonly-used term to describe either a literal or figurative addition of passengers who were not actually involved in a collision. Ryan was fined $2,000, Lisa was fined $1,000 plus one day in jail, and Michelle was given a $2,000 fine and one day in jail. No monies were paid out on the claims for bodily injuries.

In 2014 alone, ICBC paid out more than $2 billion in bodily injury claims – up by more than $600 million from just five years ago. While the number of crashes in B.C. is relatively stable, ICBC is receiving more injury claims every year with more people reporting injury claims from approximately the same number of crashes.

While the vast majority of customers are honest, fraudulent claims hurt everyone by putting pressure on claims costs. Investigating and preventing fraud is one way we help keep claims costs and insurance rates down.

The public can help prevent fraud by reporting suspicious, exaggerated or fraudulent claims or other activities to ICBC’s fraud tips line at 604-661-6844 or 1-800-661-6844, toll-free in B.C. Tip information is confidential and callers can remain anonymous.

Media contact:
Adam Grossman
604-982-1332

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