Image credit: Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS
On March 4, 2014, the Ontario Liberals tabled Bill 171, which proposed a number of amendments to the Insurance Act, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Act, the Licence Appeal Tribunal Act, the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act and the Repair and Storage Liens Act. At the time of tabling Bill 171, Fair Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform (FAIR) and the Ontario PC party criticized the bill for not dealing with claims disputes over insurers’ medical assessments
Bill 171 fell through with the fall of the Liberal government.
Since the election campaign has started, only the NDP appears to have voiced concerns about insurance issues as part of their election message. Ms. Andrea Horwath has locked horns with the Liberals over auto insurance rates. She has alleged that the Liberals have broken their promise to reduce drivers’ rates by 15 per cent. “People are paying too much for insurance,” she told reporters Tuesday at a campaign stop in Scarborough. Ms. Horwath has stated that she believes that there is money owing right now to drivers in Ontario for the changes that the government made in 2010. Insurance companies have cut payouts by billions of dollars over the past several years but motorists have seen little benefit by way of lower premiums.
The Liberals disagree with the assertions from the NDP and say they’ve made good on their pledge. According to MPP Steven Del Duca (Vaughan), in the 2013 budget, the Liberals promised to reduce rates by 15 per cent on average, with a time period to be prescribed in regulation. “In August 2013, we specified that we would meet the target within two years, with an 8-per-cent cut in the first year,” he said in a statement to the Star.
Regrettably, it appears that neither the Liberals, nor the PC party nor the NDP are expressing any concern about the reduced access to justice for injured people who under our existing insurance system either won’t commence litigation to recover compensation for their losses, or will receive no or substantially reduced compensation. Mr. Alan Shanoff, in an article in the Toronto Sun, on May 3, 2014, discussed the restriction of access to justice through the concepts of the threshold and statutory deductible. Mr. Shanoff refers to the deductible as absurd. In his opinion, having both a threshold and a deductible is redundant and only serves to harm accident victims and benefit insurance companies.
The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association has recommended that the threshold be repealed and the deductible be reduced. OTLA has sent out an Election Update to candidates this week. The Election Update explains current restricted Tort rights of victims of car accidents and the fact that lawyers are not even allowed to tell jurors about the deductible. OTLA Election Update calls on election candidates to restore the basic rights of auto accident victims in Ontario by repealing the threshold and lowering the deductible. It will be interesting to observe whether only the NDP continues to raise concern about insurance issues and whether any of the parties will use this election opportunity to move to restore basic rights of victims in Ontario and start worrying about how to treat innocent people fairly.
Contributed by Roelf Swart, an OTLA member and a lawyer practising with Elkin Injury Law in St Catharines, Ont.