Impaired driving is the traffic safety spotlight for the month of May.
By Mike Crawley, CBC News
If you get injured in a car accident in Ontario after June 1, the amount of medical costs that your insurance company will cover may be a lot lower than before.
The provincial government is mandating changes to the standard auto insurance policies that will drive down the limits on medical, rehabilitation and attendant care coverage.
“Starting June 1, 2016, to help make insurance premiums more affordable, the benefits and coverages you receive in a standard auto insurance policy are changing,” says the provincial insurance regulator, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) on its website.
Insurance companies are now informing policy holders of the upcoming changes through the mail
For most injuries, the combined limit of $86,000 for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care is dropping to $65,000. For injuries defined as “catastrophic,” the $2 million combined limit for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care is dropping to $1 million.
For new policies purchased after June 1, the coverage changes will kick in right away. For existing policies, the new limits will apply once the policy renews following June 1.
Drivers can purchase additional coverage for higher premiums.
Other measures that take effect June 1 include:
- Insurers can no longer use a minor at-fault accident as a reason to increase a driver’s premiums.
- The standard deductible for comprehensive coverage increases to $500 (from $300).
- The maximum interest rate that insurers can charge for making monthly payments on a one-year policy drops to 1.3% (from 3%).
Leaving a spare key in your car is a great idea – for car thieves. But if a crook does find the key you skillfully hid in the cup holder, you’ll probably still be covered by insurance.
“Most personal auto insurance policies do not include clauses that would deny coverage for a theft if the keys were in the car or if the doors were unlocked,” said State Farm Canada spokesman John Bordignon in an e-mail. “However, if a person has a pattern of many losses over a short period of time or a history of suspicious claims, this could make an insurance company investigate further or to review their relationship with them.”
We checked with the provinces with government insurance. They said the same thing – you’ll be covered if a thief uses your spare key to drive away. And, it happens.
“Unfortunately, people leaving their keys in their vehicle and having the vehicle stolen is pretty common in Saskatchewan, according to what we hear from police agencies,” said Kelley Brinkworth, media relations manager for Saskatchewan Government Insurance.
How often? We checked with several police departments and didn’t get exact numbers.
“We did a project a couple of years ago where 60 per cent of the stolen vehicles we recovered had keys in them,” said Dan Service, director of investigative services for the Western and Pacific region for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
With the graduation and prom party season in full swing, ICBC’s road safety speakers are touring B.C. high schools to share their personal, heart-wrenching stories with students and remind them of the tragic and life-changing consequences of taking risks while driving.
On average, 32 youth aged 16 to 21 are killed in crashes each year in B.C. During graduation season from April to June alone, on average, six youth are killed.
In B.C., 39 per cent of young drivers in fatal crashes were speeding, 27 per cent were impaired and 22 per cent were distracted.
“For many teenagers, getting their driver’s licence represents freedom and independence, but there is also a great responsibility that comes with it,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “ICBC road safety speakers help connect with youth through their personal experiences and motivate them to think twice before taking risks behind the wheel.”
“Graduation marks an important milestone in the life of every student, but a car crash can change that in a moment,” said Mike Bernier, Minister of Education. “The road safety speaker program is an investment in the well-being of our students and the continued safety of our roads.”
“Unsafe choices related to driving and being a passenger in a vehicle remains the top risk to the lives and health of youth,” said Mark Blucher, ICBC’s president and CEO. “We want to get students talking about the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and impaired driving and help them make safer choices.”
For the past 19 years, ICBC road safety speakers have been sharing their stories with approximately 50,000 B.C. high school students every year.
ICBC is committed to working with youth, parents, educators and community groups to help reduce crashes, identify the risks of the road and help young drivers develop strong decision-making skills.
You can find video clips of the speakers and more details on their presentations on icbc.com. ICBC also invests in various road safety programs for students including K-10 school curriculum and B.C.’s graduated licensing program.
- On average, 12 youth are killed in crashes each year in the Lower Mainland.
- On average, nine youth are killed in crashes each year in Southern Interior.
- On average, eight youth are killed in crashes each year in the North Central region.
- On average, four youth are killed in crashes each year on Vancouver Island.
Note: all data referenced is police-reported data based on the five-year average from 2010 to 2014. Youth are defined as ages 16 to 21.
Change is the name of the game when it comes to Ontario car insurance. It seems that every year our legislature is keen to make changes to our auto insurance laws. Similarly, it would appear we are currently on a five and a half year cycle where the Accident Benefits system gets a substantial overhaul. Unfortunately, history has shown us that these insurance changes are not usually in favour of the injured person. Looking forward, it appears history is about it repeat itself. On June 1, 2016 Ontario Regulation 251/15 comes into force, which will considerably change the current Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). The amendments will only apply to accidents occurring on or after June 1, 2016.
Amendments to Non-Catastrophic Benefits
Under the current SABS, a maximum amount of coverage of $50,000.00 is available for non-catastrophically impaired claimants in terms of medical and rehabilitation benefits and an additional $36,000.00 is available for attendant care purposes. The June 1st amendments combine these two categories into one standard benefit. Under this new benefit category the maximum amount available to claimants will become $65,000.00, reducing the overall combined amount previously available by $21,000.00 and forcing injured people to juggle the two benefit types.
Not only will the amount of coverage be decreasing but so too will the duration for accessing these benefits. For those over 18 at the time of the accident, their period of coverage is being reduced from 10 years to 5 years. For those under 18 at the time of the accident, access to these benefits will be available until their 28thbirthday.
The current optional medical and rehabilitation benefit and the optional attendant care benefit are being combined into a standard optional benefit. The new standard benefit reduces the amount of optional benefits from $172,000.00 ($100,000.00 for medical and rehabilitation and $72,000.00 for attendant care) to $130,000.00.
Under the current SABS, a maximum of $1,000,000.00 coverage is available for catastrophically impaired claimants for medical and rehabilitation benefits, as well as $1,000,000.00 coverage available for attendant care. For those catastrophically impaired in an accident on or after June 1, 2016, the attendant care, medical and rehabilitation benefits are being combined into one standard benefit – just like what is being done in the non-catastrophic category. For those who quality, the maximum level of coverage available under this new benefit is $1,000,000.00, reducing the overall amount previously available by $1,000,000.00
The current optional combined medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefit maximum available is $3,000,000.00. Following the amendments the optional combined benefit amount will be reduced to $2,000,000.00 with the option to purchase an additional $1,000,000.00. Catastrophically impaired claimants may still have access to the $3,000,000.00 maximum provided that they bought both options.
Not only are the amounts of funding being changed but so too are the criteria for entitlement. June 1st will see significant changes to the definition of catastrophic impairment. Most notably, the new definition completely removes all references to the Glasgow Coma Scale. Instead, the regulation refers to “Structured Interviews for the Glasgow Outcome Scale and the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale: Guidelines for Their Use, Journal of Neurotrauma, Volume 15, Number 8, 1998” as the new tests to be used to determine whether a person has suffered a catastrophic brain injury.
The new definition also overrules Pastore v Aviva Canada Inc., 2012 ONCA 642. In that case the Court of Appeal concluded that only one functional impairment due to a mental or behavioural disorder at the marked level was necessary to declare a claimant’s injuries to be catastrophic. Under the new definition mental or behavioural disorders will only be deemed catastrophic if there is a marked impairment in three of the four aspects of function or an extreme impairment in one aspect. Further, the claimant must be precluded from useful function.
The new definition also updates the criteria for amputations, ambulatory mobility and loss of vision. The regulation indicates that the Spinal Cord Independence Measure, Version III must now be consulted when determining whether an individual is catastrophic in circumstances of paraplegia, tetraplegia or a severe impairment of ambulatory mobility.
Finally, the new definition sets out that one must consult the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th edition (instead of the 4th edition) for the purpose of “combining” physical and mental impairments. Along with the 4th edition’s system for rating other impairments, the new definition directs one to use the 6th edition’s methodology for assigning a Whole Person Impairment to certain mental and behavioural conditions.
Currently, non-earner benefits are available to injured claimants who are 16 years of age or older and these benefits remain available for their lifetime. There is a six-month waiting period following the accident before these benefits become payable. Once payable, they continue for life so long as the claimant continues to qualify. Non-earner benefits are currently payable at a rate of $ 185.00 weekly. For students the weekly amount increases to $320.00 weekly at the two year anniversary of the accident.
Under the new regulations, for accidents occurring on or after June 1, 2016, non-earner benefits will only be available to claimants who are 18 years of age or older and are available for a maximum of two years. The six-month delay is reduced to a four week delay. The increase previously available to students has been eliminated.
The above only highlights some of the major changes that are coming our way. We are entering a new era of accident benefits where, undoubtedly, there will be even less funding available for the majority of accident victims. There is sure to be growing pains and a learning curve for insurers and medical assessors who will have to learn the new tests and texts that will be relied upon when making a catastrophic determination. While it is expected that the damages recoverable in tort claims will also increase, due to the decreased availability of statutory accident benefit credits, a number of seriously injured claimants who do not have tort claims will be left to contend with insufficient benefits. It is also worthwhile to consider the effect that insufficient benefits may have on the public health care system. Time will only tell whether these changes will be tolerated; but, for better or for worse, the changes are coming and look like they are here to stay.
TORONTO _ Auto insurance rates in Ontario have dropped about 10 per cent on average in the past couple of years, putting the Liberal government two-thirds of the way to a goal that passed eight months ago.
The Liberals promised in August 2013 to reduce car insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by August 2015 as part of a deal to get NDP support for that year’s budget when they were still a minority government.
But after August came and went last year with the government’s target not even halfway met, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she always knew it was a “stretch goal.”
The latest numbers from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, for the first quarter of 2016, show that approved rates decreased on average by about three per cent.
The government introduced legislation last year that it says will lower costs for insurance companies and will lead to reduced rates for drivers.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the government has made progress, but further reductions must be made “in a fair and practical manner” and the auto insurance industry must also do its part.