Insurance Bureau of Canada – Ontario Budget a win for drivers

The Ontario Government’s multi-year plan to fix auto insurance is a win for consumers. These changes will give consumers greater choice in their coverage and better control over the price they pay for auto insurance.

A keystone of the “Putting Drivers First” plan is introducing “care not cash” to ensure insurance resources are used to pay for the treatment accident victims need to recover from their injuries. The plan will also make it easier for consumers to make informed choices about their auto insurance coverage.

“The Government has put Ontario drivers first with this budget. Today’s announcement focuses resources squarely where they should be: on helping those injured in auto collisions recover,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, Insurance Bureau of Canada. “Auto insurance is complex, but the proposed changes clearly intend to make the claims process simpler for consumers.”

The Government’s reform plan also addresses an important issue raised in the 2017 report by David Marshall on Ontario’sbroken auto insurance system. As Marshall noted, hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance benefits are diverted each year into contingency fees for lawyers. Today, the Government committed to re-evaluating the legal contingency fee arrangement to ensure consumers are protected, and to ensure agreements are transparent.

“Putting Drivers First” encourages greater competition. It also enables electronic proof of insurance, and electronic commerce and communications between insurers and clients to make it easier for consumers.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 126,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $54.7 billion.

If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC in Ontario.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow us on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and @IBC_Ontario.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Ford government reveals ‘transformative’ auto insurance reforms

Insurance providers will be allowed to offer customized packages, new discounts

The excerpted article was written by Nick Boisvert | CBC News

The Ford government has revealed a sweeping plan to reduce auto insurance rates, though it is not saying how much drivers should expect to save under the new rules.

The changes are aimed at increasing the range of plans available to drivers, making the claim process easier to navigate, and creating more competition between insurance providers.

Details of the Progressive Conservatives’ “Putting Drivers First” plan were revealed in the government’s first spring budget Thursday.

“When it comes to driving, it is clear that Ontario’s auto insurance is broken, and drivers deserve better,” said Finance Minister VicFedeli in his speech to the legislature, where he called the plan “transformative.”

Ontarians pay among the highest auto insurance premiums in Canada, with drivers in the GTA generally facing the highest rates.

The previous Liberal government pledged to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent over a two year period that was to end in 2015, but that goal was never realized.

Giving ‘control back to drivers’

The proposed reforms are designed give drivers access to a wider range of plans, including more access to à la carte-style coverage.

By loosening existing regulations, the PCs believe that insurance providers will be able to offer drivers more choices when it comes to coverage options. Doing so will give drivers more power to reduce their premiums through customized plans, the government argues.

“The proposed reforms will give control back to drivers,” according to the 2019 budget document.

It has not yet been determined exactly which types of coverage drivers will be allowed to opt out of.

Insurance companies will also be allowed to offer new types of discounts to drivers — for example, if a driver agrees to a credit check, or to claim benefits through an insurance company’s “preferred providers” of auto repair or health care services.

While these new discounts and coverage options will be possible under the new rules, it does not appear that companies will be compelled to offer them.

Canada’s first ‘Driver Care Card’

The province has also revealed its plan to introduce what it calls a “Driver Care Card,” which would act as a debit-style card for people making insurance claims.

Following an accident, the card would be loaded with money earmarked toward insurance benefits, such as rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Fedeli said the card will “streamline access to care by providing important information that will make the claims process easier to navigate.”

The province says the reforms will reduce insurance fraud through the use of ‘enhanced data analytics’ and a modernized online claims process. (Getty Images)

The Tories say the new, centralized system will also make it easier to combat insurance fraud, since it will be easier to monitor which benefits are being claimed.

Ontario will also raise the default benefit limit for catastrophic injuries to $2 million from the current $1 million.

It has not yet been determined if Driver Care Card will be a physical card or electronic. Regardless, it would be the first system of its kind in Canada.

Increasing competition

The new auto insurance strategy is also designed to increase competition among insurance providers, giving companies new abilities to differentiate themselves from competitors.

That will include the allowance of new pricing structures and types of coverage that were not previously available. The budget document cites pay-as-you-go insurance as an example of an innovative business model it wants to encourage, though some companies already offer that type of coverage.

The Ford government also wants more insurance-related transactions to be made possible online, including payments and general communication.

Drivers will also be allowed to use electronic proof of insurance instead of the paper proof that is currently required.

The PC government is also pushing for an end to so-called “postal code discrimination,” which allows insurance companies to charge higher rates based on a driver’s home address. Legislation calling for this change has been proposed but not yet passed by the legislature.

Manitoba man fights to keep personalized plate referencing song

By Kelly Geraldine Malone

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG _ Bruce Spence is used to driving around Manitoba and seeing people pointing at his personalized NDN CAR licence plate, honking their horns, giving him a thumbs up and bursting out laughing.

That why the Nehiyaw man from Opaskwayak Cree Nation said he was shocked to find out Manitoba Public Insurance had revoked the plate, which honours  “Indian Cars,” one of his favourite songs.

“I just don’t think that a provincial government or Crown corporation should be able to walk all over an Indigenous person,” Spence said.

“I’ve been living under the jackboots of Canadian government my entire life. This is a small issue, it’s a domestic issue, it’s a provincial issue, but I think it’s an issue worth fighting.”

Licence plates in Manitoba belong to MPI and the agency has said it can recall or deny them for a variety of reasons, including if they are offensive, suggestive, discriminatory or include racial or ethnic slang.

Spence, who is a producer with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, was issued the plate about seven years ago.

He said it honours the folk tune  “Indian Cars,” by Indigenous musician Keith Secola.

Spence laughed explaining how the song is about a man who is trying to make it to the next powwow down the road.

“He’s got a crappy car and it’s funny and it has a good beat and you can dance to it,” Spence said. “I made an inquiry and the plate was available, so I applied for it.”

There were no problems until May 2018 when Spence said he received a call from MPI claiming the plate was offensive and  “ethnic slang.” He wrote the minister asking for an explanation.

Months went by without a response. Then in February, Spence said the insurer told him his plate was being revoked because it had been identified during a review as possibly offensive.

“I was afraid that MPI would just as arbitrarily suspend my insurance if I did not comply with their demand,” he said.

Soon after, Spence was contacted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms offering to fight MPI’s decision.

It is the same group that is representing a Manitoba “Star Trek” fan, Nick Troller, who is fighting in court to keep his personalized ASIMIL8 licence plate, which was recalled in 2017.

Assimilate is a well-known saying by the alien race the Borg on the show, but the insurer said it had received a complaint that it was offensive to Indigenous people.

A Justice Centre lawyer argued in a Winnipeg court earlier this week the insurer’s “knee-jerk reaction” was a violation of Troller’s right to free expression.

Manitoba Justice lawyer Charles Murray countered that the word cannot be dissociated from the history of forced assimilation of Indigenous people in the province.

Spence said he understands there is a need for guidelines, but believes his plate was acceptable.

“My plate passed their sniff test seven years ago,” he said.  “And now the plate is gone and I don’t know why. I’d like to know why, and I’d like to get that plate back.”

Personalized licence plates have been controversial before.

A man in Nova Scotia is also to be in court this month over a personalized licence plate. Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his  “GRABHER” plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance recently denied Dave Assman (pronounced Oss-man) a licence plate with his last name on it. In response, he put a large “ASSMAN” decal on the back of his truck.

Debilitating injuries described in mounting lawsuits against alleged van attacker

By Liam Casey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Traumatic brain injuries, spinal fractures and internal bleeding are among the litany of ailments described in a mounting number of lawsuits against a man accused of killing 10 people and injuring 16 others in a van attack in Toronto last year.

Lawyers involved in the suits against Alek Minassian believe the cases, which the court is working to pull together in one large proceeding, will take years to come to a resolution.

On April 23, 2018, police allege Minassian drove a white Ryder rental van south along Yonge Street in the city’s north end, hopped the curb and deliberately mowed people down.

While Minassian’s criminal case slowly makes its way through the system – his trial on 10 first-degree murder charges and 16 attempted murder charges has been scheduled for February 2020 – the 26-year-old already faces four civil suits, with more expected.

The lawsuits, from the families of one person who died and three who were injured, are seeking millions of dollars from Minassian and Ryder Truck Rental Canada, alleging the devastating injuries and deaths on that day were due to an intentional act by Minassian and negligence on his and the rental company’s part.

The unproven civil suits will be fought in the trenches of insurance law.

“This is going to drag on for a long, long time,” said Gus Triantafillopoulos, who represents the family of Anne Marie D’Amico, a young woman who died that day and whose family filed a $1-million suit in January against Minassian and Ryder.

Triantafillopoulos said if the family receives any money through the civil proceedings it will all be donated to the Anne Marie D’Amico Foundation, which supports women who are victims of violence.

The first suit related to Minassian was filed in November 2018 by Amir Kiumarsi, a chemistry instructor with Ryerson University who is seeking $6 million dollars in damages.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury and several skull fractures, spinal fractures, traumatic internal injuries including a displaced kidney and numerous other injuries throughout his entire body, the claim says.

“These injuries have been accompanied by severe physical pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life,” the claim alleges, noting that his future holds “numerous surgical and medical assessments, treatments and procedures.”

Since Kiumarsi filed his suit, the court is in the process of getting all the cases on one track, documents show.

Another suit was filed in mid-January by Amaresh Tesfamariam and her family, who are seeking $14 million. Tesfamariam has a complete spinal cord injury, multiple spinal fractures, rib fractures and a traumatic brain injury.

She cannot move her body below her neck, cannot breathe without a machine, suffers a total loss of independence and a “profound and permanent loss of her cognitive ability,” according to the claim.

Tesfamariam also has loss of short-term memory, depression, anxiety, a “drastic personality change” and cannot communicate properly with others, and cannot return to her work as a nurse, the claim alleges.

The latest suit was filed last week by Catherine Riddell and her family, alleging the “sustained serious and permanent” injuries the woman suffered are the result of negligence on the part of Minassian and the rental company.

Riddell lost consciousness, suffered a brain injury, hurt her head, neck, shoulders, arms, back, legs and arms. She fractured her spine, her ribs, pelvis, scapula and suffered internal injuries including a collapsed lung, the $3.55 million suit alleges.

She lives with headaches, memory loss, difficulty finding words, dizziness, back and neck pain, loss of mobility, nausea, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and depression, her claim alleges, noting that she now faces a life filled with therapy, rehabilitation and medical treatment.

“Her enjoyment of life has been permanently lessened and she has been forced to forego numerous activities in which she formerly participated,” the claim reads.

Minassian does not yet have legal representation in the civil matters and has not responded to the claims, according to the documents. His criminal lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyers for Ryder, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, detailed the expected complexities in the litigation in an affadavit filed with the court.

It notes that notice has been given for 12 claims and more are expected. There will be numerous parties in the case from families of the dead to the injured and the various defendants. There will be examinations for all plaintiffs, and testimony would be expected from numerous medical experts.

“It would be safe to assume this matter will require a lengthy trial,” said the affidavit.

Kiumarsi’s lawyer, Darcy Merkur, said there will be a slew of arguments brought forward.

“One interesting question is this: is every different person hurt considered a separate accident?” Merkur said. “It’s a legal question, but also a philosophical one.”

The answer to that question will be important to the issue of potential payments, he explained.

Food delivery worker’s insurance policy cancelled after collision

CTV News Toronto 

A Burlington woman, who used her vehicle while working for a food delivery service, said she was shocked to realize that damage sustained in a crash would not be covered under her current insurance policy.

Tanya Maiato said that she signed up to work with Skip the Dishes in December to earn a little extra money. She said she would do a couple of delivery runs a week.

Maiato said she used her personal vehicle to deliver food. In February, she said someone crashed into her crash, resulting in about $8,400 in damage.

Everything went smoothly when she filed her insurance claim, Maiato said, and she was provided with a rental car while her vehicle was being repaired. But after they found out she was working for a food delivery service, the claim and her policy were both cancelled.

“I was honest and let them know that I was driving for Skip the Dishes at the time and they had asked me, did I inform my insurance company about this and I said no, I had no idea I had to.”

The company said that the standard auto insurance policy does not cover commercial or for-profit use of the vehicle.

Maiato said that when she joined Skip the Dishes, she was unaware she required extra insurance. But the company told CTV News Toronto that the information was in the driver’s contract.

“When a courier joins the Skip network, they do so as an independent contractor and they’re considered to be operating their own business,” a spokesperson said. “They must abide by all legal requirements. This may include additional insurance.”

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, owners should always check with their insurance company if they use the vehicle to earn income.

“The last thing anyone wants is to be involved in a crash and find out that they are not covered because they did not tell their insurer how they are using their vehicle or if that use has changed,” said Pete Karageorgos.

Maiato now has to pay for the damage to her vehicle herself and says she regrets signing up with the food delivery service.

“I’m incredibly upset,” she said. “It’s been a very stressful time.”

“Had I known about this, I would never have signed up in the first place.”

Insurance Corporation of BC challenged over injury payouts, disputes resolution

VANCOUVER _ A legal battle is shaping up in British Columbia with the trial lawyers association promising to fight a move by the government-run auto insurer to overhaul claims payments and how it resolves disputes.

Effective immediately, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia has set a $5,500 cap on pain and suffering payments for minor injuries, which the Crown corporation describes as payments “recognizing the inconvenience and emotional distress of being in a crash.”

The corporation is also sending all disagreements about how minor injuries are determined or disputes about any injury claim below $50,000 to a civil resolution tribunal.

On its website, the corporation says the tribunal can be used without the need for legal representation, but the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia has warned the government that it intends to launch a constitutional challenge.

The association says the revisions have the potential to unfairly cut compensation for crash victims.

Association president Ron Nairne says in a statement that the new process could also restrict access to the courts, denying claimants of a basic human right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights.

“The approach this government has taken to legislative and regulatory changes to address ICBC’s mismanagement problems violates the rights of British Columbians. This should be about protecting the public interest _ not about protecting ICBC,” Nairne says.

Attorney General David Eby said Friday that word of the constitutional challenge was not unexpected.

“They believe that you can only resolve disputes appropriately through the B.C. Supreme Court. We don’t, obviously, agree with their interpretation of the law,” he said.

Changes to insurance corporation payments and procedures were announced last year, shortly after Eby referred to the insurer as a “financial dumpster fire.”

The latest fiscal year ended March 31 and the corporation announced in February that its projected deficit was $1.18 billion, on top of the $1.3 billion loss posted over the 2017/18 fiscal year.

With the April 1 cap on pain and suffering payouts for minor injury claims, B.C. becomes the final province in Canada to limit the payments.

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