Ontarians Still Reeling from 2016 Changes to Auto Insurance System

In June 2016, the then-Liberal Government of Ontario introduced major changes to the province’s auto insurance system. Presented as an effort to reduce premiums, the changes significantly reduced available accident benefits and altered the definition of catastrophic impairment, making it more difficult for car accident lawyers to secure fair compensation for their clients. As a recent Global News story illustrates, the now-three-year-old changes continue to have devastating impacts on accident victims.

The Global report focuses on 32-year-old Ben Schenk, who incurred a traumatic brain injury after a crash on Ontario Highway 400 this May. As of July 5, Schenk’s family was waiting to learn whether their insurance company would classify his injuries as “catastrophic.” The decision will have a profound effect on the family’s ability to sustain itself. If his injuries are deemed catastrophic, Schenk will have access to up to $1-million in combined medical, rehabilitation, and attendant care benefits. If they are deemed non-catastrophic, he will have access to just $65,000 in benefits, not nearly enough to cover his rehabilitation.

Schenk’s situation is not unusual for Ontario car accident victims post-June 2016. Patients often wait more than a year to learn their injury designation, a period during which they are in limbo.

“The patient, the client, is in no man’s land until their injury manifests over a six-month period, if not a year, before we can give them any certainty of whether or not they can get the designation,” one lawyer told Global News. “And then when our assessors conclude that they believe they meet the test, then the insurance company notoriously has their own assessors re-evaluate the matters, which causes further delay. It takes typically a year and a half before they get the designation where before June 1, 2016, it would take a matter of weeks.”

Even when catastrophic impairment benefits are awarded, the coverage falls far short of pre-2016 levels. Prior to the Liberal Government’s changes, catastrophically injured accident victims had access to $1-million in medical and rehabilitation benefits, plus $1-million in attendant care benefits. Non-catastrophically injured victims had access to up to $86,000 in benefits; today they have access to just $65,000. Many car accident lawyers advise purchasing additional insurance to cover the gap.

“Regular car insurance is not enough to cover your needs if you’re seriously injured,” the lawyer added. “And it should be. It should be designed to provide the bare minimum of what you need.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automobile accident in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our team of experienced car accident lawyers can help. We can provide guidance and representation as you pursue benefits or initiate a personal injury claim.

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Can insurance brokers help drivers cope with Ontario’s reduced accident benefits coverage?

For years, the Government of Ontario has promised to lower auto insurance rates, a goal that consumers – and car accident lawyersbroadly supported. In September 2010, the province introduced sweeping changes to the auto insurance system that significantly reduced basic coverage. According to a Toronto Star article from August of that year, the insurance industry insisted that “the changes are needed to root fraud and waste out of the system, and that, if successful, premiums will eventually come down.”

In 2013, following the failure of that scheme, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a plan to reduce premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, a “stretch goal” that was never accomplished. Last summer, the government again slashed basic accident benefits coverage in the name of insurance affordability. We discussed those changes – and how car accident lawyers in Ontario reacted to them – on the WillDavidson.ca blog.

Today, despite drastic benefits cuts and a modest premium reduction from 2013 levels, Ontario maintains the highest average insurance rates in Canada. To make matters worse, a large number of drivers don’t understand the risks posed by the province’s shifting insurance regulations.

According to a recent study, almost a quarter of Ontario drivers remain unaware of the changes that came about in 2010, and the study’s authors believe insurance brokers are ideally suited to educate the public.

“Insurance brokers need to make drivers more aware that optional coverage is available and that it’s relatively inexpensive,” Kitchener lawyer Robert Deutschmann told Insurance Business Canada. “It’s like a public service that the brokers need to be on top of.”

Deutschmann is referring to the fact that though mandatory accident benefits have been cut under recent provincial regulations, affordable additional insurance is available that would largely replace the lost benefits. Though car accident lawyers can help injury victims access compensation, insurance brokers are better positioned to encourage preventative coverage.

“Based on our survey findings, at least 70% of drivers have not had a conversation with their insurance provider about the additional coverage options available to them,” Deutschmann said.

Serious injuries can have life-changing impacts – if you or a member of your family has suffered an injury in an automobile accident, consider contacting the experienced car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to set up a consultation. Our knowledgeable team can help you better understand your legal position and advise you on your best path to recovery and compensation.

 

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Does your insurance policy cover you for accidents outside Ontario?

Summer vacation road trips are a great way to bond as a family and experience the size and diversity of North America. With just a few weeks left before the end of the school year, it’s time to start planning your route and deciding what to see and where to stay. Before you embark on your trip, you should take the time to consider what sort of coverage your auto insurance policy provides in different North American jurisdictions – if necessary, an auto insurance lawyer can help you understand your policy and suggest purchasing additional coverage.

The Standard Ontario Motor Vehicle Policy contains safeguards for car accidents outside of Ontario, including no-fault benefits for insured Ontarian motorists. These include benefits for income replacement benefits, attendant care benefits, lost education benefits, and death and funeral benefits. They may also cover visitors’ expenses, reimbursement for damaged medical devices, glasses and clothing, and in some cases benefits for housekeeping and home maintenance. An auto insurance lawyer can explain the scope of these benefits more fully.

If you plan on heading to the United States this summer, it’s important to understand that motor vehicle insurance policies are quite different south of the border. For instance, motorists in Ontario are required to carry at least $200,000 in liability coverage; most states have no minimum, and as such many motorists have limited coverage. This can cause significant issues for uninsured accident victims.

Many Ontario auto insurance policies include “Uninsured Automobile Coverage,” which can be useful when driving in the United States. The stipulation ensures that Ontario drivers are protected up to the limits of their policy’s liability coverage when involved in a collision with an uninsured driver. If you’re concerned that your needs may not be met, consider purchasing additional, enhanced accident benefits coverage prior to your trip.

Finally, the Family Protection Endorsement extends insurance coverage to some Ontario motorists’ family members if they are involved in an accident outside of Ontario. Once again, an auto insurance lawyer may suggest purchasing additional benefits if a family member is traveling to the States.

While insurance coverage rules vary by jurisdiction, most Ontario auto insurance policies do a good job of protecting Ontarians driving outside the province. If you’re planning an outside-Ontario trip, make sure to review your policy and, if necessary, talk to an auto insurance lawyer to ensure peace of mind on the road.

The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP have been protecting Ontarians for decades. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the team at Will Davidson today to book a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

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