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Posts Tagged ‘catastrophic’

Concussions – Not a “get up and shake it off” injury

The seriousness of concussions cannot be overstated.

Health care providers are becoming more aware of the effects of concussions (also known as Acquired Brain Injury – ABI).  What was once a, “get up and shake it off” occurrence, has now become a proper assessment with protocols for monitoring the status of the individual as they return to work or sports.

ABI is a physical injury to the brain (concussions). It can be caused by a blow to the head, severe rotation of the neck or whiplash, or even from a lack of oxygen. Over 160,000 Canadians suffer brain injuries every year and, with better reporting, that number gets more accurate and thus keeps rising.

concussions

Concussions can occur many different ways and can have many different symptoms. No two concussions are identical.

About 50% of ABI’s come from falls and motor vehicle accidents.  While many injuries are mild and fully recover (80 – 90% in 7 – 10 days), many can last for much longer.  Some of the symptoms are temporary – headaches, vomiting, concentration issues, memory issues and balance problems. However, some issues can be longer standing – personality changes, sensitivity to light and noise, sleep problems, depression and other psychological issues.

 

Prognosis for ABI’s depends on many factors.  Red flags include post traumatic amnesia, history of previous ABI, skull fracture, nausea and dizziness after injury.

 

Treatment for concussions are rest, rest, and more rest.  Also, those recovering have to limit their exposure to stimulation and thinking that taxes the brain (computer screens and video games).  Return to work or sports is the responsibility of the treating doctor.  Premature return increases risks of second impact syndrome (can be fatal).

 

The seriousness of this condition cannot be overstated.  New imaging techniques are developed to show the extent of the injury and direct treatment.  Hopefully those tests will help those suffering to have the greatest chance of recovery and advocacy.

 

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Disclosure. Click here to read the complete newsletter.

Catastrophic Impairment Denial Not Subject to Limitation Period

Because a catastrophic impairment designation is not a “benefit”, as defined under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), there is no time limitation for disputing an insurer’s denial.

On January 6 2009, Zofia Machaj submitted an Application for Determination of Catastrophic Impairment (OCF-19) to RBC Insurance.  After conducting insurer’s examinations, RBC responded on May 25, 2009, stating that, “the assessors have formed the consensus opinion that you have not sustained a catastrophic impairment and therefore you do not qualify for the increased benefits.”

In order to dispute RBC’s denial, an Application for Mediation was submitted by Ms. Machaj on July 18, 2011, which was almost two months beyond the two year limitation period that the Insurance Act stipulates is required.  Section 281.1 of the Insurance Act establishes a limitation period, provides that a mediation proceeding, “…shall be commenced within two years after the insurer’s refusal to pay the benefit claimed” (emphasis added).

In 2015, Whitten J. issued a decision on a Summary Judgment Motion in the matter of Machaj v RBC General Insurance Company [2015 ONSC 4310], wherein he found in favour of RBC Insurance and ruled that the two-year limitation applied, because the denial, “…flushed out the consequences of the denial of the status of catastrophic impairment; namely, the enhanced benefits were not available.”

Ms. Machaj appealed.  The Ontario Court of Appeal disagreed with Judge Whitten’s decision, noting that, “In our opinion, by adding the words, “and you therefore you do not qualify for the increased benefits”, the respondent insurer was doing nothing more than telling the appellant that she lacked status to claim increased benefits. The additional words did not convert what was, in substance, a denial of a catastrophic determination into a denial of the specific benefits that would trigger the commencement of the two year limitation period.”

RBC Insurance sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but it was dismissed with costs.

As such, under the current legislation, an insured person is not bound to dispute an auto insurance company’s denial of catastrophic impairment determination within two years, unlike a denial of an actual “benefit” under the SABS.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and your insurance company has denied anything, it is always best to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your interests and entitlements are protected.

New Decision Clarifies Insurer’s Examination Requirements

In the decision, Larry Ward and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company [FSCO A14-010161], Arbitrator Chuck Matheson decided on a preliminary issue as to whether an insured, Mr. Larry Ward, was precluded from proceeding to arbitration on a number of issues due to his non-attendance for insurer’s examinations, which are required under Section 44 of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).

One of the factors considered by Arbitrator Matheson was whether or not State Farm provided medical or other reasons for the insurer’s examinations.  The arbitrator interpreted the requirement to be that, “…the medical reasons test must tell the Applicant, in an unsophisticated way, why the tests [insurer’s examinations] are reasonable and necessary.”  The words “reasonable and necessary” are new to the consideration of what is required for a medical reason required by an insurer.

The decision also confirms that, just because an insurer has not approved particular treatment or an assessment (for instance, if it is funded by OHIP), does not mean that they are not required to pay for transportation to and from them.  It also confirms that an OCF-18 Treatment and Assessment Plan is not required for goods or services under $250.00, as well as for medications prescribed by a regulated health professional.

Arbitrator Matheson also concluded that case management services, while subject to submission on a treatment plan, are not subject to an insurer’s examination.  He notes that,

I accept the Applicant’s interpretation of section 14 that the “virtual account” called medical and rehabilitation benefits shall pay for the specified benefits listed in sections 15, 16 and 17. It does not mean, however, that section 17’s case manager benefit is in fact a Medical or Rehabilitation Benefit, per se. The legislature severed the case manager because it is not a specified Medical or Rehabilitation Benefit. The case manager’s function is to coordinate the specified benefits of sections 15 and 16 in order help the insured person to attend and claim said specified Medical/Rehabilitation and/or Attendant Care Benefits for a catastrophically impaired person.

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

Ward and State Farm – Medical Reason, Transportation

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

Client Involved in an “Accident”: FSCO Arbitrator

Our firm successfully represented a client in an arbitration hearing through the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).

D.C. (initials are being used, at our client’s request) was riding his bicycle in Burlington, Ontario, when an unidentified vehicle struck either him or his bike and he fell to the ground.  D.C. does not recall the details of the actual impact, but did recall being struck by a white vehicle.  The vehicle did not stop and there were no known witnesses.

D.C.’s bicycle was damaged to the point that he could not ride it home.  The damage was seen by his wife and his brother-in-law.  Since it would cost more to repair the bicycle than to buy a new one, it was thrown out in the trash.  D.C. was unaware that, because his injuries were caused by a motor vehicle, he was eligible for accident benefits, so the bicycle was not kept as evidence.  Additionally, the incident was not reported to police, as D.C. did not think that anything could be done since the vehicle that hit him was unknown and there were no witnesses.

He went home, scraped and bruised, but otherwise felt fine.  The next morning his wife found him unconscious in bed and he was rushed to hospital by ambulance, where he was found to have suffered a subdural hematoma (acquired brain injury), which necessitated a full craniotomy.  Several months later, in the course of his rehabilitation, he was advised to seek legal advice, since he could be eligible for accident benefits.  D.C. called, and then retained, Smitiuch Injury Law.

An accident benefits claim was started with D.C.’s insurer, Aviva Canada.  Aviva accepted D.C.’s accident benefits claim, accepted his injuries as being catastrophic, and began paying accident benefits.  However, once some benefits were denied and were then disputed, Aviva took the position that D.C. was not involved in an “accident”, as defined in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).

Luke Hamer, assisted by Chris Jackson (Accident Benefits Manager), represented D.C.  Both the client, his wife, and his brother-in-law were interviewed and all were in agreement with the type of damage that was done to the bicycle.  Based on their description, a forensic engineer was retained, who was then able to provide an opinion that the type of damage to the bicycle described by the witnesses could only have been caused by a motor vehicle.

Based on the testimony of the witnesses, the arbitrator ruled in favour of D.C.  As a result, he will continue to be eligible to receive accident benefits, which he will likely require for the rest of his life.

The redacted arbitration decision can be read it its entirety by clicking on the link below.

DC and Aviva Canada (Redacted) dated July 3 2015

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

Smitiuch Injury Law to be Gold Sponsor at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre’s 21st Annual Conference on Neurobehavioural Rehabilitation in Acquired Brain Injury

Smitiuch Injury Law is pleased to be a Gold Sponsor for this important event.  It will be held on May 8 and 9, 2014, at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

We encourage all ABI Rehabilitation Professionals, Psychologists, Physicians, Program Planners, Insurance and Advocates to attend.

You can obtain a copy of the brochure by clicking on the link below:

ABI_Broch2014_mailer_final_lo

State Farm Barred from Denying Claimant as “Insured” Five Years After MVA

In a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision, State Farm v. Bunyan [2013 ONSC 6670 (CanLII)], State Farm Insurance Company was not allowed to consider an accident benefits claimant as not being an “insured” under the policy five years after the motor vehicle accident.

This decision deals with Christian Bunyan, who was a pedestrian who was struck by a truck in Alberta in September of 2007 and suffered catastrophic injuries.  At the time of the accident he did not have a driver’s license.  He was dependent on his mother, who lived in Ontario and had a valid automobile insurance policy with State Farm.  Under Ontario law, a person who is considered insured under an Ontario policy can apply for accident benefits in Ontario if their accident occurs anywhere in Canada or the United States.

State Farm accepted the accident benefits claim and also accepted that Mr. Bunyan was catastrophically impaired.  Five years after the accident State Farm then took the position that Mr. Bunyan was not dependent on his mother and was, therefore, not deemed to be an “insured person” under the policy.  Mr. Bunyan asserted that he was dependent upon his mother at the time of the accident and that, since State Farm was raising this issue five years after the accident, he had lost the opportunity to apply for benefits through any other insurer.  In other words, if he was not considered dependent on his mother and not eligible for further Ontario accident benefits he would have no other insurer to provide his much-needed benefits.

D.L. Corbett J. ruled that Mr. Bunyan was dependent on his mother at the time of the accident and also ruled that State Farm was barred by the legal principal of estoppel from taking this position five years after the accident.  Estoppel basically means that a party is not allowed to assert a fact or a claim inconsistent with a previous position, especially when it has been relied or acted upon by others.  In other words, since State Farm had accepted that Mr. Bunyan was an insured person for five years and Mr. Bunyan had relied on that position and had not applied to other insurers because of that, State Farm was now estopped from changing their position.

The Court’s decision is also helpful because it expands on what constitutes dependency.  At the time of the accident Mr. Bunyan was living in Alberta, had recently acquired a low-paying job, had recently separated from his girlfriend and their son, and was relying on his mother for financial support.  As Judge Corbett stated in his decision, “It can be difficult to determine precisely when an adult child ceases to be dependant on his parents.  Functionally, the change from dependence to independence is more a transition than an event.”

FSCO Arbitrator: Insurer Cannot Dictate Claimant to Have Amputation as a Remedial Procedure

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.

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