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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