The province has finally released their plan to reduce auto insurance rates, and to increase timely access for injured people to care and benefits. The province has been trying to fix Ontario’s auto insurance system since 2013. The drivers in Ontario face the highest rates for insurance in the country notwithstanding having some of the safest driver records. We don’t pay a few percent more than other Canadian drivers, we pay 50% more than the national average.
The province had cut deals with insurance companies to reduce the premiums by a few percent, but the deals cost drivers heavily in terms of the accident benefits injured drivers are permitted to access. Little was done to stop the unreasonable actions of many auto insurers who often seem to take the stance that ‘no’ is the first answer. Drivers were by and large bound to one benefits package. Our rates are still high. Fraud is rampant in the towing and storage industry, in the treatment industry, and suggestions have been made of hired guns in the ‘expert’ medical consultant industry. These all take a large amount of money away from treating injured drivers. Long wait times for appeals still exist, and injured individuals are still the losers in the system.
The province announced earlier this month that new actions are being taken to make insurance more affordable. They point to the mandatory snow tire discount (2-5%) and cite the fact that the average rate is 6.6% lower than four years ago. This is a far cry from the promised rate cuts, and they have come at a heavy cost to drivers who need to access accident benefits.
The Province now proposes to take the following action to address:
· Standard Treatment Plans – intended to provide the victims of the most common car collision injuries with timely, appropriate and effective treatment which focus on recovery. The intent is to provide the care injured people need. “This is expected to reduce costs in the system by changing the emphasis from cash payouts to ensuring appropriate care for victims.”
· Independent Examination Centres – will provide assessments of more serious car accident injuries. They will help resolve and reduce disputes and reduce over system costs. Standards will be established for assessors to ensure neutrality.
· Serious Fraud Office - these will be staffed by members of the OPP and Ministry of Attorney General to address systemic fraud issues
· Risk Factor Review – FSCO will review risk factors insurers use to calculate premiums to ensure that certain populations aren’t subject to unfairly high rates.
· Contingency Fees – Working with the LSUC the province will work to simplify lawyer – client contracts to ensure people understand what they are paying. A mandatory standard contingency fee agreement will be established, legal professionals will be required to publicly disclose the max fees they charge by practice area, lawyers and paralegals will be required to report annually on contingency fee practices, and a public education guide will be created for consumers.
· Establishing a Strong Independent Regulator – reducing red tape, modernizing the system, and protecting the consumer by amending the Insurance Act are all on the agenda.
· Panel – a panel of up to five experts will provide guidance to the government on reforms
read here for more details Ontario’s Fair Auto Insurance Plan