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Friday, October 13, 2017

 
 
 

 
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Accident Benefits

Change to Economic Loss Payment Not Retroactive: Court

A judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled that a change to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) which became effective on February 1, 2014, does not apply to accidents prior to this date.

In the decision David v Wawanesa Mutal Insurance Company [2015 ONSC 6624], Quinlan J. considered whether Section 2 of Ontario Regulation 347/13 applies to accidents prior to February 1, 2014, when this regulation came into force.

In September of 2010 a change to the SABS allowed for non-professionals (e.g., family or friends) to be compensated for the attendant care that was provided to a person injured in a motor vehicle accident only if that non-professional suffered an “economic loss”.  The term “economic loss” was not defined.  The Ontario Court of Appeal later ruled, in its decision on Henry v Gore Mutual Insurance, that if a non-professional suffered an economic loss, they were entitled to the full amount of the monthly attendant care needs (Form 1) and that reimbursement was not limited to the actual amount of the economic loss.  In other words, once a non-professional established that an economic loss had been demonstrated, the full amount of attendant care benefit was payable as assessed.

In December of 2013 the Government of Ontario filed Ontario Regulation 347/13 to limit the amount of compensation for a non-professional to the actual amount of the economic loss sustained.  This regulation went into effect on February 1, 2014.  The regulation is silent on whether or not it is retroactive.

Quinlan J. states as follows:

[31]           Therefore, I accept the plaintiff’s position that attendant care benefits are a contractual right to which an injured person is entitled.  The contract of insurance between an insured and insurer creates rights and obligations, including the right to attendant care benefits.  As such, despite the fact that SABS are a government-legislated scheme, the treatment of other benefits bestowed by legislation and cases dealing with those benefits do not assist in deciding the issue before me.

[34]           The fact that legislation is remedial does not necessarily mean that it is intended to apply retrospectively (R. v. Evans, 2015 BCCA 46 (CanLII), 321 C.C.C. (3d) 130 at para. 33).  As the Court of Appeal held at para. 60 of R. v. Bengy, 2015 ONCA 397 (CanLII), 325 C.C.C. (3d) 22, if the need for immediate reform of the law were so pressing, why would the legislature not have explicitly made the law retrospective?  There is nothing in the record, including the explanatory notes, that demonstrates a clear legislative intent that the amendment is to apply retrospectively.

[35]           Accordingly, the presumption has not been rebutted and therefore applies.  I find that the plaintiff has a vested right to payment of the attendant care benefit to which she was entitled on the date of her accident.

The decision can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below:

http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2015/2015onsc6624/2015onsc6624.html

FSCO Announces Changes to SABS, Attendant Care Hourly Rates

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has announced major changes to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), effective June 1, 2016.

These changes include the following:

  • Medical and Rehabilitation Benefits, as well as Attendant Care Benefits, will be combined with respect to limits
    • For non-catastrophic claims, the maximum will be $65,000.00 for up to five years from the date of accident
    • For catastrophic claims, the maximum is $1,000,000.00, over a lifetime
  • Non-Earner Benefit – $185.00 per week, payable after four weeks but only to a maximum of two years following the accident
  • Catastrophic Impairment Designation – a whole new criteria for determining catastrophic impairment will be in force

FSCO has provided a new Attendant Care Hourly Rate Guideline, reflecting an increase to $11.25 per hour, effective October 1, 2015.

The Professional Services Guideline fees for 2015 remain unchanged from the previous year.

The bulletin can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below:

http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/autobulletins/2015a/Pages/a-06-15.aspx

Costs for Examination for CAT Assessment, Form 1 Completion and Disability Certificate Not Out of Med-Rehab Limits

A recent decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) confirms that the costs for completion of a catastrophic assessment are not subject to the medical and rehabilitation benefit limits.

In Lee-Anne Henderson and Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company [FSCO A14-001758], Arbitrator Patrick Bowles was asked to consider whether or not this was the case.  The Applicant, Ms. Henderson, had requested that the costs for the completion of a catastrophic assessment be paid by the insurer.  Wawanesa denied payment, stating that Ms. Henderson had reached the maximum payable for medical and rehabilitation benefits in the amount of $50,000.00, therefore there was no further benefits available to fund the assessments.

Arbitrator Bowles accepted Ms. Henderson’s argument that the only assessments that are subject to the medical and rehabilitation benefit limits are ones for the purpose of claiming a medical and rehabilitation benefit.  Since a catastrophic determination is not for the purpose of a benefit per se (rather, it is for a determination on the amount of benefits available), it is not subject to the limits, and should properly be allocated as a claims expense by the insurer.

While it was not directly considered in this decision, it follows that the costs for completion of an Attendant Care Needs Assessment (Form 1), as well as a Disability Certificate (OCF-3) are also not subject to payment under the medical and rehabilitation benefits, as they are for an attendant care benefit and for specified benefits, respectively.

If an insurer is claiming that the medical and rehabilitation benefits have reached the limits, it is helpful to obtain an itemized listing of all payments made to determine if any payments have been incorrectly allocated.  This could free-up additional funds that may be needed by an insured for treatment.

This decision can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

Henderson, Lee-Anne and Wawanesa – COE for CAT not in MR benefit limits

New FSCO Decision Limits Timelines for Examination Under Oath for Specified Benefits

NOTE: This arbitration decision was overturned on appeal.  A petition for Judicial Review was filed, but later abandoned.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released an arbitration decision that limits an insurer’s ability to request an Examination Under Oath in certain cases.

In the decision Neil Williams and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company [FSCO A14-001463], Arbitrator Maggy Murray considered whether or not an insurer was prohibited from providing a notice of an Examination Under Oath more than 10 business days after receiving an application and completed disability benefit for a specified benefit.

A specified benefit is an income replacement benefit, caregiver benefit, non-earner benefit, or housekeeping and home maintenance benefit.

Section 36(4) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), reads as follows (emphasis added):

(4)  Within 10 business days after the insurer receives the application and completed disability certificate, the insurer shall,

(a) pay the specified benefit;

(b) give the applicant a notice explaining the medical and any other reasons why the insurer does not believe the applicant is entitled to the specified benefit and, if the insurer requires an examination under section 44 relating to the specified benefit, advising the applicant of the requirement for an examination; or

(c) send a request to the applicant under subsection 33 (1) or (2).

Section 33 (1) and (2) of the SABS reads as follows:

(1)  An applicant shall, within 10 business days after receiving a request from the insurer, provide the insurer with the following:

1. Any information reasonably required to assist the insurer in determining the applicant’s entitlement to a benefit.

2. A statutory declaration as to the circumstances that gave rise to the application for a benefit.

3. The number, street and municipality where the applicant ordinarily resides.

4. Proof of the applicant’s identity.

(2)  If requested by the insurer, an applicant shall submit to an examination under oath, but is not required,

(a) to submit to more than one examination under oath in respect of matters relating to the same accident; or

(b) to submit to an examination under oath during a period when the person is incapable of being examined under oath because of his or her physical, mental or psychological condition.

Based on this decision (and a plain reading of the legislation), an insurer must provide notice of an Examination Under Oath for a specified benefit within 10 business days of receiving an application and completed disability certificate and an insured is not obligated to submit to an Examination Under Oath if notice has not been provided within that time period.

This decision can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

Neil Williams and State Farm – Examination Under Oath, Specified Benefit

FSCO Announces Amendments to SABS, Service Provider Regulations, etc.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released a bulletin announcing changes to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), service provider regulations, administrative penalties and eligibility for transportation expenses.

Below are the highlights:

  • Effective December 1, 2014, both licensed and unlicensed service providers and provide goods and service to auto insurance claimants.  Licensed service providers can receive payment directly from insurers, which unlicensed service providers cannot.  Unlicensed providers must complete the OCF-21 form (Auto Insurance Standard Invoice) on HCAI, print it, and provide a copy to the claimant.
  • Effective January 1, 2015, the current interest rate of 1% per month, compounded monthly, will continue to apply.  However, once a mediation proceeding has commenced, the interest rate will then change to the prejudgement interest rate described in the Courts of Justice Act for past pecuniary loss.  This will be calculated from the date on which a mediation proceeding commenced and ending on the date a settlement is reached or a decision is issued.  The current prejudgement interest rate is 1.3% per annum.
  • It is now considered to be an unfair or deceptive act or practice if an unlicensed provider advertises as a licensed provider.
  • There is now an exemption allowing licensed service providers to seek direct payment for a listed expense provided under the SABS from anyone other than an insurer.
  • Specifies penalties for non-compliance with the newly added requirements.
  • Reminds insurers that “authorized transportation expenses” apply only expenses incurred by the insured person or an aide.  It notes that service provider mileage costs are subject to FSCO’s Professional Service Guidelines, which states that insurers are not liable for any other costs beyond what is permitted under the Professional Service Guideline.

The bulletin can be read in full at the following link:

http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/autobulletins/2014/Pages/a-14-14.aspx

Genie Boom Crane is an “Automobile”: FSCO Arbitrator

Note: This decision was overturned on appeal.

A new arbitration decision from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has determined that a “Genie Boom Crane” is an “automobile” under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule.

The decision, Joseph Beattie and Unifund Assurance Company [FSCO A13-005289], describes the Genie as, “a four-wheeled mobile crane, propelled by its own motor”, which is used to elevate a worker to perform a maintenance function.

In this particular case, the Applicant, Mr. Beattie, was operating the crane on a private parking lot.  The ground level collapsed into the level below, injuring him.  Mr. Beattie applied for accident benefits through his own insurance company, Unifund Assurance.  Unifund took the position that the crane was not an “automobile” at the time and place when the structure collapsed and was, therefore, not an “accident”.

The arbitrator found that, since the crane was a “vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power” and did not meet the specific exclusions under the section of the Highway Traffic Act, it was a vehicle.  Since it was used off-road, it did not require compulsory insurance, thereby not making it subject to the provisions of the Insurance Act.

The entire decision can be read by clicking on the link below.

Beattie and Unifund – Genie Boom – Accident

FSCO Releases New Professional Services Guideline

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released an updated Professional Services Guideline, which applies to expenses related to services provided by health care providers rendered on or after September 6, 2014.

A copy of the new guideline can be found at the link below.

2014 FSCO Fee Guidelines

New OCF Forms to be used effective November 1, 2014

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released two bulletins with new forms to be used for accident benefits claims, effective November 1, 2014.

The new forms include the Application for Accident Benefits (OCF-1), Treatment and Assessment Plan (OCF-18), Auto Insurance Standard Invoice (OCF-21) and the Treatment Confirmation Form (OCF-23).

In a bulletin released by FSCO it was indicated that the reason for these changes is “to improve transparency and clarity regarding data analytics and pooling of information to detect fraud.  The OCF-23 has also been revised to accommodate Service Provider Licensing.”

These new forms can be downloaded at the links below:

OCF-1 – Effective Nov 1, 2014

OCF-18 – Effective November 1, 2014

OCF-21 – Effective November 1, 2014

OCF-23 – Effective November 1, 2014

FSCO Decision Reinforces Viability of Retrospective Attendant Care Needs Assessments (Form 1’s)

A new arbitration decision from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) affirms previous decisions that a retrospective attendant care needs assessment (commonly referred to as a “Form 1”) are viable.

In the decision Stephanie Kelly and Guarantee Company of North America [FSCO A12-006663], Arbitrator John Wilson affirmed that Ms. Kelly is entitled to payment for supplementary attendant care services, to be reimbursed for the cost for the Form 1 assessment, interest, and her expenses in the matter.

Ms. Kelly suffered catastrophic injuries and required one-to-one attendant care while in hospital.  Her family was, understandably, not in a position to know that a Form 1 was required to be completed to determine the amount of attendant care needs she required by use of a Form 1.  Once they were aware that one needed to be completed they retained an occupational therapist, who then completed a retrospective assessment.

In considering The Guarantee’s position that no attendant care benefit is payable prior to a Form 1 being submitted to an insurer, Arbitrator Wilson relied on a previous arbitration decision, T.N. and The Personal, wherein Arbitrator Bayefsky stated the following:

This does not, in my view, mean that an insured forfeits their right to attendant care benefits, or that an insurer is released of any obligation to pay attendant care benefits, prior to the Form 1 being submitted. In my view, significantly stronger statutory language would be required to effect this purpose. The section as it now reads simply ensures the orderly determination of a person’s need for attendant care (in accordance with a proper attendant care needs assessment), and protects an insurer from having to determine what it should pay in the absence of a specific and legitimate attendant care needs assessment.

The decision can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

Kelly and Guarantee

Bus Passes or Tickets constitute an “Economic Loss”: FSCO

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released an arbitration decision that confirms that the purchase of bus passes or tickets by a non-professional for the provision of housekeeping and home maintenance, as well as caregiving services and (arguably) attendant care, constitutes “economic loss” under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).

On September 1, 2010, the accident benefits legislation was changed so that non-professionals (i.e., those who have not provided the services in the course of the employment, occupation or profession in which he or she would ordinarily have been engaged, but for the accident) could only be reimbursed for the services they provided if they had incurred an economic loss.  The term “economic loss” was not defined within the regulations.

In the decision Asokumaran and TD Home (FSCO A12-007443) Arbitrator Susan Alves noted that it was submitted that the insured’s friend purchased bus tickets and/or passes to travel to the insured’s home.  Both parties agreed to submit to a preliminary issue on whether or not these expenses would constitute an “economic loss”.  The arbitrator did not address whether or not these expenses were incurred to provide the housekeeping and caregiver services and that issue will be decided at the main arbitration hearing.

What is clear from this decision is the rejection of a de minimis requirement (that is, that there is a possible minimum amount required for an economic loss argument to be established).  The insurer in this case relied heavily on a previous arbitration decision, Simser and Aviva Canada, which was generally restrictive with respect to broader-use definitions of what constitutes an economic loss.  Arbitrator Alves noted the following:

In Simser and Aviva Canada Inc., (FSCO A11-004610, January 16, 2013), the hearing arbitrator adopted the definition of economic loss from Black’s Law Dictionary and held that economic loss as applied in the Schedule must relate to some form of financial or monetary loss. This conclusion was not disturbed on appeal.
At the Simser hearing, the applicant had significant evidentiary difficulties in establishing the various losses claimed. For example, the hearing arbitrator described the evidence adduced at the hearing as vague and lacking in detail, lacking documentary evidence from the service provider’s employer, despite numerous requests from the insurer, and that there was a failure to link the expense or loss to the attendant care claimed. With respect to some of the out-of-pocket expenses, the arbitrator held that they were de minimis and therefore did not amount to economic loss.
I am not persuaded that the expenditure of $5,048 in this case is de minimis. The Court of Appeal in [Gore v.] Henry rejected any de minimis requirement for an expense to qualify as economic loss. On this point, on appeal, Delegate Blackman noted that the hearing arbitrator in Simser adopted the de minimis approach taken by the trial judge in Henry v. Gore Mutual. However, the arbitrator did not have the benefit of the Court of Appeal’s decision rejecting the de minimis approach at the time he issued his decision.
What is clear from these cases is that a loss of wages or a loss of income will qualify as an economic loss. I am not persuaded by the Insurer’s submission in this case, that the term economic loss should be read restrictively so that only those losses will qualify. Had the legislature intended to restrict economic loss to wage loss or loss of income, it could have so stated. Insurance coverage provisions are to be interpreted broadly, while coverage exclusions or restrictions are to be construed narrowly in favour of the insured.  In my view, the Applicant has demonstrated that funds were expended by her friend and service provider in the amount of $5,048 to purchase bus tickets and/or passes in order for her to travel to the Applicant’s home. The purchases involved the expenditure of funds by the service provider, were a monetary loss to her and therefore qualify as an economic loss within the meaning of the Schedule.

The decision can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

Asokumaran and TD – Economic Loss

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