Yes, Ontario insurance is a wreck, so you need to shop around

Yes, Ontario insurance is a wreck, so you need to shop around

Driving.ca

Last week, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) told us what we already know: Auto insurance rates in Ontario are the highest in the land. In fact, they’re higher by an average of 55 per cent.

The Liberal government promised cuts of 15 per cent back in 2013; that measure was supposed to be in place by mid-2015, a goal we all watched go streaming by with nary a nudge. They’ve since declared it was always a “stretch” goal, whatever that is. Kind of like an alternative fact, perhaps.

Auto insurance has always been a hot election issue, and the timing of the current whipping is expected. One thing to keep in mind? Every party has screwed the pooch when it comes to this topic, with the NDP handing a fumbled ball to two successive Conservative governments who bobbled it to the incoming Liberals. They’re all as bad as each other at promising to do something, then opening the box the day after the election and grimacing.

It’s a mess.

Read More Here: http://bit.ly/2paT2dD

For injured paws and claws, insurance may come in handy for some pets

By Aleksandra Sagan

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Monica Finlay’s childhood yellow Labrador, Amy, had a few surprise accidents that cost her parents a lot of money.

“She blew out her ACL and that was really expensive,” Finlay says.

“Then, right at the end of her life, she blew out her other ACL.”

That experience is partly why she and her husband have been spending $45 a month for pet insurance since they got their German shepherd mix, Ozzie, about six years ago.

Pet insurance plans cover some veterinary costs, but pet owners are divided on whether they’re worth it.

Medical costs over an animal’s lifetime can be steep.

Cats cost their owners at least $100 a year, while dogs cost at least $200, according to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Those numbers only cover routine visits and don’t take into account emergencies, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

Monthly fees vary depending on factors such as the animal’s breed, age and location, as well as what the plan covers. Owners can choose from accident, illness and wellness coverage, which covers the routine visits most plans don’t.

Plans often have a combination of a maximum payout amount each year, a deductible (an amount the owner must pay before the insurer pitches in) and a co-pay (a percentage of the bill the owner is responsible for). Many plans won’t cover future costs for pre-existing conditions.

Fees vary. But the average yearly cost of insuring an adult cat for accident and illness coverage with Pets Plus Us, for instance, is $370, while for a dog the cost nearly doubles to $734.

It’s estimated only about one to three per cent of all domestic cats and dogs in the country have some type of insurance, like Finlay’s dog Ozzie.

Finlay says insurance has covered Ozzie’s roughly $2,500 of annual medical costs since they discovered he has allergies to about 22 things, including beef, chicken and wool.

“It would have been really cost prohibitive to keep him if we didn’t have pet insurance,” she says, adding the insurer pays 90 per cent of those costs save for a one-time $500 deductible.

But not all pets need such expensive, ongoing care and the monthly fees could add up to more than what the insurer needs to pay.

Michelle Van Dyk-Houghton chose not to insure her dog Brooke or her cat Ginger after weighing the monthly cost of insurance versus the potential savings.

Instead, she and her husband set aside $100 to $200 a month for animal care and draw on those funds when needed.

“If we don’t need it, then it’s money that we still have,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’m just giving it to an insurance company to kind of be gone forever.”

Not all pet owners are able to take out insurance though.

When Marli Vlok’s first guinea pig fell ill with what she believes was fibrous osteodystrophy, a metabolic bone disease, she paid more than $900 for Ember’s teeth to be trimmed three times and about $700 for a visit to a specialist.

She looked into pet insurance for her other guinea pigs, but couldn’t find a plan that would cover them.

Vlok routinely shells out between $40 and $70 for vet visits and has paid about $300 for two sets of X-rays for Onyx.

She says she keeps about $500 on hand for vet purposes at all times, but would prefer to pay for insurance.

“They’re one of those pets that you have a very good chance that they’ll be absolutely healthy,” she says.

“But when things go wrong, it’s expensive wrong.”

Damages for Surrogacy Fees Awarded in BC Injury Claim

In what I believe is the first case of its kind in British Columbia, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding damages for surrogacy fees for future potential pregnancies after a collision compromised the Plaintiff’s ability to safely carry a child.

In today’s case (Wilhelmson v. Dumma) the Plaintiff was “the sole survivor of a horrendous, high-speed, head-on collision that killed three other people”.  The collision caused profound injuries leading to permanent disability.  Included in the aftermath of this collision was an inability of the Plaintiff to safely carry a child.  In awarding damages for surrogacy fees should the Plaintiff wish to have a child by such means Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[375]     Based on the evidence in this case, a specific award for surrogacy fees is more appropriate than assuming her loss is adequately compensated for within the award for non-pecuniary damages. While the lost ability to carry a child to term certainly has caused Ms. Wilhelmson pain and suffering, deserving of recognition within the non-pecuniary damages, the fact that she is unable to carry a child leads to a distinct future cost to allow her to have a biological child — the cost of hiring a surrogate. I find this cost is medically necessary and reasonable. Its necessity arose directly from the accident; therefore the cost must be borne by the defendant.

[376]     I find some support for my view in Sadlowski v. Yeung, 2008 BCSC 456. In that case the plaintiff underwent a hysterectomy and she alleged the defendant, a gynaecologist, failed to adequately inform her of her medical condition and treatment options. The operation left the plaintiff infertile, and she alleges had she been adequately informed she would not have proceeded with the hysterectomy.

[377]     The court awarded her $90,000 for the loss of fertility as a separate award from the $100,000 damages awarded for pain and suffering. In doing so, the court relied on Semeniuk v. Cox, [2000] A.J. No. 51 at 78 where the judge noted the “invidious task” facing a judge trying to quantify the loss of fertility. In Semeniuk Acton J. also stated (para. 35):

I am of the view on this point, however, that infertility is a type of loss not properly lumped together with the usual non-pecuniary categories of pain, suffering and loss of amenities. Those categories cover losses which, in my view, at of a different nature of quality than the loss of the ability to bear children or to achieve the family one has planned…..I prefer … to assess quantum for infertility discretely, by reference to the circumstances of each case.

[378]     The court ultimately did not award a separate amount for surrogacy fees, but that was on the basis that the evidence of her desire to pursue surrogacy was “highly speculative”. The evidence present in this case was not “highly speculative”, and I am persuaded that the claim for surrogacy fees is medically justified and reasonable.

[379]     Dr. Yuzpe testified about the approximate cost involved in hiring a surrogate in the United States. These estimates were not successfully challenged by the defence. I am satisfied that Dr. Yuzpe’s evidence regarding costs is reliable. His report cited an overall range of between $50,000 and $100,000 per pregnancy by surrogate. I find that an award at the low end of this range is appropriate and award $100,000 for surrogacy fees for two pregnancies.

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck Injury With Headaches

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $90,000 for a long standing neck injury with associated headaches.

In today’s case (Willett v. Rose) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 collision.  At trial, some 7 years later, the Plaintiff continued to suffer from neck pain with associated headaches.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[42]         In summary, the evidence is undisputed that the plaintiff’s headaches, including migraine headaches, are more frequent since the accident. The events with which those headaches were associated before the accident–monthly menstrual periods–no longer occur. I also accept the plaintiff’s evidence that her headaches are more severe and usually associated with neck pain. All of the medical evidence acknowledges the mechanism by which neck pain can evolve into headaches, including migraines and confirms the existence of objective signs of neck injury.

[43]         All of that evidence leads to the conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, there is a causal link between the plaintiff’s neck pain and stiffness and her migraines. I find the neck pain and stiffness to have been solely caused by the accident.

[44]          As for the migraines, the governing principle is that stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458: causation is established if an injury was caused or contributed to by the accident. Given the plaintiff’s long history of migraines, it may well be that some other factor is also playing a role in their onset, but I find that the injuries the plaintiff suffered in the accident are at least a major contributing cause of the migraines she now has. Or, to use the language of the Supreme Court of Canada in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, “but for” accident, the plaintiff’s migraines would not be as frequent or severe as they now are.

[45]         It has now been seven years since the accident. The plaintiff still experiences neck pain and stiffness as a result of the soft tissue injuries to her neck. More importantly, the neck pain is a contributing factor to serious, sometimes temporarily disabling migraines that significantly interfere with both work and recreational activities and reduce her quality of life. No improvement is anticipated in the future…

[48]         Considering all of the evidence and the authorities cited to me, I award non‑pecuniary damages of $90,000.

How dangerous air bags can find their way into used cars

By Tom Krisher And Ken Ritter

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAS VEGAS _ A Nevada crash that nearly killed a young woman has exposed a hole in the government’s efforts to get dangerous Takata air bag inflators off the road: There’s nothing that prevents the devices from being taken from wrecked cars and reused.

Karina Dorado’s trachea was punctured by shrapnel from an inflator in an otherwise minor crash in Las Vegas on March 3. She was rushed to a trauma centre, where surgeons removed pieces that damaged her vocal cords. She is still being treated for neck injuries.

Dorado, 18, is among nearly 200 people injured or killed by the inflators, which can explode when the chemical propellant inside deteriorates. What’s different about her case is how the inflator wound up in her 2002 Honda Accord in the first place.

Dorado’s father, Jose, bought the car for her in March of last year so she could get to and from her job at a customer service call centre, attorneys for the family said Wednesday. The family did not know the car’s history, including that it had been wrecked in Phoenix and declared a total loss by an insurance company in 2015, the attorneys said.

According to AutoCheck, a service that tracks vehicle histories, the car was given a salvage title, repaired and resold in Las Vegas last spring.

Engineers from Honda inspected Dorado’s car after the crash and traced the serial number from the blown-apart inflator to a 2001 Accord, which had been covered by a recall but never had the inflator replaced.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the air bag in the 2001 Accord must have been removed by a salvage yard, or perhaps stolen. Somehow it ended up at the shop that repaired the car eventually bought by the Dorados.

It’s perfectly legal under federal law for air bag assemblies or other parts subject to recall to be pulled out of wrecked cars and sold by junkyards to repair shops that may not even know the danger.

No government agency monitors the transactions. In addition, no states appear to have laws against the reuse of recalled parts.

“What there should be is a program that prevents old air bags from being recycled,” said Michael Brooks, acting director of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety.

Carfax, another auto history tracking service, said it is unknown just how many cars are sold each year with salvage titles, but they number in the thousands.

At least 16 people have been killed by Takata inflators worldwide and more than 180 injured. The problem touched off the biggest automotive recall in U.S. history, with 69 million inflators recalled. About 100 million have been recalled globally. Takata has been fined and faces lawsuits, and it could be driven into bankruptcy.

Kent Emison, an attorney for the Dorado family, said that given the huge size of the Takata recall, millions of inflators are probably still in use and unaccounted for by authorities.

“People are not going to know until it’s too late that they have a defective Takata air bag,” he said.

The inflator that nearly killed Dorado was among the most dangerous made by Takata. In testing, inflators taken from older Hondas had a 50 per cent chance of blowing apart, prompting the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue desperate pleas for people to get them replaced.

Unlike most other air bag makers, Takata used the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the bags in a crash. But the chemical deteriorates over time when exposed to heat and humidity, causing it to burn too fast and blow apart a metal canister.

Attorneys for the Dorado family said they are trying to find out where Jose Dorado bought the Accord.

“It’s a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” said Billie-Marie Morrison, another family attorney.  “You would think in today’s age with communication technology these types of things should not be allowed to happen.”

Morrison said she doesn’t know if the elder Dorado checked the Accord’s vehicle identification number in a government database of recalled vehicles to see if it had any unfixed recalls.

Had he checked, he would have been given a false sense of security: The NHTSA website says the car has zero outstanding recalls. Honda said that before the Phoenix wreck, the previous owners had the air bag inflator replaced twice under recalls.

The federal government has no authority over used car sales and cannot stop air bags from being resold, a NHTSA spokeswoman said. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators said it knows of no states that prohibit salvaged parts from being reused, though some require parts to be inspected to make sure they aren’t stolen.

Honda’s Martin said the automaker has a program to buy up air bags made by Takata. In the past few years it has purchased 60,000 to take them out of circulation, he said.

Karina Dorado still has a hole in her trachea that is covered by a collar and will have to be repaired later, Morrison said. She is starting to get her voice back, but it’s very raspy and she will probably need speech therapy, the lawyer said.

Brooks said people should be suspicious of cars with salvage titles because there is no way of knowing where the parts came from or the quality of the repair work. Although some are safe, stolen or counterfeit parts can be used, he said.

“There are just so many questions that are impossible to answer,” he said. “I would always recommend buying something that has no crash history if you can.”

Probes launched into Manitoba privacy breach after names of MRI patients leaked

WINNIPEG _ Two probes are underway after the names of some high profile Manitobans who were allegedly fast-tracked for MRI scans became public.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has launched an investigation into the privacy breach and Manitoba’s ombudsman is also conducting a review.

The investigations come after the Winnipeg Free Press published a story based on a leaked document which was part of the Auditor General’s report into the management of MRI services.

The report contained the names of Manitobans who potentially received preferential MRI scans and noted patients with influence and those covered by private insurance may have been given higher priority to scans.

Auditor General Norm Ricard’s report found some people such as injured workers, professional athletes and government officials are given faster service.

He didn’t name those involved due to confidentiality and says he was mortified when he found out the document had been leaked.

Theresa Oswald, former health minister and current executive director of the Women’s Health Clinic, told CTV Winnipeg she found out her name was in the leaked document after receiving a call from a reporter.

“It was extremely jarring,” she said. “One’s personal health information is really the most intimate and private information that anyone can have.

“Today, it may be records of a diagnostic test for me, but as I lead the Women’s Health Clinic I can’t help but wonder, tomorrow might it be somebody’s decision to release information about our clients’ sexual and reproductive health?”

Oswald said at no time has she ever asked for preferential treatment for any kind of health care.

Ricard said the leak didn’t come from the Office of the Auditor General.

“We know who had access to that information, and it’s limited to two people who I trust implicitly,” Ricard told CTV.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the source of the breach is not yet known.

Ombudsman Charlene Paquin said she was extremely concerned that the privacy of some people had been violated.

“We cannot presume that anyone accessing health care won’t mind, or won’t be negatively affected by, having their personal health information revealed without their consent or in another unauthorized way,” she said in a release.

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