Slip-and-slide car accidents: When to tell your insurance and how to negotiate

By  | Global News

It’s slip-and-slide season in Canada. Much of the country is covered in ice and snow and facing negative double-digit temperatures — it’s the kind of weather in which even snow plows occasionally find themselves drifting.

Here’s what Canadian motorists should keep in mind.

Does your insurance need to know about a fender-bender?

Most Canadians know to contact their insurance after a serious collision. In fact, in those circumstances, you also have a duty to report what happened to the police or a collision centre.

In general, you should dial 911 immediately if anyone was hurt or killed, when a driver involved is uninsured, unlicensed or appears intoxicated, and in hit-and-run cases. Often, you also have to file a police report when the crash caused significant property damage.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Alberta, the police should be involved if the overall damage looks to be more than $2,000. In New Brunswick, the threshold is $1,000.

Wherever you live, if a police report is warranted, you also need to call up your insurance company.

But many of the collisions that happen around this time of year are just fender-benders. Often, the damage is less than the amount of your insurance deductible.

Does your insurance really need to know about things like minor dents and scratches?

“If the damage is less than the deductible, you won’t get an insurance payout so there is no point in reporting it to your insurance company,” said Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com, an insurance comparisons site.

That, though, is as long as both you and the other driver agree that there is no need to contact the insurance company.

“If the other driver was not at fault and is going to go through insurance, then it’s best for you to let your insurance company know,” Thomas added, speaking to Global News via email.

There is also an important difference between simply notifying your insurance of an accident and making a claim for reimbursement of damages, said John Shmuel at Lowestrates.ca, a financial products comparison site.

Filing a claim will affect your premium but an accident report might not, depending on your insurance policy and whether it includes features like accident forgiveness, he added.

And while reporting a fender-bender could lead to higher premiums, keeping mum also comes with risks.

Sometimes, what looks like “a little bit of damage can result in big bills,” Shmuel said. Or you might discover that the person travelling with you at the time of the collision develops neck pain a few days later, he added.

Your vehicle is a write-off — now what?

Of course, icy roads and poor visibility can lead to far worse than a fender-bender. And it doesn’t take much, these days, for insurance companies to declare your vehicle a write-off.

If that happens, know that you don’t have to accept the first figure the insurance adjuster comes up with.

“You’re completely within your right to dispute that,” if the number seems too low, Shmuel said.

Your insurance will send you an offer that details how they came up with the number.

“Go through the report with a fine-tooth comb,” Shmuel said.

The insurance adjuster will justify her estimate with research that may include consulting used-car dealers and partner companies for vehicles of the same make, model, year and overall condition. You should do your own, parallel research, Shmuel said.

Canadian Black Book is the place to start, he added. The website provides a Total Loss Report with an independent estimate of your vehicle’s cash value based on the company’s database of comparable vehicles.

In addition to that, though, you should also search sites like Auto Trader and Kijiji, Shmuel said. Don’t just look at asking prices, though, which can be unreasonable. When you find an ad for a comparable vehicle, reach out to the seller to see if they are willing to provide you with proof of the final sale price.

You should also submit any receipts for repairs or upgrades done to your vehicle. If you’re just replaced the transmission, for example, your insurance should take that expense into account.

“If you can prove that the market value of your car is more than the insurance company is offering, then you can negotiate. Oftentimes this happens when the vehicle has low mileage and/or you can prove that it was in great shape,” Thomas said.

Source: Global News

OPINION COLUMN: Careful what you wish for when it comes to private insurance

OPINION COLUMN – By Dermod Travis | The Daily Courier 

Imagine a land where drivers pay 55 per cent more for auto insurance than other drivers in Canada, a land where an insurance company may not cover you because of the city you live in, a land where your automobile insurance premiums isn’t based on your driving record but your postal code.

It’s a land that allows British Columbians a peek into the future, if private auto insurance should come to pass in the province.

That land is Ontario.

A 2017 review for the Ontario government done by insurance expert David Marshall — Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario — found that Ontario drivers paid 55 per cent more than the Canadian average for car insurance and the province had “one of Canada’s least effective auto insurance systems.”

In November, a former employee of Allstate Insurance Canada filed a lawsuit against her former employer for wrongful dismissal, after she pushed back against the company’s “discriminatory” effort to stop selling auto insurance to drivers who live in Brampton, Ont.

Brampton residents pay on average “$1,000 a year more in auto insurance premiums each year than a driver in north Toronto,” according to NDP MPP Gurratan Singh, one of two members of Ontario’s legislature who tabled private members bills last October to end what they called auto insurance postal code “discrimination.”

This month Ontario premier Doug Ford announced plans to review that province’s “auto insurance system in order to lower rates for drivers.” Good luck with that.

The problems plaguing Ontario’s system may sound familiar to B.C. drivers.

Marshall’s review pegged the cost of insurance fraud at $1.3 billion annually, he found “$1.4 billion annually — a third of all insurance premium benefits — goes to duelling lawyers and medical experts in court, instead of to treatment for crash victims” and complaints from auto insurers that “plaintiffs’ lawyers drive up costs by charging outrageously high contingency fees, which redirect money intended for the treatment of victims into the pockets of their lawyers.”

Venturing into the land of comparing auto insurance premiums by province is fraught with peril, as I have learned with my own grey hair count. It’s also a subject where everyone takes leave of their senses.

So perhaps it’s better to consider premiums in the context of the two auto insurance systems in Canada: public and private.

Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. all have public auto insurance with varying degrees of optional private insurance.

Three of the public insurers are profitable, B.C. is not.

According to an analysis by the Saskatchewan government — based on a composite index modelled after the index developed by the Consumers’ Association of Canada —Vancouver had the highest premiums of the four at $1,966 in 2018, followed by Montreal ($1,884), Regina ($1,199) and Winnipeg ($1,192).

Saskatchewan pegs premiums in Toronto at $4,669. The Insurance Bureau of Canada draws issue with that number, but all observers seem in agreement: among provinces with private insurance, Ontario has the highest premiums.

Last October, LowestRates.ca released updated annual increases which showed rates in Ontario jumped by 10.7 per cent (over 2017) and Alberta by 6.7 per cent. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. recently applied for an interim 6.3 per cent rate increase.

One Toronto driver illustrated that province’s rate hike well: “Never had an accident in my life and my insurance increased last year from $219 to $280 per month” or $3,360 annually.

Opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson has said in a number of media interviews that it’s time “for a complete root-and-branch overhaul (of auto insurance): Let’s figure out how it’s done in the rest of the world, take the best practices and make it better for B.C.”

It’s going to be tough to square the circle between stakeholders, rising auto repair costs and Autoplan franchisees, as B.C. Attorney General David Eby is already learning.

There is one fundamental question that needs a clear answer from those advocating for a private model, though: if Ontario drivers are among the best in Canada and B.C. drivers not so, how will private auto insurance result in lower premiums for B.C. drivers than those in Ontario?

Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but there really isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the private auto insurance rainbow. Private or public, this is going to hurt.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca

Rates reach new peaks in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, increasing 10.05% and 3.75% in Q4

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Ontario consulting on municipalities’ worries on ‘liability chill’

TORONTO — Ontario is taking a look at municipalities’ concerns about a legal rule that they say causes “liability chill” and leads some to ban activities such as street hockey and tobogganing.

In a speech Monday to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, Premier Doug Ford said the province will launch consultations about “the joint and several liability” rule, which says that if one party is found to have only some responsibility, they would still be liable for total damages if other liable parties were unable to pay.

“We have heard your concerns about increasing insurance costs and the impact that these costs can have on property taxes, on municipal taxpayers, and on the average Ontario resident,” Ford said.

“We will look at the evidence and develop a solution that makes sense.”

Rural municipalities have long been calling for reforms, saying they fear the legal convention could mean they face steep costs from lawsuits for even minor injuries on public property, being forced to pay 100 per cent of the cost in an accident in which they were only found to bear minimal responsibility.

If a drunk driver has no insurance, lawyers could go after the municipality, arguing that the road surface was partially responsible for a collision, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario says.

“Victims of any type of accident obviously have to be fairly compensated, we get all that,” said Gary McNamara, warden of Essex County and a past AMO president. “They should be treated fairly and with respect. We get that, but it shouldn’t be solely on the backs of municipal taxpayers. We can’t be held accountable 100 per cent. It just doesn’t make sense.”

It is costing municipalities across the province more than $300 million to insure their communities, McNamara said. In his community of Essex, insurance costs increased 41 per cent in one year as a result of one claim, he said.

Some communities have even taken to banning street hockey and tobogganing, and it’s unfortunate, said McNamara.

“When an eight-year-old child has got a toboggan in tow and he goes up to that hill and then somebody, a bylaw enforcement officer, says, ‘Sorry but you can’t toboggan down this hill’ — why? Because there’s a massive lawsuit in Hamilton that’s driven other municipalities to say, ‘Can we take the risk?” McNamara said.

Tobogganing was banned for years in Hamilton, where a man won a court settlement of nearly $1 million after his toboggan hit a snow-covered drainpipe and he injured his spine.

But Allen Wynperle, the president-elect of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, said there were no other defendants in the Hamilton case, so it was not a matter of joint and several liability. Municipalities appear to be concerned about liability overall, and while certainly a challenge, joint and several liability is a specific issue, he said.

“Very few cases have this problem where the municipalities end up paying more than their liability in the case, but they’re usually very, very serious cases,” Wynperle said.

“In a joint and several liability case, remember, the municipality has been found at fault for conduct or an omission and so a person already has an assessment of damages in that situation and the municipality has been found at least partly at fault.”

The trial lawyers hope Ontario holds compensating accident victims as the top priority, Wynperle said.

 

 

352 impaired driving offences reported during December Traffic Safety Spotlight

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ICBC’s Secret “Meat Chart” for Pain and Suffering and the Actual Law

Source: Erik Magraken BC Injury and ICBC Claims Blog

As reported by the Vancouver Sun, ICBC’s top brass have handed out directives to all adjusters to withdraw settlement offers on existing claims and re-assess claims not by the law but by an internal meat chart.

Details of this secret memo are slowly coming to light and it appears ICBC has created 5 different categories for non-pecuniary damage assessment.  The first three deal with soft tissue injuries, the fourth with more serious injuries and the last with what ICBC deems to be catastrophic injuries.

I have not yet had the privilege of seeing ICBC’s full memo to their adjusters (who have been instructed to keep the details secret) but sources tell me that ICBC will be valuing pain and suffering by completely artificial criteria which run contrary to well established law.  If and when full details of ICBC’s new policy are shared with me I will gladly publish them.

In the meantime, if you are being told that your claim is worth an artificially small amount based on ICBC’s internal assessment please know your rights.  It is well established that non-pecuniary damages are assessed individually on a case by case basis using the following non-exhaustive list of factors.  If ICBC is not prepared to use these you can be confident BC courts will –

a)     age of the plaintiff;

b)     nature of the injury;

c)     severity and duration of pain;

d)     disability;

e)     emotional suffering; and

f)       loss or impairment of life;

g)     impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

h)     impairment of physical and mental abilities;

i)       loss of lifestyle; and

j)       the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54).

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