Lawyers coaching B.C. doctors to avoid injury caps under new auto insurance rules

The excerpted article was written by

B.C. doctors are being coached by trial lawyers to avoid classifying motor-vehicle injuries as “minor” under new rules that, starting in April, will cap some claims.

“An early and optimistic prognosis will have a devastating impact on your patients’ legal rights if their recovery does not ultimately follow this course,” law firm Murphy Battista warned physicians in a Jan. 24 letter.

“An example of a way in which a patient’s rights can be protected is if the family physician explains they ‘don’t yet know’ whether an injury will cause that patient ‘serious impairment.’ ”

That letter and others like it have prompted the organization representing physicians to urge its members to guard against what it describes as a campaign of misinformation around the changes to insurance settlements introduced by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

“Doctors of BC has been made aware there are letters, flyers and other types of communications being sent to physicians that may contain misleading and inaccurate information about new ICBC regulations for treatment of patients,” reads a Feb. 14 statement from the association to physicians.

Doctors of BC says the changes will not limit patient care or restrict physicians from making independent medical decisions. In fact, it says, patients will have access to more options for treatment.

“Under the new legislation, the overall allowance for medical care and recovery expenses will double to $300,000 to better support patients injured in a crash. ICBC will also pay more per treatment based on fair market rates and customers will no longer be out-of-pocket for most expenses.”

Last year, Attorney-General David Eby described ICBC as “a financial dumpster fire” and announced dramatic changes to rein in costs. The Crown corporation is on track to post losses of $1-billion for each of the past two years.

The provincial government passed legislation to curb skyrocketing payments for minor-injury claims by capping settlements for pain and suffering at $5,500 and limiting when accident victims can sue.

In the newsletter Bridge, which provides “legal perspectives of interest to the medical doctor,” physicians are advised to avoid using the grading system in the paperwork that ICBC will use to determine if an injury falls within the cap.

“Initially, the physician may have attached a Grade 2 [that would fall under the cap] to the patient. It may be difficult to re-classify. In light of this issue, it may be prudent for the physician to initially stroke through the Grades with the statement ‘Not possible to assign grade at this time.’”

The changes have put the government at odds with the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. The group warns that injured individuals are paying the price for financial mismanagement at ICBC. The organization declined to respond to interview requests from The Globe and Mail.

Vancouver lawyer Joe Murphy, co-founder of the firm Murphy Battista, said it is perfectly reasonable for lawyers to point out to doctors the impact their assessments could have on their patients’ rights.

“Unfortunately, you’ll find out if you have an accident that you are not entitled to treatments unless the adjuster decides you are,” he said in an interview.

He said the Doctors of BC statement is itself rife with inaccuracies.

“It is ironic. I’ve read through this, and many of the statements are based on inaccurate or misleading information. I don’t think the person who wrote this read the legislation,” he said.

Mr. Eby said in an interview on Thursday that he has heard from doctors about the unsolicited legal advice they are getting. “I’m glad the Doctors of BC are prepared to step up and warn physicians to call out misinformation when they see it.”

The Doctors of BC was consulted on the improvements to benefits for lost pay and medical rehabilitation for all people injured in accidents − the first major improvements in auto-accident benefits in more than 25 years.

Andrew Yu was one of the physicians who collaborated on the ICBC changes on behalf of Doctors of BC. He said members should not be influenced by lawyers when it comes to assessing their patients. “Some of these letters and brochures seem to offer direction on what words to use or not to use. We support the autonomy of family physicians to use their clinical discretion,” he said.

Lawyers coaching B.C. doctors to avoid injury caps under new auto insurance rules

B.C. doctors are being coached by trial lawyers to avoid classifying motor-vehicle injuries as “minor” under new rules that, starting in April, will cap some claims.

“An early and optimistic prognosis will have a devastating impact on your patients’ legal rights if their recovery does not ultimately follow this course,” law firm Murphy Battista warned physicians in a Jan. 24 letter.

“An example of a way in which a patient’s rights can be protected is if the family physician explains they ‘don’t yet know’ whether an injury will cause that patient ‘serious impairment.’ ”

That letter and others like it have prompted the organization representing physicians to urge its members to guard against what it describes as a campaign of misinformation around the changes to insurance settlements introduced by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

“Doctors of BC has been made aware there are letters, flyers and other types of communications being sent to physicians that may contain misleading and inaccurate information about new ICBC regulations for treatment of patients,” reads a Feb. 14 statement from the association to physicians.

Doctors of BC says the changes will not limit patient care or restrict physicians from making independent medical decisions. In fact, it says, patients will have access to more options for treatment.

“Under the new legislation, the overall allowance for medical care and recovery expenses will double to $300,000 to better support patients injured in a crash. ICBC will also pay more per treatment based on fair market rates and customers will no longer be out-of-pocket for most expenses.”

Last year, Attorney-General David Eby described ICBC as “a financial dumpster fire” and announced dramatic changes to rein in costs. The Crown corporation is on track to post losses of $1-billion for each of the past two years.

The provincial government passed legislation to curb skyrocketing payments for minor-injury claims by capping settlements for pain and suffering at $5,500 and limiting when accident victims can sue.

In the newsletter Bridge, which provides “legal perspectives of interest to the medical doctor,” physicians are advised to avoid using the grading system in the paperwork that ICBC will use to determine if an injury falls within the cap.

“Initially, the physician may have attached a Grade 2 [that would fall under the cap] to the patient. It may be difficult to re-classify. In light of this issue, it may be prudent for the physician to initially stroke through the Grades with the statement ‘Not possible to assign grade at this time.’”

The changes have put the government at odds with the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. The group warns that injured individuals are paying the price for financial mismanagement at ICBC. The organization declined to respond to interview requests from The Globe and Mail.

Vancouver lawyer Joe Murphy, co-founder of the firm Murphy Battista, said it is perfectly reasonable for lawyers to point out to doctors the impact their assessments could have on their patients’ rights.

“Unfortunately, you’ll find out if you have an accident that you are not entitled to treatments unless the adjuster decides you are,” he said in an interview.

He said the Doctors of BC statement is itself rife with inaccuracies.

“It is ironic. I’ve read through this, and many of the statements are based on inaccurate or misleading information. I don’t think the person who wrote this read the legislation,” he said.

Mr. Eby said in an interview on Thursday that he has heard from doctors about the unsolicited legal advice they are getting. “I’m glad the Doctors of BC are prepared to step up and warn physicians to call out misinformation when they see it.”

The Doctors of BC was consulted on the improvements to benefits for lost pay and medical rehabilitation for all people injured in accidents − the first major improvements in auto-accident benefits in more than 25 years.

Andrew Yu was one of the physicians who collaborated on the ICBC changes on behalf of Doctors of BC. He said members should not be influenced by lawyers when it comes to assessing their patients. “Some of these letters and brochures seem to offer direction on what words to use or not to use. We support the autonomy of family physicians to use their clinical discretion,” he said.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Umbrella Insurance Policies: Should You Have One?

Article by Theodore J. Madison

What is Umbrella Insurance?

Personal umbrella insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to add extra liability coverage over and above another insurance policy, such as auto, boat, or homeowners.

The extra coverage applies when the liability limits of the above policies have been reached.

It also provides coverage for claims that may be excluded under other liability policies.

What is Covered?

Umbrella insurance typically covers:

  • Bodily Injury claims arising from automobile accidents that are your fault, e.g. your dog biting someone, slip and falls in your home or injury to a third party occurring at your home;
  • Property damage to another’s tangible property arising from an automobile accident, your dog damaging another’s property and damage caused to another by your child;
  • Liability claims against you as a landlord;
  • Libel and/or slander actions against you;
  • False arrest or detention allegations against you;
  • A claim against you for malicious prosecution;
  • A claim against you for shock or mental anguish.

An example of how umbrella insurance works:

If your auto policy has limits of $500,000 and you are involved in an accident that is your fault where damages exceed your policy limits. If you have an umbrella policy, it will cover the excess claim up to the umbrella policy’s limits.

Summary

Umbrella policies are usually sold in $1 million increments to stack on your existing auto, boat or homeowners policies.

Damage awards are ever increasing and people generally do not carry enough coverage for a catastrophic claim. So the answer is yes, get yourself an umbrella policy to cover your assets.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

What to do if you’re a Canadian facing an emergency in a foreign country

Canadians who travel outside the country may plan their vacations to a meticulous degree, but they often don’t know what to do if the unexpected happens.

The latest example is a Winnipeg woman whose daughter died at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Holly Twoheart told Global News that she was “lost” dealing with all the different things that arose.

The federal government recommends all travelers check in before they leave Canada.

Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The service also enables you to receive important information before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.

That’s the first step and recommended for any Canadian planning on travelling outside of the country.

If you, or a loved one, are outside Canada and lose your passport, need urgent medical care, have been arrested or detained, or face an emergency, Canadian consular officials may be able to help you. This help provided to Canadians abroad is called “consular services.”

You can email sos@international.gc.ca or call directly at 1-613-996-8885.

Global Affairs Canada should also be contacted immediately at 1-613-944-4000.

The following is a credit-card sized information card that can be printed, folded and put into your wallet. Take the five minutes to download, print and write down the relevant information and tuck it into your wallet or travel case before you leave on your vacation.

You can reach consular officials 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in 150 countries and through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.

The website includes links and information to help Canadians with the following:

  • Arrest and detention
  • Child welfare, abduction and custody issues
  • Death abroad
  • Financial assistance
  • Forced marriage
  • Hijacking, hostage takings and kidnappings
  • Large-scale emergencies abroad
  • Lost or stolen belongings abroad
  • Missing persons
  • Passport security
  • Physical assault abroad
  • Sexual assault abroad
  • Sickness or injury

You should also be in immediate contact with the local Canadian embassy or consulate. A full list of where they are and how to contact them is in that link.

Travel Insurance

It’s not uncommon for many travelers to forego purchasing extra travel insurance. But it’s a situation not recommended by the federal government or travel companies.

The Canadian government said travel insurance is “essential” as you never know what can happen.

“Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada,” the federal government said on its travel website.  “Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad.”

But it’s also important to know what ‘kind’ of insurance you are buying and what it covers.

“When assessing a travel health insurance plan, you should ask a lot of questions. Carefully research your needs and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.”

It’s also recommended travelers check the Canadian government’s website for any travel advisories that may be in effect before they leave.

The government keeps an updated list on its website.

Sherridan Harris of Trafalgar Tours Canada and Michelle Fischer of Transat Travel had a few other tips for travellers in emergencies.

“You always want to make sure you take a photo of your passport, or a photocopy or both and make sure you have one with you and that you also leave one at home with somebody,” said Harris.

“In the event you do lose it or have it stolen, this way you can prove your identity and still get out of the country.”

Fischer has worked as a travel agent for 25 years and said she always recommends purchasing insurance.

“It is the number one thing, in all the years of experience,” she said. “It’s the unexpected. I think the most common answer is ‘nothings going to happen I don’t need it.’ But unfortunately life is unpredictable and things do happen.”

Interruption insurance is something else to think about, Fischer added.

“What if something happens to a family member or your house burns down?” she said. “You can be just arrived and with our insurance, you can be on that first flight home to take care of what has happened.”

Self-driving cars might kill auto insurance as we know it

Written by PAUL TULLIS, BLOOMBERG  

Dan Peate, a venture capitalist in California, was thinking of buying a Tesla Model X a few years ago—until he called his insurance company and found out how much his premiums would rise.

“They quoted me $10,000 a year,” Peate recalled.

For all the concern over accidents involving driverless cars, including Tesla’s troubles with its limited self-driving “Autopilot” mode, it’s easy to forget one of the supposed virtues of autonomous vehicles: they will make the roads safer.

A sophisticated array of lidar, radar and cameras is expected to be more adept at detecting trouble than our mortal eyes and ears. And computers never get drunk, check Tinder or fall asleep at the wheel.

Peate, 40, wanted to launch a new firm specializing in insurance for vehicles with automated-driving modes (and eventually fully-autonomous cars), and on January 30 announced the creation of Avinew, with US$5 million in seed funding led by Los Angeles’ Crosscut Ventures.

Its insurance product will monitor drivers’ use of autonomous features on cars made by companies including Tesla, Nissan, Ford and Cadillac, determining discounts based on how often the feature is used.

Avinew has agreements with most manufacturers, and is working to tie up the rest, Peate said, allowing it to access driving data once a customer gives it permission. It said it expects to be writing policies later this year in select states.

The transition points to a larger, existential crisis for the multi-billion dollar car insurance industry. If nobody’s driving, why do we need auto insurance?

Premiums—and company revenues—are based on a driver’s likelihood of being in an accident and actual crash rates. With more than 90 percent of accidents caused by human error, taking the driver out of the equation is going to mean big changes for insurers.

“When you think of all these sensors and calibration, a little fender-bender could be a much more costly proposition,” said David Ross Keith, an assistant professor of system dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As automation reaches Levels 4 and 5—fully autonomous capability with the option for a human driver to take over, and fully autonomous with no human involvement, respectively—insurance is going to change dramatically.

“It’s foreseeable that insurance is a much less consumer-facing industry in the future,” Keith said.

That’s because the driver won’t be the risky part. “Liability is likely to migrate from the individual to the manufacturer and the licensers of the software that drives the AV,” said Rodney Parker, an associate professor of operations management at Indiana University.

That means insurers will be selling more policies to companies and fewer to drivers: carmakers and suppliers of communications systems, software, and sensors are going to be on the hook for the failure of their products, rather than drivers paying for not checking their blind spot.

Nationwide is one insurance company that’s started thinking about this problem. Drivers today are rated based on factors including sex, age and driving history. “If we’re getting data from the vehicle, that rating changes dramatically and gets very complex,” said Teresa Scharn, associate vice-president of product development.

Determining who’s at fault when something goes wrong could get thorny in this new world. If the lidar goes on the blink, is that the carmaker’s fault or the supplier of the lidar? What if the driver failed to get the latest firmware update—so now it’s his fault? If a Cadillac with Super Cruise loses its internet connection, is that on GM or Verizon?

“As a society we’ll have to figure out who’s liable for these different things and that will determine who’s required to insure against what risks,” MIT’s Keith said.

Nationwide thinks the smoothest road ahead will be one on which insurers and automakers each have a hand on the wheel. “We’re working to build deeper relationships with car manufacturers,” Scharn said.

And if that sounds like it hints at mergers on the horizon between insurers and automakers, you’re not off the mark. Other analysts confirm “those conversations are going on as we speak.”

Source: Bloomberg

Bus crash survivor to get insurance payment ahead of legal battle

Laurie Fagan, CBC news

Derek Nicholson’s client Gwen Lambert suffered serious leg injuries in last month’s fatal OC Transpo crash at Westboro station. He says she’s relieved the city’s insurance company will give her an interim payment before her lawsuit is dealt with. 

An Ottawa woman suing the City of Ottawa after her legs were crushed in last month’s fatal double-decker bus crash is set to get a significant payout from the city’s insurance company.

Gwen Lambert was one of 23 people injured Jan. 11 when her OC Transpo bus slammed into a Transitway shelter at Westboro station.

Three people also died in the crash.

“Her condition is still very challenging, and my understanding is that she may not be able to walk for about a year. But it’s still not clear,” said her lawyer, Derek Nicholson.

Nicholson’s firm, Beament Herbert Nicholson LLP, has filed a negligence lawsuit for more than $6 million against the city, OC Transpo, the bus driver and the province of Ontario.

That amount is the “upper limit,” Nicholson said, that would compensate Lambert — who is still in hospital and is facing multiple surgeries, followed by lengthy rehabilitation — for her potential lost income, future health care costs, and pain and suffering.

Nicholson would not say how much Lambert would receive in the interim from the city’s insurance company, other than it was “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Lambert was riding this double-decker city bus when it struck the transit shelter at Westboro station on Jan. 11. She was one of 23 people injured in the crash. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Nicholson said he’d forged a strong relationship with the lawyer for the city’s insurance company after representing survivors of a 2013 collision between an OC Transpo bus and a Via Rail train in their own lawsuit.

The company’s lawyer “volunteered” the possibility of an advance payment, said Nicholson — an unusual offer in insurance industry negotiations.

“I don’t think liability is being seriously contested,” he said. “Obviously they haven’t admitted it yet, but the advance is a credit to what my client will be entitled to eventually.”

‘Immediate assistance’

The city declined an interview Wednesday about the payment.

However, deputy solicitor David White said in an email that interim payments were being covered by the insurer to “provide immediate assistance to those seriously injured and their families,” rather than forcing them to first wait for the litigation process to wrap up.

For now, only Lambert is receiving a payment, White said. The city’s insurer was “reaching out to other seriously injured plaintiffs through their legal counsel,” he added.

Nicholson said he was encouraged by the gesture, since one client he represented following the 2013 crash waited three years to receive money.

He said Lambert was “grateful” to have received the payment, making it “one less thing” she had to be concerned about.

“It’s an unfortunate accident, and I think the city wants to help people,” he said.

“It’s a pretty terrifying time. I know my client is stuck in a hospital still, and worrying about money isn’t something you want on top of that.”

Source: CBC News

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