Image via Flickr user Injury Lawyers San Luis Obispo
As part of the provincial budget announced on April 23, the Ontario government has decided to first throw seriously injured accident victims off the bus and then deprive them of the ability to make a good recovery. The announcement comes as a total blindside to interested stakeholders.
Historically, whenever the Ontario government was considering major changes to automobile insurance legislation, there was widespread consultation with stakeholders. That consultation process consistently revealed it was common ground among all stakeholders that it was sacrosanct to reduce the benefits available to the most seriously injured persons. As a result, prior changes focused on changes other than reductions in the benefits available to the catastrophically impaired.
The government’s announcement includes five major changes. Each change reduces the funding available to accident victims. Each change reduces the chance for an accident victim to regain their independence. Each change results in further pressure on the currently underresourced public health care system.
The changes, in order of least to most significant, are:
— A reduction in the benefit maximums in non-catastrophic impairment claims from the current total maximum of $86,000 (being $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation benefits plus $36,000 in attendant-care benefits) to a combined total of $65,000. In addition, the duration for accessing these benefits falls to five years from 10 years except in cases involving children. Prior to the Sept. 1, 2010, changes, these benefits totalled $172,000, so the new reduced maximum, after accounting for inflation, is about a 65-per-cent reduction from the amounts available prior to that time.
— A reduction in the duration of eligibility for non-earner benefits from life to a maximum of two years (albeit without the six-month waiting period that currently applies). This change will affect students the most as they had previously qualified for a higher weekly benefit rate of $320 a week after two years. For example, a seriously injured teenager who will never work again because of accident-related injuries will now be unable to access the weekly benefit.
— Indexing the tort deductibles to inflation since 2003. This change means that anyone with a valid claim for pain and suffering will face an inflated deductible of roughly $37,000 instead of the current $30,000 unless their pain and suffering award is assessed at more than the inflated vanishing deductible of roughly $123,000. While this change is arguably an attempt to adjust the previous deductibles to the level intended in 2003, it’s notable that the accident-benefit limits have all remained unchanged by inflation for the last 20 years.
by Darcy Merkur
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