Alicia Bridges · CBC News 

More than 99 per cent of Saskatchewan residents have “no-fault” insurance, which could preclude them from suing for pain and suffering damages if they were in an accident.

No-fault insurance, which has been in place since the mid-1990s, provides automatic compensation up to $6.9 million but limits a person’s ability to take legal action against another driver.

In 2003, SGI introduced the option of “tort” insurance, which provides fewer benefits — with a maximum $200,000 in liability coverage — for a person injured in a traffic crash. However, the tort policy provides more avenues for the person to sue for damages.

“There was, I believe, a big campaign around public awareness of choice and that people could elect tort if they wish,” said Cartmell.

In 2018 to date, about 99.4 per cent of Saskatchewan residents had no fault insurance. That number has remained fairly steady since the tort option was introduced in 2003.

Choice part of process: SGI

New SGI customers are asked which insurance program they want at the point of being issued a licence plate.

Cartmell said they are offered information brochures explaining the differences in personal injury insurance at that time, but it is up to the customer if they choose to research the difference between the two programs.

But everyone considered a resident of Saskatchewan is automatically covered by no-fault, regardless of whether they have motor vehicle insurance.

Cartmell believes the vast majority of people choose no-fault because it provides more benefits with less risk.

“There is a dramatic difference between the two and I would hope that most people would select no-fault based on the coverage that you actually get with it and then you don’t have to worry about fault,” he said.

No fault limits legal avenues

No fault does allow a person to sue for additional compensation for economic impacts, such as the need for medical care and loss of income.

SGI says most people choose no-fault insurance because it provides greater benefits without the risk of losing a legal battle.

But it prevents them from suing specifically for non-economic damages — the pain and suffering caused by the traffic incident — unless the other driver is convicted of impaired or dangerous driving.

The limit was originally set at $100,000 in 1978 and is adjusted based on inflation.

Cartmell said no-fault coverage provides a $241,000 lump sum for pain and suffering for those who suffer a catastrophic injury, such as becoming a paraplegic or sustaining a brain injury.

“When the no-fault coverage was created, because you were taking away the right of a person to sue for pain and suffering, no fault does have something called a permanent impairment and that is designed to cover pain and suffering,” he said.

No plans to change Sask. compensation limits

For spouses of people killed, the Saskatchewan Fatal Accident Act limits the maximum payment for bereavement damages in a civil lawsuit to $60,000 — compared to $82,000 in Alberta. Parents and children of the deceased could receive up to $30,000 each, compared to $49,000 in Alberta.

Saskatoon personal injury lawyer Jonathan Abrametz believes the act is due for a review and the limits should be increased in the near future.

The amount has not been reviewed since 2004, and the Ministry of Justice said there are no plans to change it.

“While there are currently no plans to change the maximum amount under the legislation, government is open to future discussions on this,” the ministry said in a statement..

Alberta law dictates that the upper limits of bereavement damages must be reviewed every five years.

Manitoba provides a maximum of $30,000 to each spouse, parent and child of the deceased, and $10,000 for other family members.

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