Accident Benefits: Auto Collision Victims Shafted

Accident Benefits: Auto Collision Victims Shafted

In late 2014, the Liberal Ontario government passed Bill 15, the “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014”. The new law only benefits multi-billion dollar insurance companies while giving auto collision victims in Ontario the shaft when in need of accident benefits. Here are some of the new lows coming from the Bill:

  • all accident benefits disputes in Ontario will be heard by the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT)
  • the right to go to court for accident benefits disputes has been taken away from auto accident victims
  • interest payable by an insurance company on benefits that should have been paid only starts when the injured victim files for mediation and not from when the insurer unfairly denied paying the benefits
  • the interest rate payable on damages for injuries to a person innocently injured has been reduced from 5 percent, which is the standard for all personal injury damages owing in all cases in Ontario to 1.2 percent for motor vehicle cases

The most egregious change is the removal of the right for auto accident victims to access the civil courts if an insurance company refuses to pay auto accident benefits. The right to access our courts to settle disputes is a fundamental right for all Canadians. The deck has been stacked against auto accident victims for years and this is another Ace for the insurers.

Why are Ontarians being denied the right to have disputes over accident benefits heard by an impartial and independent decision maker? The reason is simple, insurance companies who give lots of money to the Ontario Liberal government wanted to take away the right to ensure that they don’t have to pay as much for claims.

Alan Shanoff recently wrote a column in the Toronto Sun exposing the danger to all auto accident victims from having their disputes with their insurers now being heard by the LAT. From what he says in his column we can expect the following.

  • more delays in getting disputes heard
  • disputes heard by individuals without experience or training in the complex auto accident benefits regime
  • majority of claims being denied

Currently, the LAT hears disputes for liquor licence appeals, reviews of medical suspensions of drivers’ licences, motor vehicle impoundments and claims under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan. Mr. Shanoff refers to a study that was conducted by the Canadians for Properly Built Homes (CFPH), a national, non-profit consumer protection organization that analyzed the 2006-2013 LAT decisions pertaining to homeowner appeals of Tarion decisions concerning new home warranties. During the eight-year period of the study, LAT (the tribunal that will be hearing auto accident disputes) refused 96 percent of homeowners’ claims. That is an outstanding failure rate. I can understand why the automobile insurers wanted to have the LAT decide auto accident benefits disputes. You can read Mr. Shanoff’s column by clicking here.

Since September 2010, auto accident benefits have continued to be reduced. These are accident benefits that every person in Ontario contracts for with a private auto insurance company to pay in the event that the person is injured in a motor vehicle collision. These are not “free” benefits or granted by the goodwill of the automobile insurance companies — these are benefits paid for with our premium dollars.

In response to the argument that the accident benefits paid need to be slashed because of fraud, I say show me the proof. The insurance companies have never been able to produce any solid evidence that there is any substantial fraud in auto insurance. What have we received in return for our auto insurance benefits being slashed? A mere 6.1 percent reduction in average auto insurance rates since August 2013. Hardly worth the cost of what we have lost.

Kristian Bonn, Personal Injury Lawyer

Bonn Law Office, Trenton/Belleville, Ontario