ARE AUTO INSURANCE ISSUES ON YOUR MIND THIS ELECTION?

With Ontarians going to the polls on October 6, 2011, it will not be long before candidates for members of Provincial Parliament appear at our doors looking to make friendly chit chat with perspective voters.  Often candidates will ask voters what issues are important to them.  Most often, in a Provincial election, healthcare and education are on the forefront of most peoples’ minds.   However for those of us following car insurance issues,  it’s very important to look at the current government’s record when determining who to vote for in October.

 As regular readers will know, we are very concerned with the changes to the Insurance Act that were implemented in September, 2010.  Most significantly, medical rehabilitation benefits to car accident victims were slashed from $100,000.00 to $50,000.00.  As we approached the one-year mark following these changes, we are seeing the devastating impact of reduced benefits on people who are seriously, although not catastrophically, injured.  Recall that this change was made without a vote of the legislature.  As a result, we do not know if the Conservatives or the New Democrats would have backed these changes if asked.  When candidates show up at my door I will be asking them for their position on the September 2010 changes to the medical rehab benefit and I suggest you should too.

 

The current government also implemented a new category of benefit recipient under what is now known as the “Minor Injury Guideline”.  For this large group of motor vehicle accident victims (about 60%) their rehabilitation dollars have been slashed from $100,000.00 to $3,500.00.  I recently received a letter from an insurance adjuster advising me that an assessor indicated that my client requires extensive psychological treatment.  But,  by the way, he only has $85.00 left in medical rehabilitation benefits.  The insurer then wanted to know if he wanted to proceed with the treatment.  Needless to say $85.00 does not provide much in the way of psychological treatment.  This client, who does not have workplace benefits, will simply go without and hope that his psychological injuries do not worsen.  Again, you should ask candidates in the upcoming Provincial election what they think of the minor injury guideline and if they would consider repealing that guideline in the event that their party was elected in October.

 

The Provincial government also recently quietly introduced legislation effective this summer that eliminates the ability of people who are injured on public transit such as OC Transpo to claim accident benefits if they are injured while riding the bus, unless the bus is actually involved in a motor vehicle accident.  As a result, very common injuries from sudden stops, lurches or jerks on the bus will no longer entitle victims to medical rehabilitation benefits or income replacement benefits.  Given the number of inquiries I get from people who have had serious knee injuries as a result of slips and falls on the bus,  I anticipate a large number of Ontarians will now struggle to fund rehabilitation.

 

As people who care about accident victims, let’s strive to get commitments from candidates in our ridings to work towards changing the insurance regime for accident victims or, at least, obtain commitments that the current situation will not get worse.

Avoid Backyard Pool Accidents: Ottawa Lawyer

OTTAWA LAWYER– While on vacation we stumbled across a display by a community group in Florida that was advocating increased safety around backyard pools.  Of course backyard pools are extremely common in Florida but they are increasingly common in eastern Ontario

Avoid Drowning

Water Watcher Lanyard

particularly with the availability of relatively inexpensive above ground pools.    All pools in ground, above ground, hot tubs, even fishponds can create hazard for children in particular.  Drowning is still a leading cause of death among small children as we all unfortunately know.

 

This community group came up with a great idea to avoid the all too common disaster of what they call “pool party” drownings.  This is the very sad situation where there are so many adults and kids around a pool that everyone thinks everyone else is watching,  but in fact no one is watching the pool.

 

The idea is a simple one.  A lanyard with an index card indicating “pool monitor” is given to one responsible adult at any time.  If you are in possession of the lanyard you are “on duty” for ensuring that you are watching the pool at all times.  If you need to leave the pool area,  the idea is to pass the lanyard to another responsible adult who then understands that it’s his or her responsibility to monitor the pool.  This avoids the situation where no one knows who’s in charge.

 

For example, often the host of a pool party is busy going in and out of the house getting drinks and food and may mistakenly assume that the other adults attending the party are watching the children swimming.  On the other hand the other adults figure they are guests at a party and isn’t the host the one who would or should be supervising?

 

It would certainly be very easy to make something like this,  or perhaps even more attractive.  Given that we like to entertain around our pool I expect it is something that we will implement at our next pool party.  You really never can be too cautious around pools.

Ottawa Driver Travelling by Car in The U.S.?

We had a fabulous trip this summer, driving to Florida and then back along the Eastern United States.   Before we went, we did what all Ontarians should do before a US driving trip.  We called our auto insurer to check our insurance coverage.  Yes, it sounds a little uptight.  But if you ever needed it…

Most people don’t realize that their own policy’s liability limits protect them in the event of an uninsured motorist, an unidentified motorist, or an under-insured motorist is involved in an accident.  This is very important if you travel to the United Statesbecause many states have very low minimum liability limits.  For example, there are a number ofU.S.states where you only need to carry $15,000.00 in liability insurance!  That means that if you were struck by a vehicle carrying only $15,000.00 in liability insurance and you had a very serious accident involving you and perhaps others in your family, absent your own insurance policy, $15,000.00 would be all there would be.  Fortunately, in Ontario, our minimum policy limits are $200,000.00.  Virtually all Ontarians carry at least $1,000,000.00 but those who can should carry $2,000,000.00 or more to protect their own family.   That way, if you are involved in a serious accident, your own insurance policy is there as a backstop.

Gap In Ontario Insurance Law Hurts Orphans, and Others

Kudos to Ottawa Citizen writer Joanne Chianello for her excellent article about the gap in Ontario auto insurance that robs deserving accident victims of insurance coverage because of criminal acts by the driver who caused the accident. Read it here:

Ontario Insurance Law Gap Article

In the article, Ms. Chianello describes how three little girls orphaned when their parents were killed in a motor vehicle accident may be stuck with insurance limits of only $200,000 when the at fault driver’s liability insurance limits were $1 Million.  That would be a stomach-turning result, but a result that is very common.

When an at fault driver violates his or her  insurance policy by committing certain crimes, the standard Ontario insurance policy permits the insurance company to limit their insurance coverage to the legal minimum of $200,000, regardless of the amount of insurance the driver purchased.  The results can be very unfair to someone who is seriously injured or who, like the three Regnier girls, suffer a major loss like the loss of two parents.

The same result may occur when someone has a G1 or G2 license and causes an accident while doing something that violates the insurance policy.  For example, I have a client who was catastrophically injured as a passenger when the G2-licensed driver smashed into a building.  In that case, the insurance company has similarly asserted a policy violation and is indicating that they will only pay $200,000 toward my client’s injuries if the at fault driver is convicted of the crimes he is said to have committed.

This happens because of the way Ontario’s insurance law is drafted.  There will only be change if people advocate for change.  With an election this fall, it is an excellent opportunity to tell MPPs and MPP wanna-be’s how you feel when  they knock at your door.

Is there anything you can do to protect your family from a tragedy like this?  The short answer is yes.

First, make sure you have proper life insurance and disability insurance outside of the auto insurance regime.

Second, if you have car insurance, make sure you ask your insurance agent or broker for the Family Protection Endorsement.  This is a cheap add-on to your policy that means that your own insurance policy limits will kick in if there is a problem with the insurance from the at-fault driver.  This add-on is also very important if you travel in the U.S. where in many states drivers do not need to carry very much liability insurance.