Ontario auto insurance reform limits benefits: can an accident benefits lawyer help?

In 2013, the Government of Ontario announced a plan to cut auto insurance premiums by 15 per cent by August 2015. In a release, Finance Minister Charles Sousa outlined a plan that included cracking down on fraud, making roads safer, and ensuring people “enjoy good benefits, security and proper care.”

The government failed to keep its promise: though rates have dropped 8.35 per cent from where they stood in 2013, the province’s attempts to lower premiums included legislation that drastically cut the amount of medical, rehabilitation, and attendant care coverage available to motor vehicle accident victims, even with the help of an experienced accident benefits lawyer.

How has auto insurance coverage in Ontario changed?

Driving.ca summed up the changes to Ontario’s auto insurance policy, which took effect June 1, 2016, as such: “Instead of $50,000 for medical and rehab plus $36,000 for attendant care for non-catastrophic injuries, the policy change drops to a total of $65,000, a 25 per cent decrease. For catastrophic injuries, instead of $1 million for medical and rehab and $1 million attendant care, the total for both is now $1 million.”

To summarize, non-catastrophic accident victims now have access to $65,000 in coverage where once they had access to $86,000, while catastrophic injury victims have had their available benefits halved, from $2 million to $1 million. Insurance policies purchased after June 1 are automatically subject to these changes; pre-existing policies are updated as they are renewed.

While an accident benefits lawyer can still help you access the maximum possible coverage, the new limits on benefits restrict the overall standard of care that an accident victim can access.

The new policy also changed the way in which “catastrophic” injuries – particularly brain injuries – are defined. Prior to June 1, brain injury victims were graded on the Glasgow Come Scale (GCS), which ranks patients from 3 to 15 by responsiveness, with three being the least responsive and 15 being normal.

How do the changes impact accident victims?

In early October, a number of news outlets reported on the case of 34-year-old Adam Bari, who was injured in a motorcycle accident on June 1. Bari was t-boned on a rural road south of Hamilton, sustaining brain trauma, multiple broken bones, and damage to his internal organs. Because of the timing of his crash, Bari received just $86,000 in compensation. Had the accident occurred 12 hours earlier, he would have been eligible to receive up to $2 million.

Ontario’s new insurance legislation had a two-fold impact on Bari’s case: first, the overall amount of coverage that he could access was greatly reduced; second, the GCS grade which his attending hospital assigned him was not considered when he was awarded compensation.

Bari was initially graded a ‘three’ by staff at his attending hospital, before being bumped up to an ‘eight.’ Under his old insurance policy, anything under a ‘nine’ would automatically qualify him as catastrophically injured, ensuring increased benefits. But the new insurance rules don’t use the GCS, instead relying on MRIs and CT scans that may not be conducted until weeks or months after the accident.

“Adam has the same amount of money available to him as somebody who broke their toe in an accident,” his wife, Courtney, told the CBC.

Can an accident benefits lawyer help?

Will Davidson personal injury lawyer Paul Cahill discussed Mr. Bari’s case in an interview with AdvocateDaily.com. “People’s benefits continue to be whittled away and carved down so injured victims get less than they need in most cases,” Cahill said.

“Ultimately it’s going to be the public, the taxpayers, who will have to support those people who will end up living in poverty because they don’t have enough insurance,” he added. “It’s unfair when we have the insurance regime we do that this could end up happening to people.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact an accident benefits lawyer at Will Davidson LLP today. Our team of experienced, compassionate lawyers can help you access the maximum accident benefits available to you, which will greatly help you on your road to recovery.

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