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Archive for February 2012

Smitiuch Injury Law Wins FSCO Decision: Swerving on a Bicycle to Avoid Vehicle is an “Accident”

Smitiuch Injury Law recently won an arbitration decision, DiMarco and Chubb Insurance Company, at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) regarding what is deemed to be an “accident”.

Marilena DiMarco was riding her bicycle on a training ride for a charitable event when she and her group went through a town that was having a street festival.  Because the street was closed the group rode their bicycles on the sidewalk.  A van was parked half-way on the sidewalk.  When Ms. DiMarco swerved to avoid the van, she lost her balance and fell, hitting the van with her hand in the process.  Chubb Insurance refused to accept the incident as a “motor vehicle accident” as defined in The Insurance Act and Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) and refused to pay for badly-needed treatment and other accident benefits.

Arbitrator Deborah Pressman stated the following:

In this case, Ms. DiMarco was compelled to manoeuvre on the sidewalk around a vehicle that was parked in her way.  This automobile set in motion a chain of events directly resulting in Ms. DiMarco’s fall from the bicycle.  There was no intervening act that caused Ms. DiMarco to fall.  There were no other impediments around the automobile or near Ms. DiMarco.  Therefore, there was a direct and proximate cause between the “use or operation” of the automobile and Ms. DiMarco’s injuries.

Peter Cho, an associate lawyer at Smitiuch Injury Law Professional Corporation, represented Ms. DiMarco at the arbitration hearing.  He was assisted by Chris Jackson, Accident Benefits Manager.

The decision can be read by clicking on the attached.  DiMarco and Chubb Insurance Company of Canada FSCO Decision A10-003967

FSCO Arbitrator Recognizes 60-Day Timeline for Mediations

A recent decision by FSCO Arbitrator Jeffrey Rogers supports that a mediation can be deemed to have failed if it has not been mediated within the 60 day timeframe noted in both The Insurance Act as well as The Dispute Resolution Practice Code.

In the decision, Leone and State Farm, Arbitrator Rogers states the following:

Since the prescribed time for mediation had expired when Mr. Leone filed his Application for Arbitration, there was no jurisdictional barrier to his doing so. This conclusion is consistent with the scheme and intent of the Act, the Schedule and the Rules as they aim to promote prompt payment of benefits and speedy dispute resolution. The legislation and the Rules are all replete with fixed time limits intended to serve this purpose. Accepting State Farm’s position would mean that there is no fixed time for completing mediation. That would render meaningless the requirement in the Act and the Rules for the prompt appointment of a mediator.

Section 281.1 of the Act, section 51(1) of the Schedule and Rule 11 of the DRPC require that an Application for Mediation be filed no later than 2 years from the date the insurer provided written notice of refusal to pay an amount claimed. Accepting State Farm’s submission that the Application is not filed until a mediator is appointed would mean that an insured person does not know whether he or she has met this limitation when delivering an Application to the Commission. It would mean that the period differs from application to application and that close to 1 year of the permitted time was consumed by the delay in this case. Conceivably, if delays increase to the point where it takes 2 years to appoint a mediator, an insured person who attempts to file an Application immediately upon denial would see his or her rights extinguished, before the first step in the dispute resolution process has occurred. The Legislature could not have intended that absurd result.

Judge Declares Mediation “Failed” if not Mediated within 60 Days

A decision from the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario was released that declares a mediation by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) failed if it has not been mediated within 60 days of the application being submitted.

In Cornie v. Security National [2012 ONSC 905], which was heard with three other similar cases, Justice J.W. Sloan renders the following decision:

It currently appears that FSCO’s Dispute Resolution Services’ Mediation Unit is functioning without timelines and has been doing so for years.

The SABS [Statutory Accident Benefits] are for the benefit of injured motor vehicle victims and are often required in a timely fashion.

It makes perfect sense that the legislation and the DPRC [Dispute Resolution Practice Code] refer to a 60 day time limit to deal with such disputes.

In contrast to the injured victims, insurance companies are not in a vulnerable position.  While there is nothing to suggest that these insurance companies are in any way responsible for the delay in mediation, there is no evidence that the delay in mediation is of any real consequence to them.

Justice Sloan found the insurance companies’ postion that accident victims must simply wait to be “preposterous” and suggests that FSCO can continue to try to comply with the 60 day period or seek a change and/or ask for some legislative direction to extend the 60 day period in appropriate circumstances.

It remains to be seen if this motion decision will be appealed.

Toronto Star Article on Lengthy Wait Times at FSCO

The Toronto Star has published an article identifying the lengthy wait times at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) for mediations of accident benefits denied by insurance companies.

Our firm’s own Michael Smitiuch was interviewed and quoted in the article.  He identifies the significant hardship that these delays often mean for clients and notes this to be an access to justice issue.

To read the Toronto Star Article, click here.

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