As a personal injury lawyer, McLeish Orlando partner Patrick Brown has often acted as a victims’ advocate, representing people who have been injured in car accidents.
As a founding member of the Toronto Cyclists Union, he promotes safe passage of cyclists in the city’s streets.
As past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, he was able to offer input on the auto insurance reforms.
ILSTV asked Patrick about what the reforms mean for consumers, and those who don’t even have auto insurance policies.
Pat Brown: I think the average consumer is more likely to be concerned with the amount of premium they pay to drive a car as opposed to ever realizing that they might be in a car accident. I think the government knows that and that’s why they certainly try to keep premiums at levels that are affordable, but it’s still got to be balanced. You can’t simply step up and say “OK, we’re going to reduce premiums by two percent or three percent” and then take fifty percent of the benefits away. You’re buying half of an umbrella and it’s useless – well, it’s not useless but you only get half of an umbrella when it starts to rain. Most people don’t realize that perhaps they’re only getting a half of an umbrella for the price of a full one.
It’s even worse… if, in fact, the new system is based on choice, well for people who get injured as a result of cars – and that could be a cyclist or a pedestrian – and they don’t carry their own car insurance, well those consumers weren’t given any choice. They now have to have the basic policy coverage which is the half-benefit coverage that you see written about.
ILSTV also asked Patrick what he would have liked to see for consumers – both drivers and non-drivers – in these auto insurance system changes.
Pat Brown: Their tort rights. If you have a drunk driver that runs down a cyclist or runs down a pedestrian or child, then that individual should have full tort rights, meaning the full right to seek full compensation against that negligent or drunk driver. There shouldn’t be restrictions in the system for them in getting full compensation. That’s what should happen. For at least that portion of the population, they should have the right to seek full compensation. They really should.
For people who drive, they make a choice. I make a choice that I want to drive with a lower car premium so that if I get hurt, I’m going to have some restricted rights afforded to me. That’s a choice that I make and that the restrictions apply to me to drive a car around with the possibility of injuring someone. That’s a whole different scheme and once you’re outside of that quid pro quo then you should have full tort rights.