Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Kaitlyn MacDonellOn April 23rd, Ontario’s Liberal government introduced a new budget, proposing further restrictions to Accident Benefits Coverage. Kaitlyn MacDonell’s father is living with a brain injury. Her personal story helps explain the impact these changes will have on car accident victims in Ontario, and why we must all contact our local MPPs to have our voices heard.

The Liberal Government is making changes to insurance benefits under the guise of attempting to limit fraud; however, the proposed changes will not affect the already small levels of fraud that occur in the auto insurance industry. Instead, they will dramatically cut funding for those who are most seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident (MVA).

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My Father’s Brain Injury is Why I Help Accident Victims

The news of this change personally disturbed me. Eight years ago, my father was diagnosed with an acquired brain injury, and is severely debilitated as a result.  He was not injured in a MVA, and thus had no access to insurance benefits. Thankfully, today, he receives some treatment through Community Care Access Centres (CCAC), a publicly funded service; however, this is not enough. My mother became his caregiver, without any assistance. She does not receive any respite, and the strain of having to care for my father is having a negative impact on her own health.

CarAccidentNo one in Ontario is saving for a catastrophic event that rocks one’s life. It is difficult to conceive what it is like when the family breadwinner has no recourse or financial help to cover the shortfall until you are faced with that reality. It is for this reason I work for accident victims who have gone through similar situations, and work hard to achieve some type of recovery for them – to ensure that they are being rehabilitated and to avoid the dire circumstance that my family has had to endure.

Coverage for Catastrophic Victims to be Cut in Half

The most dramatic changes concern benefits paid to Catastrophic victims. Presently in Ontario, when one is catastrophically injured in a car accident, there is $1 million available for attendant care benefits and $1 million available for medical and rehabilitation (med/rehab) benefits. Click to view the current Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule.

One of the changes proposed is to limit the med/rehab AND attendant care benefits to $1 million IN TOTAL. This will have a significant impact on individuals who suffer catastrophic injuries, and will put more strain on our already underfunded healthcare system. CCAC provides some services to those with financial need.  However, as our baby-boomer population ages, the strain on these services will be stretched even thinner. If the government passes these changes, we will see an even bigger problem with the lack of care available to those in need. Our healthcare system is not equipped to handle catastrophic injuries.  The injured need the assistance of social workers, rehab therapists, etc. who help them to rehabilitate and provide modifications to carry on with their lives.  OHIP does not cover these services.

The Power of the Insurance Industry

It is very clear our government, especially those making the decisions, has NOT been properly informed. It is clear that the insurance industry is overpowering much of the decision making that is happening on the floor.

Consider the following:

  • New study reveals insurance profits increased. Findings from a new study by two professors at York University’s Schulich School of Business, Fred Lazar and Eli Prisman, reveal that Ontario consumers overpaid insurers nearly $840 million in 2013 as a result of runaway profits. A very important function of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has not being utilized to monitor and hold insurers accountable.
  • Income benefits have not increased in 20 years. Part of the impetus for the government implementing these changes is to deal with inflation. However, income replacement benefits (IRB) have not increased in nearly 20 years.  The available $400 per week is not nearly enough. Our tort system often takes 3-5 years to get a case to settlement or trial. Most of our clients are forced to take out loans to cover the lapse in treatment between the time accident benefits run out and resolution of the tort case (suing the other driver).
  • More education is needed about additional coverage. The insurance industry is NOT doing enough to educate the public about what these slashes mean and the importance of purchasing additional coverage. The government has a responsibility to the public, not just the insurance industry.

Learn The Truth About Auto Insurance

The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) has created a website site to help explain these complex issues.

No one plans to be in a serious car accident, and yet they occur every day. We encourage you all to contact your local MMP to express your concerns about these drastic cuts to accident benefits.  They will most definitely affect us all. Use this simple tool.

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