Should Alberta Follow Ontario’s Lead on Auto Insurance?

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personal injury lawyers concerned about possible alberta auto insurance changes

The Province of Alberta is considering changes to its auto insurance system, including adopting a no-fault approach similar to Ontario’s. Personal injury lawyers in the province aren’t happy about the idea. Here’s why Alberta is pursuing the changes and why insurance experts think Ontario is a bad model.

Why Does Alberta Need a New Auto Insurance System? 

Like elsewhere in the country, insurance premiums are on the rise in Alberta. A study, conducted last year and delivered to the province’s treasury board and finance department, blamed the trend, in part, on the number of claims for ‘minor’ injuries.

“Albertans are increasingly retaining legal representation to negotiate their compensation following a motor vehicle accident,” the study, which was obtained by the Toronto Star’s Edmonton Bureau, says. “Our recommendation is that the system can be modified to make it easier for a claimant to make a claim without the time consuming and costly legal process.”

One proposed modification is to strip Albertans of the right to sue for pain and suffering for minor injuries. Although awards for pain and suffering are capped at just over $5,000 in the province, the study states that 57 per cent of all bodily injury payouts come from these claims.

What Does the Province Propose?

News reports suggest that the province is leaning toward a no-fault system similar to Ontario’s. The rumoured approach would strip Albertans of their right to sue for pain and suffering for minor injuries and instead determine compensation based on an accident benefits schedule. In other words, the extent of the accident victim’s injuries would be determined by a private assessor, and compensation would be delivered based on their severity. As in Ontario, private insurance companies would continue to provide coverage.

Criticism

 Personal injury lawyers in Alberta aren’t happy with the rumoured changes, and some auto insurance experts are confused about the province’s decision to emulate Ontario’s dysfunctional system.

“The promise of lower insurance rates sounds really enticing to a lot of people, especially in tough economic times when people are struggling,” one personal injury lawyer told CBC News Alberta. “But the question is, what rights are we being asked to give up in order to get those lower rates?”

“It’s really tempting to give up your rights in the short term in return for the promise of lower insurance rates. But I think we can look across the country and see that those promises really don’t come true in other jurisdictions,” he added.

“It doesn’t work in Ontario,” Wilfrid Laurier University professor Mary Kelly, an insurance expert, told the Star. “I think that’s a fair statement, which is why I’m rather puzzled that it is being considered.”

Most Ontario personal injury lawyers would agree that the province’s auto insurance system needs improvement. Despite the no-fault system in place, the previous provincial government resorted to slashing benefits to reduce premiums in 2016. And, in 2017, an independent review of the system, requested by the new government, found it to be “one of the least effective insurance systems in Canada.”

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal injury lawyers in Ontario may be powerless to influence the Province of Alberta’s auto insurance policy. However, we can help accident victims access the compensation they deserve for the injuries they have suffered. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

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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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