Catastrophically injured Ontarians face monumental challenges at the best of times: as all experienced car accident lawyers understand, serious motor vehicle accidents can result in debilitating injuries that undermine a person’s ability to enjoy life.
Unfortunately, many accident victims face significant challenges in addition to their injuries. Drastic changes to Ontario’s auto insurance system have reduced available benefits and altered catastrophic injury designations in the last five years. Now, a series of recently filed class-action lawsuits allege that 11 insurance providers have engaged in deceitful practices relating to HST on medical benefits since 2010.
The initial series of lawsuits was announced on November 1 against Intact, Aviva, Unifund Assurance, Belairdirect, Certas Direct, and Allstate. On November 20, The Co-operators, Echelon, The Commonwell, Wawanesa, and Economical were also named.
According to the Toronto Star, statements of claim for the lawsuits accuse each insurer of “preferring its own profits ahead of … the well-being of (claimants) who suffered loss or injuries” and charge the provincial government with “deliberately turning a blind eye to the wrongful conduct … in fear that (insurance companies) would in retaliation increase rates … at a time when the government of Ontario had promised a reduction in rates (and) stop providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to the then-governing party.”
What do the lawsuits allege?
Simply, the insurance providers are accused of deducting HST on medical goods and services from paid benefits or including HST in calculating benefit limits. Both practices are against guidelines set forth by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) which oversaw the province’s insurers until 2016.
The full scope of the scandal is not yet known: tens of thousands of people received accident benefits between 2010 and today, and seriously injured accident victims may have lost thousands of dollars in coverage. The lawsuits are seeking total damages in the neighbourhood of $1-billion.
Should the insurance providers have known better?
According to bulletins and guidelines published by the Toronto Star, the FSCO made clear that HST was to be included in benefits payments and excluded from benefits limits.
A 2010 bulletin states that “if the HST is considered by the (Canada Revenue Agency) to be applicable to any of the services or fees listed in this Guideline, then the HST is payable by an insurer.” In 2015, an FSCO guideline read: “The HST is a tax and is not part of the benefit limit set out in the SABS.”
Unfortunately, the FSCO failed to hold insurers to these standards despite calls from car accident lawyers – in June 2016, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) sent a letter to the organization regarding “an alarming practice of some Ontario insurance companies who wrongfully deduct HST from the available medical and rehabilitation limits for injured accident victims.“
“There’s been a certain amount of incredulity that it has continued,” OTLA president Ron Bohm told the Toronto Star. “It’s nickel and diming, but when you add it up they’ve really taken a lot of money out of the pocket of these people… It’s pure bottom-line profit greed.”
Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in an automotive accident or are having trouble accessing accident benefits, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ team of experienced car accident lawyers today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.
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