Ontario announces changes to auto insurance system

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The Province of Ontario will once again attempt to lower its auto insurance premiums, which are currently the highest in the nation despite the province’s relatively low rates of auto accidents and fatalities. According to Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s early-December announcement, the initiative will target auto insurance fraud, which costs as much as $1.6-billion a year. Personal injury lawyers, meanwhile, are worried the changes will harm accident victims.

“We recognize that in order to achieve substantive, sustained rate reductions over time, we’ve got to make these structural changes,” Sousa told reporters on December 5. “The gumming of the system, the abuse within the system is creating unnecessary costs.”

Included in the government’s new strategy are the development of standard treatment plans for common injuries like whiplash and sprains; the creation of independent examination centres to provide unbiased medical assessments; and the establishment of a new office to address fraud, the CBC reports. The province believes these initiatives will tackle issues identified by David Marshall in his report on the auto insurance system, Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered.

This is the latest attempt by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Government to fulfill its campaign promise to reduce premiums by 15 per cent from 2013 levels. Today, premiums are around 8 per cent lower, on average, than they were four years ago.

Unfortunately for the province’s injury victims and the personal injury lawyers who represent them, modest premium reductions have coincided with drastic cuts to available accident benefits. Some members of the legal community believe the most recent changes will further complicate matters.

“I foresee more difficulties for injury victims in the future, I foresee problems claiming benefits and having them actually paid out,” one Toronto injury lawyer told the CBC. “None of these changes that are being implemented today will in fact help anybody. It’s supposed to provide clarity and less confusion but it really does the exact opposite.”

Critics are especially concerned by the proposed independent examination centres, which they say resemble the province’s disastrous Designated Assessment Centres (DACs) that operated from 1994 to 2006. Many saw the DAC strategy as a failure, though Sousa maintains that the independent examination centres “will not be held accountable to an insurance company, or a legal profession.”

If you have been injured in an automotive accident and are interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how we can help. Our team has helped injured Ontarians access compensation and benefits for decades.

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein
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