One of the safeguards in place for those who have suffered
personal injuries in car accidents and who have been wrongly denied
a benefit is the ability to file a claim in the Ontario courts
against their insurance company. It is an important right to have
– although there are other methods of disputing an insurance
company's denial of a benefit in a personal injury claim (such
as through the dispute resolution procedure at the Financial
Services Commission of Ontario, or FSCO.)
Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act,
With the November 20th, 2014, royal assent of Bill 15, the
"Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act,
2014," this right to seek compensation in court is in the
process of being severely limited.
While the bill makes changes to the Insurance Act allegedly to
lower the cost of auto insurance, it also removes the right to seek
direct dispute resolution from the courts, channelling all
insurance disputes through the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT). The date that
this new process will be implemented has not yet been
The new dispute resolution process will begin with an optional
internal review by the insurance company after the injured person
has disagreed with the insurance company's decision to deny a
benefit. The claimant may, at the same time or after the internal
review, submit an application to register the dispute with the LAT
and seek a settlement meeting with an Arbitrator. If that meeting
fails, the dispute then escalates to a full hearing or a review on
paper by the LAT. If either side does not agree with the decision
made by the LAT, they can appeal to the Superior Court of Justice.
At no point in time prior to an appeal can either party take action
against the other in a court of law.
In theory, this process should reduce the time it takes to
resolve disputes in the legal system, thus providing faster access
to justice. In practice, this may be quite problematic.
For one thing, the LAT is considerably smaller than FSCO or the
court system it is replacing. It currently only handles around 700
disputes per year (as opposed to the FSCO's 10,000 disputes per
year.) Most of its members are part-time appointments by the
Ontario government, as opposed to full-time unionized government
employees with a specialization in a field such as automobile
insurance. This raises concerns about whether the LAT will be able
to handle the increased case load, as well as whether it will
possess the necessary skillsets to properly adjudicate the car
insurance disputes that they will be hearing.
More troubling, however, is that the appeal to the Superior
Court can only be on a question of law. This will severely limit
the ability to appeal an unjust decision based solely on the facts
of the case if there were no irregularities in following the
legislation and regulations.
A constitutional challenge to the Ontario Superior Court has
been launched to declare these new insurance dispute regulations
unconstitutional on the grounds that they deny injured car accident
victims access to the protections available through having their
case decided by the courts. The challenge is expected to be heard
later in 2016.
In the meantime, it is just a matter of time before the right to
have an auto insurance dispute decided by a court of law is
replaced with a new dispute process, which may or may not provide
justice to car accident injury victims.
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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