First, Bill 171 takes away the responsibility of the Financial
Services Commission (FSCO) to decide SABS claims and shifts that
responsibility to the License Appeal Tribunal. FSCO currently
adjudicates complex disputes about various financial services, such
as insurance, credit unions, and pension benefits. The License
Appeal Tribunal, on the other hand, hears appeals of diverse
licensing decisions, such as liquor licenses, construction permits,
and registration of commercial vehicles. The arbitrators who
currently preside over FSCO have developed extensive expertise in
the area of accident benefits disputes. Since there is no guarantee
that these arbitrators will be transferred to the License Appeal
Tribunal if Bill 171 becomes law, there is a very real risk that
the expertise developed by FSCO will be lost. As the new Tribunal
gets up to speed with accident benefits law – a process that
could take years – the adjudication of accident benefits
claims will potentially suffer a backlog. This will be extremely
difficult for injured claimants to bear, as he or she may be
relying on payment of benefits to get by. In addition, the
change in the adjudication venue may have unintended consequences
on the previous law developed by FSCO, as it is not clear whether
the License Appeal Tribunal would follow any of FSCO's prior
legal conclusions and practices.
Bill 171 also takes away the right of an accident benefits
claimant to bring that claim before the civil courts. Currently, a
claimant may bring an accident benefits claim before the civil
courts, so long as he or she has participated in mediation with the
insurance company. This may be useful to a claimant with both a
tort and an accident benefits claim. The new Bill 171 seeks
to limit the claimant's choice in this regard by mandating that
the claimant can never bring an accident benefits claim in
the civil courts.
Finally, the Bill reduces the amount of pre-judgment interest
that an injured victim can claim while they wind their way through
the slow legal process.
Bill 171 is currently in its relatively early stages, and has
yet to pass its second reading. Given the possibility of a spring
election, it is possible that Bill 171 will not become law. Should
there be a subsequent attempt to reform the adjudication of
accident benefits claims, we recommend that it take into account
the access to justice concerns that adversely affect accident
Marc Flisfeder is a personal injury lawyer in Toronto.
Marc's practice includes assisting people injured in car
accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other injury cases. See
biography for more information about his work in the area
of plaintiff personal injury law or contact him at 416-601-2663 or
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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