Motor Vehicle Accidents
Smitiuch Injury Law’s own Michael Smitiuch is quoted in the latest issue of the Law Times in an article addressing the provincial government’s call for a 15% reduction in auto insurance rates.
He notes that the planned cuts are modest compared with the reductions in available benefits since 2010. “Fifteen per cent is certainly not too much. For Ontario consumers since 2010, benefits have been severely restricted, but the majority of claimants are still paying the same premiums. It’s like they’re still paying for a full tank of gas except now they only get it filled up halfway.”
You can read the article 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 Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has released an updated Professional Services Guideline for 2013.
According to the FSCO website, “The hourly rates are unchanged from the 2012 level. This is in line with the auto insurance rate reduction strategy outlined in the government’s 2013 Spring Budget.” It has also added a category for kinesiologists, who are now regulated health professionals in Ontario.
A copy of the 2013 Professional Services Guideline is available 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 Ontario Government has announced its strategy to reduce auto insurance premiums.
A news release, issued on April 30, 2013, identifies that the Government will be introducing legislation to address the following:
- Require a premium reduction of 15 per cent on average.
- Require insurers to offer lower premiums to consumers with safe driving records.
- Provide the Superintendent of Financial Services with the authority to require insurers to file new rates.
- Expand and modernize the Superintendent’s investigation and enforcement authority, focusing on fraud prevention.
- Give the Financial Services Commission of Ontario the authority to license and oversee health clinics and practitioners who invoice auto insurers.
- Make the Superintendent’s Guidelines, incorporated by reference in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, binding.
The news release can be read in its entirety 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 Spring 2013 issue of the Smitiuch Injury Law newsletter, disclosure, is now available.
- Have you purchased any of the consumer products that have been involved in a lawsuit or major recall?
- I think you will be surprised at some of the names on the list of famous people with law degrees.
- Did you know the maximum a person can receive for pain and suffering in Canada is $345,584? Read the article on Damages for Pain & Suffering to get all the details.
These are just a few of the interesting articles in this issue.
The Ontario Government has made public the regulatory changes that will be made to help combat automobile insurance fraud in the province. All changes are scheduled to come into effect on June 1, 2013.
The following changes will be in effect for the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS):
- The insurer is bound to pay only to the maximum rates established under the Guidelines for all medical and rehabilitation benefits, except for transportation.
- The insurer is allowed to have an additional Examination Under Oath of an claimant for the purpose of determining the priority of accident benefits insurers.
- An insurer will be required to give all reasons, not just a medical reason, for denying a medical or rehabilitation benefit.
- The insurer can demand:
- Confirmation in writing that the goods or services were provided to the insured person, and/or
- A statutory declaration as to the circumstances that gave rise to the invoice.
- This information must be provided within 10 business days after receiving the request; and
- An invoice is not overdue and no interest accrues on it during any period during with the insured person has not provided the information within the above timeframe.
- While the insurer is still obligated to provide regular statements to the insured as to what has been paid out on a claim, they may be required to provide additional information if the Superintendent approves a benefit statement form.
The following changes will be in effect for the Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices statute:
- It will be a deceptive act or practice for anyone other than a lawyer or paralegal to require, request or permit a person to sign a blank OCF form.
The legal reference for these changes are O.Reg 14/13, O.Reg 15/13, O.Reg 16/13.
The Ontario Government has announced that it will introduce regulatory amendments aimed at tackling automobile insurance fraud in the Province.
According to their website, measures will be taken as follows:
- Require insurers to provide claimants all reasons for denying a claim.
- Give claimants the right to receive a bi-monthly, detailed statement of benefits paid out on their behalf.
- Increase the role of claimants in fraud prevention (e.g. require them to confirm attendance at health clinic).
- Make providers subject to sanctions for overcharging insurers for goods and services and banning them from asking consumers to sign blank claim forms.
The entire news release can be read by clicking here.