Monday, November 02, 2009

Lawyer: New insurance regs to ding non-drivers

via spacing toronto

Toronto lawyer Patrick Brown sent out a mass e-mail this evening warning of troubling developments for non-drivers (people without auto insurance) in new regulations being proposed for the insurance industry by Ontario’s minister of finance, Dwight Duncan. I haven’t had the opportunity to do research on the new regulations beyond reading what’s in today’s newspaper, which brands the regulation as financial relief for motorists. I’m providing the e-mail here for your information and discussion.

This morning I attended a stakeholders meeting with the Ministry of Finance regarding the new changes to auto insurance. It is now on the news.

The present law reform is not fair to cyclists, public transit users or pedestrians.

Today I specially asked whether the reduce benefits being proposed will apply to innocently injured cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. The answer was “yes”.

The system here in Ontario is complex to say the least, but I will try to simplify as best I can the issue below.

When anyone (including cyclist, pedestrian car driver) is injured or killed by a bad driver (even a drunk driver), they will have various benefits available to them. These include various things to help them get better. Medical benefits, rehab benefits, attendant care etc.

With the new changes introduced today, many benefits are being drastically reduced. However, the justification for such a reduction is “consumer choice”.

The new insurance reforms provide an option to the auto insurance policy holders to increase the amount of their benefits if they so chose. They simply up the premium in the policy.

However, if you are a cyclist, pedestrian or transit user, and do not have a car insurance policy, you do not have the ability to buy up on your benefits. You have no policy to do so. You must accept these reductions.

Essentially your benefits (if you are part of this group) have just been drastically reduced without the choice of getting more coverage.

How significant are these changes to cyclist and pedestrians. The following are the amount of benefits being reduced:
1. Medical Rehabilitation Benefits (non catastrophically injured) are being reduced from $100,000 to $50,000
2. Attendant Care Benefits (for non catastrophically injured) are being reduced from $72,000 to $36,000.00
3. Housekeeping and caregiver benefits eliminated.

The insurance companies argue “consumer choice”. Ie if you want more benefits you can pay an increased premium. Unfortunately that does not help those without car insurance policies and who elect to travel by a safer and less environmentally intrusive mode of transportation. Many students, seniors, and lower income households do not have vehicles in the city. They do not have car insurance policies. They do not cause injuries. But they do get doored, hit, and stuck down all the time! I also suspect it will continue for some time.

The Government however did do something right. They restored access to claim compensation when someone is killed by a negligent driver. They announced today the revocation of the 15,000 deductible. Many cyclist advocated push to change this. This is a good thing for many who lose a loved one. For instances to give some context, when Ryan Carriere was killed cycling on Queen by a negligent truck driver (four Halloweens ago), his family had 90,000 in deductibles taken away from them. Despite successfully proving it was the truck drivers fault and being successful in their law suit. This was simply taken away as a deductible.

The Government will be moving forward in the next two month to draft regulations to bring the above laws into force next year. It is uncertain if they will change this unjust result regarding (cyclist and pedestrian who do not have auto insurance) benefit reduction.

I strongly urge you to let your members know this. This issue will be overshadowed by the lawyers, insurance industry and health professionals during the present media attention to this issue.

Patrick Brown
McLeish Orlando LLP
1 Queen St. East
Suite 1620, Box 76
Toronto, Ontario
M5C 2W5

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