The automobile insurance system in Ontario has undergone a series of changes within the past few decades as a result of various efforts by different governments. Each reform has brought a temporary drop in the cost of auto insurance, however, none have been effective in the long run. The Ford Government is working on a plan to reduce the cost of auto insurance for the public and to make the claims process more affordable and accessible for Ontario drivers.
The Ministry of Finance consulted the public on this issue between January 8 and February 15, 2019. The results of the online survey showed:
- 60% of respondents say that shopping for and buying auto insurance is difficult and frustrating;
- 55% said that it is too hard to tailor their policy to their needs;
- 54% said that insurance policies are complicated and difficult to understand; and
- 53% said it takes too long to receive benefits after being injured in an accident.1
The proposed reforms are intended to provide drivers with options for a range of different auto insurance coverage choices available to them at different premiums. Further, the government is seeking to increase competition in the auto insurance market and to make it easier for drivers to shop for insurance. Under this new regime, auto insurance should become more affordable.
One important aspect of the Ford Government's plan for reform is the Driver Care Plan, which is meant to revamp the claims process for individuals who are injured in a car accident by increasing and improving access to treatment and care for injured claimants. The Plan will include a return to a default benefit limit of $2 million for catastrophic injuries, with an option for drivers to reduce their catastrophic coverage below the default limit to a minimum of $1 million.
Under the previous system prior to 2016, the default benefit limit for those who are found to be catastrophically injured was $2 million, which included $1 million for medical/rehabilitation benefits and $1 million for attendant care. This was reduced to a combined limit of $1 million in 2016.
With the 2016 changes in the auto industry came a tightening of the definition of catastrophic impairment under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, O. Reg 34/10. It is unclear as to whether the change to the $2 million system will be accompanied by a change in the definition of catastrophic impairment.
It is also unclear as to how the $2 million benefit will be broken down, for example, whether it includes both attendant care and medical/rehabilitation benefits, or whether it will be broken down into $1 million for each benefit. According to the Consultation Paper that was put out by the Ontario Government, the proposal does not split the $2 million benefits into sub-limits, allowing claimants the flexibility to access the type of care needed in the way that works best for them.2
The change back to a $2 million system represents a significant improvement for those who have been seriously injured in car accidents by increasing the funding that these claimants have access to. The Ford Government expects that implementing this change will lead to:3
- Increased coverage for Ontarians to ensure that accident victims can obtain the care and treatment they need more quickly;
- The ability for drivers to customize and choose their insurance coverage; and
- Flexibility for catastrophic claimants to choose how they use their benefit limits (for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care) to suit their individual needs.
The Ontario Government is, once again, consulted the public on the Driver Care Plan reform, particularly on this issue of the catastrophic impairment default benefit limit.4 Written submissions were be accepted up until September 17, 2019. Further information can be found on the website for the Ontario Government's Proposal for Consultation on this issue: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=30167&language=en.
Charles will be meeting with MPP Cho in October, 2019 to advocate for auto insurance reform. At Gluckstein Lawyers, our goal is to make a positive difference in our clients' lives. Whether it's driving change to outdated laws and regulations, or offering a shoulder during a moment of need. For former President of OTLA, Charles Gluckstein, the business of advocating for people has proven to be an invaluable skill.
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