Posts Tagged ‘Arbitration’
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.
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is reporting that the backlog of mandatory mediations will be over by the end of August, 2013.
When an accident benefits insurer denies a benefit, such as medical treatment, a mediation through FSCO is the mandatory first step in the dispute resolution process. In previous years a mediation date would often take up to one year from the date the mediation application was submitted. Judicial and arbitration decisions (ironically from arbitrators at FSCO) deemed that a mediation must be conducted within 60 days in accordance with the Dispute Resolution Practice Code or it can be deemed to have been failed.
FSCO provided statistics and timelines with respect to the backlog. These can be viewed 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
An arbitrator at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has ruled that a person providing attendant care for an insured is not required to provide their academic records to the accident benefits insurer.
In Mary Anthonipillai and Security National Insurance Co./Monnex Insurance Mgmt. Inc. [FSCO A11-001168] the daughter of the claimant, Mary Athonipillai, was providing housekeeping and attendant care services for her mother while she was attending university. The insurer, Security National, requested a copy of the daughter’s academic records because it took the position that the amount of attendant care and housekeeping services provided seemed excessive if the daughter was attending school at the same time. It was unknown if she was a part-time or full-time student and the daughter ignored all requests from the insurer for this information. Security National believed that the lack of this information was prohibitive to any meaningful settlement discussions.
Arbitrator Jessica Kowalski stated,
I am not persuaded that the records are so relevant that their non-disclosure now would prejudice a just and fair hearing so that I should therefore set aside privacy concerns around documents that contain information personal to a third party but none about a party to this proceeding.
Nor am I persuaded that the academic schedule is as probative as Security National asserts. That schedule will not disclose how often, or even whether, Ms. George attended her classes.
For these reasons, the motion is dismissed.
A recent decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) confirms that an insurer cannot necessarily deduct attendant care benefits from times when a claimant is receiving medical or rehabilitation treatment.
In Ms. T.N. and The Personal Insurance Company of Canada [FSCO A06-000399] the Arbitrator Suesan Alves stated the following:
The Personal submitted that it should be permitted to deduct chiropractic, osteopathic, massage therapy and six hours of rehab social worker and one hour of social worker treatment from any award of attendant care benefits. I disagree.
The benefits that The Personal seeks permission to deduct are provided under section 14 and 15 of the Schedule. Attendant care benefits are provided under section 16 of the Schedule. Each section of the Schedule provides for different and distinct services.
The focus of the Schedule is to provide services which meet the needs of an insured person. Under the statutory scheme, an insured person is entitled to medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefits based on the criteria of need or necessity and reasonableness. In this context, it seems an odd concept to contemplate deducting one equally necessary benefit from another. If that were permissible, then an insured person would be required to choose, for example, between receiving assistance with a bath from his or her attendant, or receiving a physiotherapy treatment.
I am not persuaded that double payment would result from the provision of both attendant care and medical and rehabilitation benefits. Although the Form 1s filed by the Applicant contemplate the provision of attendant care 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, the rate prescribed for care in the completed forms is $7.00 per hour. Effective March 31, 2010, the minimum wage in Ontario became $10.25 per hour.
In a letter dated October 9, 2008, the claims handler informed counsel for the Applicant that the cost of the services of a certified support worker from a private agency which provides attendant care services in Ms. N’s area is $21.00 per hour. If Ms. N purchases attendant care services from that agency, she will be able to purchase approximately eight hours of attendant care per day.
I do not see attendant care and treatment as being mutually exclusive. Had the Legislature intended to permit the deduction of medical and rehabilitation benefits from attendant care benefits it could easily have done so expressly. For these reasons, I am not persuaded that the Legislature intended that other benefits would be deducted from attendant care. For these reasons, I reject The Personal’s submission that I permit the deduction of chiropractic, osteopathic, massage therapy and six hours of rehab social worker and one hour of social worker from any award of attendant care benefits.
Applying to Wrong Insurer is a Reasonable Excuse for Delay in Applying to Correct Insurer for Accident Benefits
A recent arbitration decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) confirms that an insurer cannot deny accident benefits if the application is significantly delayed because the claimant applied to the wrong insurer first.
In the decision, Egal and Economical [FSCO A10-004057] Arbitrator Judith Killoran concluded that the Applicant, Roda Egal, had a reasonable excuse for the delay in applying for accident benefits with the Economical Insurance Company, because Ms. Egal had originally applied to another insurance company (American Assurance) who was handling her claim. Economical did not take timely steps to request information to corroborate her claim, but rather simply maintained their position that she had not applied for accident benefits within the timeframes outlined in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).
Furthermore, Arbitrator Killoran ordered a special award in the amount of $5,000.00 against Economical for its unreasonable position. As stated in her decision,
I find no merit in Economical’s position that it had no responsibility to adjust Ms. Egal’s file until receiving a reasonable explanation for her delay in applying. Economical received a reasonable explanation for the delay. Economical was also aware that documentation had been sent to the wrong insurer and persisted in refusing Ms. Egal’s claims long before it had received her file.
I find that Economical failed egregiously in its responsibilities to its first party insured, Ms. Egal. It did not follow up expeditiously in obtaining her file from American Assurance and it made decisions about her entitlement in its absence. No attempts were made to evaluate the merits of Ms. Egal’s claims. I find that Economical unreasonably withheld the payment of benefits to which Ms. Egal was entitled. Consequently, I find that Ms. Egal is entitled to payment of a special award fixed at $5,000, inclusive of interest.
This decision can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
Further reforms to Ontario’s Auto Insurance Industry are planned as part of the 2012 Budget announcement made yesterday in Toronto. Two of these measures include changes to the
definition of catastrophic impairment and further enforcement of auto insurance fraud.
In 2010, the government made major changes to the auto insurance system. As a result, premiums are stabilizing for drivers across Ontario. Building on the success of the 2010 reforms, the government is taking action to tackle fraudulent and abusive practices, base insurance benefits on scientific and medical principles, and ensure its regulator continues to identify and respond to new and emerging issues. The government’s ongoing work in the area of auto insurance, including fraud, should continue to reduce the pressure on premiums.
Some of the key changes to be implemented include:
- Regulation of health clinics;
- Other gaps in regulation;
- Establishment of a dedicated fraud unit;
- Consumer education and engagement strategy;
- A single web portal for auto insurance claimants;
- Development of new Minor Injury Guideline;
- Make the report of the Superintendent of Financial Services on catastrophic impairment public and move forward to propose regulatory amendments in this area;
- Engage in a review of the automobile insurance dispute resolution system;
- Strengthen the [FSCO] Superintendent’s authority regarding rate and risk classification approvals;
- Support a Superintendent’s review of the profit provision benchmark in auto insurance rate change approvals;
- Work with insurers to explore the implications of voluntary usage-based auto insurance policies;
- Harmonize the timing of statutory automobile insurance reviews;
- Improve solvency supervision of Ontario insurers
- Update Ontario’s Insurance Act by:
- Proposing amendments to the life insurance accident and sickness insurance parts of the Insurance Act to enhance consumer protection, reduce regulatory burden, and harmonize
with other Canadian jurisdictions; and
- Enhancing the effectiveness of its insurance regulation by proposing amendments to give the Superintendent of Financial Services the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties in the insurance sector.
- Proposing amendments to the life insurance accident and sickness insurance parts of the Insurance Act to enhance consumer protection, reduce regulatory burden, and harmonize
You can read the Government’s comments on the insurance industry by clicking here.
In a recent Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) Arbitration ruling, Costel Sicoe and Jevco Insurance Company [FSCO A08-001173], Arbitrator Susan Sapin confirmed that the hourly rates indicated on the Attendant Care Needs Assessment (Form 1) are the rates which are to be used by insurers for paying the benefit.
Mr. Sicoe was catastrophically injured in a motorcycle accident on June 15, 2006. As a result of this accident he required round-the-clock attendant care. Jevco paid the attendant care to the maximum of $6,000.00 per month.
However, in February 2009 Mr. Sicoe moved to Romania. Jevco reduced the monthly attendant care payments based on an argument that the basic supervisory care amount of $7.75 per hour is based on the minimum wage in Ontario at the time of the accident, but in Romania the minimum wage was $1.30 per hour. Jevco paid $1.30 per hour for the basic supervisory services. This resulted in Mr. Sicoe being paid less than the $6,000.00 per month that he was entitled to in accordance with the Form 1.
Arbitrator Sapin confirmed the interpretation of an “incurred expense” from previous case law:
It is well-established that an applicant need not actually receive the items or services claimed in order to be entitled to an expense. To do otherwise would allow the insurer to set up the inability of an insured to pay for a benefit as a shield from its obligation under the policy of insurance. It is sufficient that the reasonableness and necessity of the service be established and that the amount of the expenditure can be established with certainty.
This decision further confirms that insurers are bound to pay attendant care benefits in accordance with the Form 1 and that they do not have the discretion to pay below the rate established by the Form 1. To that end, Arbitrator Sapin stated the following:
I note that the most recent Attendant Care Hourly Rate Guideline, dated June 2010 and available on the Commission website, establishes the maximum expense that automobile insurers are liable to pay under the Schedule for attendant care services (for accidents after September 1, 2010). The Guideline also states that “Insurers are not prohibited from paying above the maximum hourly rates established in this Guideline.” It does not say, however, that insurers can pay less.