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Feel less protected when driving recently?? You should, and you should explore steps to protect yourself…

There are some very bad apples out there that cause car accidents – people who just do not seem to care and make no apologies for their negligence, despite causing horrible injuries.  But there are also a ton of “good apples” who have a momentary lapse of concentration – ie: a moment of inattention due to a screaming child, or a tired eye.  All of those people need to be aware that the government’s recent legislative changes not only affect people injured in accidents, they also could certainly affect the ones who cause the accidents as well.

In their latest round of changes to the Insurance system, Ontario’s government drastically slashed accident benefits available to injury victims.  In a comical and pretty offensive move, the Liberal government slashed 50% of the important benefits (medical and rehabilitation and attendant care/PSW/nursing etc) available to the Province’s most horribly injured people (catastrophically injured people – think paraplegia, amputations, severe brain injuries, etc.)…and they called it the “fighting fraud act“.  The idea that taking away 50% of the benefits available to the disabled people (more than one million dollars in benefits) that need the most protection is fighting fraud registers pretty high on my personal level of disgust.  It is notable that while the government took away these people’s benefits, they did not take any steps to lower the rates charged for services provided (the rates are set out in a schedule).

So why does this matter to the at-fault driver that caused the car accident?  Because, they are the ones that are going to get sued for causing the accident.  The way that our system works is that anything that the injured party gets from their own insurance is deducted from the claim against the at-fault driver.  For instance, if the catastrophically injured person needs a life-time of nursing support, then the first payor is the injured person’s own insurance and anything that they pay is deducted from the lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident.  The government’s reduction of benefits available to injury victims, now means that the at fault driver has a much lower reduction available.

Here is a scenario for you - you lend your car to your 19 year old son so that he can go and see his friends.  He lets one of his friends drive the car and that friend hits a pedestrian walking across the road.  As the owner of the car, you are now probably on the hook just as much as the friend that hit the pedestrian.  That’s because Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act says that owners are usually also responsible for accidents involving their car where they consented to the possession or use of their car (there are some limited exceptions).  The same piece of legislation says that you also now have a “reverse onus” against you in deciding who is at fault since a pedestrian was hit – that, generally, means that you are assumed to be at fault unless you prove otherwise.

If the person’s injuries require significant levels of ongoing care and result in income losses then you could be looking at a big claim against you. The largest claim that I have had was a 6 million dollar lawsuit recovery and a 1.5-2 million dollar accident benefit recovery for a catastrophically injured young girl-so claims at high levels are very real.  Because of the government’s actions you have now lost a big reduction in the person’s claims against you.  That means that the claim against you will be bigger.  If you have the standard one million dollars in liability coverage then that may not be enough – which means that you are now exposed to a personal claim against your assets (ie: your house).  Now, you may be wondering, what has the government/insurance company done for you to justify this massive change in your protection as a driver?  You may ask why this was needed when some studies show insurance profits are at unusually high levels?? I can’t answer those questions, but I encourage you to ask your mpp. I also encourage you to call your broker or insurer to ask about additional coverage options.