The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released an arbitration decision regarding the calculation of a whole body impairment rating when assessing whether or not an insured meets the criteria for a catastrophic impairment under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).
Under the Ontario Accident Benefits regulations, an insured who is deemed to be catastrophically impaired has increased limits on various accident benefits.
In D.B. and Economical Mutual Insurance Company [FSCO A12-000632] Arbitrator Killoran dealt with the complex issue as to whether or not the insured, D.B., who suffered serious orthopaedic and psychological injuries in a motor vehicle accident in November 2008, suffered at least a 55% whole body impairment rating under the AMA Guidelines, in order for her impairments to be deemed catastrophically impaired.
D.B.’s lower leg injuries required five surgeries and she is unable to walk independently. She is confined to a wheelchair for 99% of her time. The only time that she does not utilize a wheelchair was when she goes to the washroom, and only with the use of rails.
Economical tried to argue that D.B. should have her leg amputated, which would then reduce her impairment rating to the point that she would not meet the criteria for catastrophic impairment.
Arbitrator Killoran stated that,
No doctor, insurer, arbitrator or judge can dictate to D.B. that she must have an amputation as a remedial procedure.
This decision can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
A recent decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has clarified that an insurer cannot penalize an accident benefits claimant for not attending an insurer’s examination in certain circumstances.
In the decision Kelly Quinones and Unifund Assurance Company [FSCO A12-000866] Kelly Quinones wished to dispute Unifund Assurance’s stoppage of her attendant care and housekeeping and home maintenance benefits. Unifund argued that Ms. Quinones was prohibited from proceeding to arbitration pursuant to Section 55(2) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) because she had failed to attend the scheduled insurer’s examinations.
Ms. Quinones’ accident benefits insurer, Unifund Assurance, sent out a notice to her that she was required to attend insurer’s examinations for the purpose of determining her entitlement to attendant care and housekeeping and home maintenance benefits.
In this particular case Unifund did not specify who the assessor would be in their notice and referred to the profession as “OT”. Arbitrator Maggy Murray noted that “OT” is not a regulated health profession. It was clarified that “OT” was an abbreviation for “Occupational Therapist”, which is a regulated health profession. However, Arbitrator Murray noted that,
Insurers must “explicitly and unambiguously advise” insureds in “straightforward and clear language, directed towards an unsophisticated person,” the information set out in s.44(5) of the Schedule. An unsophisticated person may not know what an “OT” is.
Smitiuch Injury Law is pleased to host its annual seminar, entitled “Accident Benefits: Practical Issues for Health Care Professionals.” It will be held on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at the Brantford Golf and Country Club.
The keynote topic at this year’s seminar will be on “Living With and Caring for an ABI Survivor – A Mother’s Perspective”. Bernie Perry, the mother of an acquired brain injury survivor, will identify the struggles and successes she has experienced in her daughter’s recovery and rehabilitation. Bernie will be accompanied by her case manager, Jody Abbot and Dr. Diana Velikonja, a clinical neuropsychologist at Storrie, Velikonja and Associates in Burlington.
The afternoon will also provide an update on the latest news and case law in Ontario Accident Benefits, followed by an open forum with an expert panel to answer participant’s questions. The expert panel will be composed of Ms. Heather Driver (Financial Services Commission), Tamara Forbes (Forbes Health Management), Anna-Marie Musson (Miller Thomson) and Chris Jackson (Smitiuch Injury Law).
The afternoon will begin with registration and lunch at 11:30 a.m. and will end with a cocktail reception and social at approximately 3:30 p.m.
This event is 100% complimentary.
If you wish to attend please RSVP no later than September 18, 2013 by calling 519-754-1558 or by email to [email protected].
A copy of the invitation can be accessed by clicking here.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of Justice Ray in Henry v. Gore Mutual Insurance Company, 2012 ONSC 3687, which found that an automobile insurer must pay an insured the full amount of attendant care benefits as set out in the Form 1 and is not entitled to take a proportional approach to the payment of this benefit. Gore Mutual Insurance argued that its liability for attendant care benefits was limited to the number of hours that the attendant care provider lost from work. Justice Ray did not agree with this approach and stated that a plain reading of the relevant section must be followed.
The Honourable Alexandra Hoy, who wrote on behalf of the Court of Appeal, stated the following:
Attendant care benefits are only payable in respect of the provision by a family member of care detailed in the Form 1 assessment of the insured’s attendant care needs if the family member sustains an economic loss as a result of providing such care to the insured. If an economic loss is sustained, attendant care benefits are payable with respect to all care detailed in the Form 1 provided by the family member, subject to the maximums in s. 19(3) and various other safeguards, including ss. 42 and 33 of SABS-2010. If no such loss is sustained, no attendant care benefits are payable in respect of care provided by the family member, even if the family member provides care that would otherwise be provided by someone in the course of their employment, occupation or profession and would necessitate the payment of attendant care benefits by the insured. And to the extent that the economic loss sustained by the family member as a result of providing such care to an insured exceeds the maximum attendant care benefits stipulated in SABS-2010, the family member is not indemnified.
Please see our blog post on the trial judge’s decision by clicking here.
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released the very first decision with respect to injuries that fall within the Minor Injury Guidelines (MIG).
In Lenworth Scarlett and Belair Insurance Company Inc. [FSCO A12-001079], Arbitrator John Wilson has provided clarification regarding what injuries subject an insured person to a maximum of $3,500.00 in medical and rehabilitation benefits.
While Mr. Scarlett suffered soft-tissue (whiplash) injuries in his motor vehicle accident, he was also diagnosed with Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome, as well as psychological issues. Despite the provision of documentation that supported injuries beyond those subject to the MIG, Belair maintained its position that he was subject to the MIG limits for accident benefits. As Arbitrator Wilson pointed out, “In essence, Mr. Scarlett’s attempts to claim certain benefits from Belair were being rebuffed because Belair took the position that he was within the MIG and either the benefits were not payable or they were in excess of what was required to be paid under that approach. This appeared to be a major stumbling block since, even when Mr. Scarlett provided further evidence of complicating features of his claim that in his mind took it outside of the MIG framework, he was met with the same response.”
Arbitrator Wilson outlined the critical elements of the MIG as follows:
- Persons who suffer minor injuries (as defined) should be treated appropriately, with early, quick and limited intervention to assist in recovery.
- The decision or not to treat an insured either within the Minor Injury Guideline or not should be made on the basis of credible medical evidence and not on speculation.
- Even those persons who otherwise might be within the MIG can be treated outside of theGuideline if there is credible medical evidence that a pre-existing condition will prevent the insured person from achieving maximal recovery from the minor injury.
Arbitrator Wilson then goes on to determine that the onus is on the insurer, not the insured, with respect to determination of a person’s injuries falling within the MIG. He states, “I accept that in the absence of clear legislative direction that would override the existing jurisprudence as to burden of proof, it remains the Insurer’s burden to prove any exception to or limitation of coverage on the civil balance of probabilities.”
The Arbitrator concludes his decision as follows:
The insurer is in effect mandated to make an early determination of an insured’s entitlement to treatment beyond the MIG. In essence, because of the necessarily early stage of the claim when the MIG is applied, the determination must be an interim one, one that is open to review as more information becomes available.
What is not is the “cookie cutter” application of an expense limit in every case where there is a soft tissue injury present. Such does not respond either to the spirit of the accident benefits system or the policy enunciated in the Guideline of getting treatment to those in need early in the claims process.
While it is quite possible that the majority of claimants can be accommodated within the MIG, averages are misleading when applied to individual cases. Each case merits an open-minded assessment, and an acceptance that some injuries can be complex even when there are soft tissue injuries present amongst the constellation of injuries arising from an accident.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a decision from the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario that declared 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 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. This decision was posted in our blog on February 9, 2012.
This ruling means that, when an accident benefits insurer has denied a benefit, the insured can apply for mediation at FSCO and, 60 days after the mediation has been filed, the insured can then move on to either arbitration or a lawsuit against the insurer if the mediation has not been conducted within that timeframe.
The Court of Appeal concluded their decision by stating the following:
 The legislative scheme for resolving disputes about statutory accident benefits requires that insured persons resort to a mandatory mediation process before commencing a court proceeding or submitting their disputes to arbitration. The Act, the regulations and the DRPC make it clear that this process is intended to be completed within 60 days from the filing of an application for mediation with FSCO, unless the parties agree to an extension of time. The scheme postpones the right of insured persons to commence civil actions against their insurer in order to allow the mediation process to be completed within the time prescribed, but leaves them free to commence actions once that period has expired.
A major decision with respect to the definition of “catastrophic” under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule was released by the Ontario Court of Appeal today.
It its decision, Pastore v. Aviva Canada [2012 ONCA 642], the Court has supported the findings of the Director’s Delegate at the Financial Services of Ontario, who decided that only one functional impairment due to a mental or behavioural disorder at the marked level is necessary to declare a person’s injuries as catastrophic. Furthermore, the decision supports that a marked psychological impairment caused by physical pain is valid for the purpose of determining a catastrophic impairment.
The decision can be read in its entirety by clicking here. Pastore Appeal
A recent Ontario Court of Appeal ruling confirmed that it is possible for someone injured in a motor vehicle accident to work but still be entitled to a Non-Earner Benefit.
In the decision, Galdamez v. Allstate Insurance Company of Canada [2012 ONCA 508], Hayfa Galdamez returned to work shortly after her accident. Because of this, Allstate took the position that she was not entitled to income replacement benefits. However, even though she was able to work, her medical professionals were of the opinion that she met the test for a non-earner benefit; namely, that she suffered a complete inability to carry on a normal life.
It has been well established in case law that entitlement to a non-earner benefit goes beyond the ability to simply go through the motions of everyday life.
The Court stated the following:
 Although I consider it unlikely that persons who can work at their pre-accident jobs following an accident will often meet the disability standard for non-earner benefits, I do not rule out such a possibility.
 For example, in jobs where mobility is not a requirement (e.g. department store greeter, telemarketer, etc.) and the job was not of great importance in the claimant’s pre-accident life, it may be possible for a claimant who returns to his or her pre-accident employment following an accident to satisfy the test for non-earner benefits.
This decision can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
A recent decision delivered by Justice Ray in Henry v. Gore Mutual Insurance Company, 2012 ONSC 3687, found that an automobile insurer must pay an insured the full amount of attendant care benefits as set out in the Form 1 and is not entitled to take a proportional approach to the payment of this benefit. Gore Mutual Insurance argued that its liability for attendant care benefits was limited to the number of hours that the attendant care provider lost from work. Justice Ray did not agree with this approach and stated that a plain reading of the relevant section must be followed. In the decision, Justice Ray stated the following:
A plain reading of the section provides that if a family member stays home from work, loses income in order to provide all reasonable and necessary attendant care to the insured – and the insured is obligated to pay, promises to pay or does pay the family member, then the definition in section 19(1) has been met. All reasonable and necessary attendant care expenses must then be paid to the insured as described in the Form 1.
The decision can be read in its entirety here: Henry v Gore Mutual Insurance Company, 2012 ONSC 3687