The provincial government is quietly pushing forward a bill that slashes the insurance coverage available for people injured in Ontario car accidents.
The Ontario government promised to fight fraud and reduce automobile insurance rates in the 2015 budget, but instead of targeting fraud or reducing the profits of insurance companies, the new bill takes goods and services away from people who are seriously injured in car accidents.
This is not the first time in recent years the government changed the laws to harm those injured in car accidents.
The last major change to Ontario auto insurance coverage happened on September 1, 2010. Before September 1, 2010, if you were injured in a car accident, you could receive up to $100,000 in medical treatments to help recover from your injuries.
In September 2010, a new “minor injury” category was created, meaning that the majority of car accident victims could only receive $3,500 of medical treatment. Even if you were more seriously injured, your benefits were still slashed in half, to a maximum of $50,000.
Car accident victims often need assistance with their self-care tasks (bathing and feeding themselves) as a result of their injuries. Before September 2010, you could receive monthly attendant care assistance for two years and your insurance company would pay up to $72,000 to the service provider who was assisting you.
After September 2010, if the insurance company considered your injuries to be “minor”, it would not pay anyone to assist you with attendant care. If you were more seriously injured, it would pay your service provider up to $36,000 over two years.
Now, with the latest changes in Bill 91, you would only receive $65,000 over five years for both your medical costs and attendant care assistance combined, unless you had a “minor injury” (and would receive $3,500 for medical benefits and $0 for attendant care). The new bill reduces the total amount available to seriously injured car accident victims from $172,000 to $65,000 – less than 40% of the pre-2010 amounts.
The new bill also shortens the timeline for seriously injured car accident victims to receive money from their insurance company. Under the current system, you can apply to your insurance company for up to 10 years after an accident to receive medical benefits. Under the new bill, you will only have five years.
The most severely injured victims of car accidents are “catastrophically impaired” (e.g. quadriplegic, paraplegic, amputations, severe brain injuries). They require extensive medical care and may need 24 hours of attendant care every day, seven days a week. On average, lifetime medical and attendant care costs for a young quadriplegic are around $10 million.
If you were catastrophically impaired in a car accident under today’s laws, you could receive up to $1 million for medical benefits and $1 million in attendant care benefits. These benefits are payable over your lifetime. With the new bill, you would only receive half of that amount – $1 million for medical benefits and attendant care combined over your lifetime.
The new bill leaves car accident victims with much fewer benefits, while the insurance companies’ profits remain secure. Recovery from a serious car accident is already incredibly difficult, and many injured people remain impaired for life. The proposed changes will make it that much harder for injured people to access the services they need to recover.