Ontario auto insurance changes slash benefits to seriously injured, critics say

Critics say the Ontario Liberal government's proposed auto insurance changes mean people suffering debilitating injuries from car accidents are going to suffer even more.

Personal Injury Alliance, Brain Injury Society, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario want changes withdrawn

A car rests on its side in the centre of Highway 401 near Rodney, Ont., about 75 km west of London in 2008. The Ontario government's proposed changes to auto insurance would mean people suffering from serious car injuries are worse off, critics say. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Critics say the Ontario Liberal government's proposed auto insurance changes mean people suffering debilitating injuries from car accidents are going to suffer even more.

Namely, it would allow companies to slash benefits to those who are seriously injured from car accidents. 

A coalition made up of the Personal Injury Alliance, the Brain Injury Society of Toronto, the Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and individual victims held a press conference at Queen's Park Thursday afternoon to appeal for a stop to auto insurance changes.

"Even with the existing system, it's entirely inadequate and we're constantly telling our catastrophically injured people that they're going to have to do without because there's not enough money in the system," said the Personal Injury Alliance's Troy Lehman.

"It's devastating news to have to break and if these changes go through, it's going to be twice as bad because half of the money for medical rehabilitation and care would disappear," he said.

When it comes to catastrophic accidents, the Liberals proposed in the spring budget to combine services (such as attendant care and rehabilitation) to a single benefit with a limit of $1 million, down from a combined $2-million limit today. Drivers have the option to pay more for coverage up to $2 million.

The time to claim those benefits would also be cut in half — five years instead of the current 10. 

There are also tweaks to basic auto insurance benefits. The government will combine medical and rehabilitation benefits with attendant care services as a single benefit set at $65,000. These separate benefits used to total more than $80,000. However, drivers will still be able to pay for increased coverage to a total of $1 million.

Ontario Liberals won't budge

These changes are part of an effort by the Liberals to reduce the costs of auto insurance to "bring these costs more in line with other provinces," Finance Minister Charles Sousa said when the budget was tabled. 

The Brain Injury Society of Toronto say the proposed changes will cost taxpayers more. If the bill is passed, the society says "the insurance industry will save money and increase profits."

"I also have no doubt that those who are injured will go without, families will shoulder the burden alone, and our [publicly-funded] healthcare system will pick up the tab," chairwoman Judy Moir said on Thursday.

But the finance minister said the government won't budge on the changes. 

"The catastrophic insurance coverage is going to remain. It's going to be at a million dollars. We want our dispute resolutions to be expedited more quickly so that those that are victims get the coverage that they deserve," he said.

"In fact, catastrophic insurance, period, is still going to be available in Ontario — not available anywhere else — and we're making it a million dollars, which is a substantive amount of coverage."


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