Beware Car Insurance Benefit Cuts
Author(s): Darcy R. Merkur
October 24, 2016
A recent news report highlighted the disastrous consequences for an innocent motorist, following a collision just hours after the Ontario government’s mandated June 1, 2016, automobile insurance cuts.
According to the CBC, Adam Bari, a 34-year-old father of twins, suffered serious brain trauma and a host of significant orthopedic injuries after his motorcycle was struck by a motor vehicle on June 1 in Hamilton. Bari was not at fault for the accident.
Had Bari been injured a day earlier (i.e. prior to the June 1 automobile insurance reductions), he would have automatically qualified for access to the maximum amount of rehabilitation and care benefits available from his no-fault insurance company.
However, unfavourable changes made by the Ontario government to the basic automobile insurance policy have resulted in traumatic brain injury motorists in Ontario, like Bari, being prevented from having immediate access to enhanced accident benefits.
Instead, he and his family are, for now, left with a fraction of the benefits (less than 10%) that would otherwise be available, causing them extreme hardship and possible bankruptcy.
For motorists thinking that the basic automobile insurance package is sufficient to protect them from devastating injuries, think again.
The Ontario government has chopped insurance benefits and narrowed access to benefits so substantially that motorists thinking they are adequately protected are naive.
The June 1 legislative change that caused Bari and others to now have to wait to know whether they will be able to access the maximum amount of benefits available involves the legal definition of a “catastrophic impairment”.
Ontario automobile policies now provide access to up to $1 million in total rehabilitation and care benefits for those suffering the most serious injuries (defined in the legislation as a “catastrophic impairment”).
Before June 1, there was twice as much ($2 million) available in total rehabilitation and care benefits and even that sizable amount was considered inadequate for many of the most seriously injured motorists, such as those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.
Indeed, those suffering traumatic brain injuries in an accident on or after June 1 are the biggest victims of these unfortunate changes.
Rather than being able to rely on the simple brain injury evaluation done by every ambulance attendant arriving at the scene of an accident, traumatic brain injury accident victims must now be assessed by specialists many months after the accident to determine if their brain injury has disabled them to the point of qualifying for access to the “catastrophic impairment” definition and the enhanced benefits that flow from it.
This new government-legislated approach to evaluating catastrophic brain injuries is backwards.
The old definition gave those with serious brain injuries immediate access to the catastrophic impairment designation and, with access to the designation and the enhanced benefits, accident victims were often able to make wonderful recoveries.
The new government-legislated approach delays access to the catastrophic impairment designation for those suffering from serious, traumatic, brain injuries.
These delays cause major rehabilitation challenges, financial hardship, increased anxiety, and, most importantly, preclude and discourage successful recovery.
There are some solutions for Ontario motorists.
One is for motorists to purchase optional benefits.
For a modest increase in annual premiums you and your family can buy optional accident benefits to increase the amounts available if you are injured.
Another solution is to ensure that your automobile insurance policy includes a Family Protection Endorsement of significant magnitude (i.e. at least $2 million and ideally much more) to protect you if you are seriously injured by an inadequately insured motorist.
Finally, because of the reduced benefits available, accident victims must do whatever they can to reduce treatment costs—such as by finding qualified local providers through free websites like the Trauma Resource Directory at www.traumaresourcedirectory.com.
No one expects to be injured in an accident. Be aware of the flaws in the Ontario automobile insurance system caused by the June 1 legislative changes and do what you can to protect yourself and your family.
— Darcy Merkur is a partner at Thomson Rogers in Toronto practising plaintiff’s personal injury litigation, including plaintiff’s motor vehicle litigation.
View this article as it originally appeared in the October 22, 2016, issue of TheTorontoSun.com: http://m.torontosun.com/2016/10/21/beware-car-insurance-benefit-cuts
Related Resources for Ontario Car Insurance Benefits: