In late October, David Marshall, perhaps Ontario’s leading auto insurance expert, sat down with Don Forgeron of the Insurance Bureau of Canada for a discussion at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) annual convention. Their talk touched on several facets of the province’s auto insurance system that concern Ontario personal injury lawyers.
David Marshall is the former president and CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). In 2016 he became a special advisor on auto insurance to Finance Minister Charles Sousa. In this position, Marshall completed a comprehensive review of Ontario’s auto insurance system culminating in the report Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered, released in April. The report recommends a number of “transformative steps to strengthen consumer protection, improve health outcomes for those injured in collisions and reduce insurance costs,” per a provincial release.
Among Marshall’s recommendations was the elimination of most cash settlements for injury victims. He elaborated on this point in his discussion with Forgeron.
“The real problem with catastrophic compensation in Ontario is that it stems from the fact that you can give a lump sum to a person who is catastrophically injured and then forget about them,” Marshall told the audience, according to Canadian Underwriter.
This is a significant problem. In Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered, Marshall notes that “cash settlements often do not adequately meet the needs of catastrophically injured persons,” who instead require “lifetime care as their needs and available treatments will change over time.”
In other words, a cash settlement of $500,000 may help an injury victim cover immediate legal, medical, and rehabilitative costs, but will likely be insufficient to cover ongoing needs over the course of a lifetime.
Fair Benefits also recommends the introduction of independent, hospital-based examination centres to provide diagnoses and treatment plans. The assessments provided by these centres “should be taken as mandatory in accident benefits and tort disputes and courts should afford these opinions a zone of deference in tort cases,” the report reads.
This recommendation addresses an area of frustration for Ontario personal injury lawyers. Currently, medical experts hired by both sides of accident benefits disputes often deliver competing opinions; a neutral, impartial medical assessment would provide a foundation upon which to negotiate a fair settlement.
During the discussion at the IBAO convention, Forgeron reminded Marshall that a similar approach – Designated Assessment Centres (DACs) – was used in Ontario auto insurance until 2006, and was “met with mixed reviews.” Marshall countered that DACs were not “truly independent because they could give an opinion as a DAC participant and then go out and do another opinion on behalf of either the insurance company or the client.” This behaviour would not be permitted under the Fair Benefits model.
The auto insurance system in Ontario has many flaws, including Canada’s highest premiums despite one of the nation’s lowest accident rates. The proposals laid out in Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered are a step in the right direction, but meaningful change will require the cooperation of the province’s insurance industry. Perhaps discussions like the one that took place at the IBAO annual convention are a good start.
If you have questions about accident benefits under Ontario’s auto insurance system, or if you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Nanda & Associate today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team can help you access the compensation you need for a successful recovery.