With Ontarians going to the polls on October 6, 2011, it will not be long before candidates for members of Provincial Parliament appear at our doors looking to make friendly chit chat with perspective voters. Often candidates will ask voters what issues are important to them. Most often, in a Provincial election, healthcare and education are on the forefront of most peoples’ minds. However for those of us following car insurance issues, it’s very important to look at the current government’s record when determining who to vote for in October.
As regular readers will know, we are very concerned with the changes to the Insurance Act that were implemented in September, 2010. Most significantly, medical rehabilitation benefits to car accident victims were slashed from $100,000.00 to $50,000.00. As we approached the one-year mark following these changes, we are seeing the devastating impact of reduced benefits on people who are seriously, although not catastrophically, injured. Recall that this change was made without a vote of the legislature. As a result, we do not know if the Conservatives or the New Democrats would have backed these changes if asked. When candidates show up at my door I will be asking them for their position on the September 2010 changes to the medical rehab benefit and I suggest you should too.
The current government also implemented a new category of benefit recipient under what is now known as the “Minor Injury Guideline”. For this large group of motor vehicle accident victims (about 60%) their rehabilitation dollars have been slashed from $100,000.00 to $3,500.00. I recently received a letter from an insurance adjuster advising me that an assessor indicated that my client requires extensive psychological treatment. But, by the way, he only has $85.00 left in medical rehabilitation benefits. The insurer then wanted to know if he wanted to proceed with the treatment. Needless to say $85.00 does not provide much in the way of psychological treatment. This client, who does not have workplace benefits, will simply go without and hope that his psychological injuries do not worsen. Again, you should ask candidates in the upcoming Provincial election what they think of the minor injury guideline and if they would consider repealing that guideline in the event that their party was elected in October.
The Provincial government also recently quietly introduced legislation effective this summer that eliminates the ability of people who are injured on public transit such as OC Transpo to claim accident benefits if they are injured while riding the bus, unless the bus is actually involved in a motor vehicle accident. As a result, very common injuries from sudden stops, lurches or jerks on the bus will no longer entitle victims to medical rehabilitation benefits or income replacement benefits. Given the number of inquiries I get from people who have had serious knee injuries as a result of slips and falls on the bus, I anticipate a large number of Ontarians will now struggle to fund rehabilitation.
As people who care about accident victims, let’s strive to get commitments from candidates in our ridings to work towards changing the insurance regime for accident victims or, at least, obtain commitments that the current situation will not get worse.