Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FAIR Submission on Bill 15

FAIR Submission on Bill 15, an Act to Amend Various Statutes in the Interest of Ontario’s Wealthy Insurers and Ignoring Accident Victims

Submitted by: FAIR

Fair Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform
579A Lakeshore Rd. E, P.O. Box 39522
Mississauga, ON, L5G 4S6
November 2014

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform is a not-for-
profit consumer organization whose membership is comprised of motor
vehicle accident victims and their supporters.

Its customary to say thank you for allowing us the time to input but that
would grant legitimacy to hearings that have given Ontario‟s 9 million
drivers a mere 15 minutes of consultation. Why aren‟t you listening to the
people who actually use the insurance product under discussion?

MVA victims invariably have the same question – “Why is my insurance
company doing this to me?” Only half of the claims in Ontario are being
properly handled every year – the other half end up in our courts.
What they really should be asking is “Why is the MPP that I voted for and
who is supposed to represent the best interests of their constituents and
Ontario, striving so hard to hurt MVA victims?”

Bill 15, as it is written here, is virtually without any details about the
changes to auto insurance coverage and stands as a fine example of how
the auto insurance file is handled by the government of the day. Ramming
changes through without clarity or any real consideration of how badly it will
harm the already injured and damaged MVA victims has become a habit.

Insurers in Ontario are like junkies addicted to high profits by providing poor
service to their clients who are in need. And like the proverbial addict they
are always looking for another easy „fix‟ to make themselves richer. This
has translated into a bloated and incompetent industry that appears to be
ready to do just about anything to enhance already obscene profits. Profits
made on the backs of some of the most injured and impaired people in the
Province. And the shocker is that our government is on board with it.

So, like dealers ready to make a sale without consideration for the
outcome, many of Ontario‟s legislators enable the junkie to get their „fix‟
regularly with pro-insurer legislation and without regard to victims.
In an effort to afford some legitimacy to the act of bullying and beating up
on injured people this is done under the guise of „fighting fraud‟.

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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The MPP who called these changes “disgusting” was being far too kind.
Victims, who are already exposed to all manner of underhanded claims
handling tactics by their own insurance company, call what is being done to
them on a daily basis fraud, intimidation, harassment and criminal and the
lack of action on the part of our government to protect the MVA victim,

What does it take for our legislators to care more about the people that put
them in their chair than the insurers who court their favour?
How are accident victims going to be impacted by Bill 15 and how much
time was allotted to their interests?

What do our legislators have against MVA victims anyway?

What‟s wrong with a system built on honest, accurate medical evaluations,
insurers that stand behind their contracts, and court cases heard by
experienced arbitrators in an open and honest way?

How many hours were afforded the insurance industry lobby group, the
IBC? How many constituents does the IBC represent?

How is the IBC and their member insurance companies going to be
impacted and how many more billions will end up in insurance company
pockets while accident victims are starving, are without treatment and
without adequate resources?

You don‟t know and I can‟t say because Bill 15 doesn‟t have any
inconvenient details on that. According to discussions at Queen‟s Park you
don‟t even know whether a new dispute resolution system will even save
any money and yet it is full steam ahead. We can‟t tell if the fully
experienced arbitrators we already have are going to be replaced with less
experienced adjudicators either because that hasn‟t been determined yet.

But you do know that fewer victims will have access to justice and that
seems to be a minor pesky detail that isn‟t worth consideration.

The proposed reduced 1.3% prejudgement interest rate has absolutely
nothing to do with combating fraud but will surely be an incentive for
unscrupulous insurers to defraud their customers out of timely benefits.
After all, in yet another questionable move, legislators have already

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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guaranteed a substantial ROE interest rate that insurers can enjoy. Some
insurers are already beating their customers down and defrauding the
victims out of what they paid for by delaying and denying claims.

Think the court backlog, caused by Ontario‟s insurers and the legislators
that assist them, will get better? Maybe even disappear like the insurance
coverage you keep legislating away?

Sure, you can quietly download the costs of unpaid injured claimants to the
taxpayer but even now questions are being asked about why so many
more people are at the food banks in recent years. Injured people don‟t just
disappear or magically recover without treatment. You can ignore that
some of the 10,000 people waiting in the queue for CPP disability are
Ontario‟s unpaid accident victims or that the province is picking up the tab
through welfare and ODSP but it‟s going to get a little harder as the number
of desperate people rise and the insurance profit margin rises at a
comparable rate.

Maybe you think it is OK that many victims wait 10 years or more to get
what they paid for. Maybe you think it is right to strip coverage and
treatment to increase insurer profits. You seem prepared to make it harder
for victims to hold insurers accountable - voting for the changes in Bill 15
that will reward those insurers that regularly fail to pay legitimate claims.

Even as victims have mortgaged or even lost their homes and are unable
to pay for their own treatments or they‟ve gone into serious debt to fund
treatment or to just put food on the table.

We think reducing the prejudgement interest insurers pay will encourage
insurers to turn down even more claims. If there are no punitive measures
to discourage delaying claims insurers will take that money owed to
claimants and invest it while claimants go without supports or treatment
and have to pay interest on money they borrow. Debt incurred in order to
survive and to hire expensive lawyers to get what they paid for and are
entitled to. Many will not be able to afford to even go to court.

Reduced interest payable on SABs won‟t benefit insurers who are properly
handling their claims and paying what they owe but it will incentivize those
insurers who do deliberately delay claims and it will reward those with more
shady business practices.

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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Right now all legitimate victims have is the occasional 'special award' equal
to 50% of the amount wrongfully denied by an insurer at FSCO hearings
and the prejudgment interest awarded at FSCO (1% per month or 12% per
year) and at civil court (5% per year). It is already not enough to deter
excessive claims denials or poor claims handling practices.

Borrowing money to cover the costs that absent insurers should be paying
and then not being able to recover the cost of that expense is unfair.
Victims are often paying in excess of 20% interest and even up to 50% on
funds they need for treatment. Why are our legislators on board to help the
insurers and the IBC to put an extra financial beating on victims by
rewarding insurers with a lowered interest rate payable on amounts that
they should have paid in the first place? Insurers will invest our treatment
and other SAB dollars and only have to pay 1.3% interest on the money the
victims has to borrow to get through a claim – they are already doing it.

The message we hear is it‟s all about insurer profits and the health and
welfare of Ontario‟s citizens will have to come second after private
company profits.

Insurance is a business and notably one without a heart so we can‟t really
fault them for looking for extra profit when each has its own bloated
business hierarchy that must be financially supported. Have they managed
to cut any costs to accommodate the 15% reduction in premiums that
you‟ve mandated? Have you even asked the insurers what they‟ve done on
their end or is the plan to just strip benefits and punish victims until they
stop making claims?

You might want to hurry the process up with 80% of claims capped at
$3500 for med-rehab (less the cost of the often biased medical
examinations so really $2000) because you are fast running out of
giveaways to the industry.

What will you tell your constituents when they come to your office looking
for help with their insurance claim? Sorry, the insurers needed to make a
few billion more and I forgot that this affects real people so I voted for it?
Will you have a handout brochure for victims to direct them to the nearest
food bank and the closest welfare office?

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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Will you be the one to tell them that their access to court sounds like a
better system under Bill 15 than the DRS we have now but they might not
be able to gain access because you didn‟t ask for details in the rush to
agree with Ontario‟s insurers? Or that the person who hears their case may
not have any experience with personal injury. Maybe explain how you
voted for something without adequate information on only one
recommendation and a 15 minute talk with a few victims? Or how their
rights are being violated when legislation treats MVA victims like third class
citizens by removing their right to sue an insurer - leaving them without the
same access to justice as other Ontarians enjoy?

Will you tell them that each time you voted to change the Insurance Act,
with band-aid legislation that favoured insurers and that you made the
problems worse and more victims were denied and/or punished? Will you
tell them it‟s because insurers love this sort of thing because it gives them
an excuse to make new „case law‟ for the new regulations and that they,
the victim, and not their insurance company, will be the ones paying for that
too through drawn out hearings and expensive lawyers?

Will you tell them that they should be satisfied with the 1.3% interest they
get on benefits that were wrongfully denied to them and never mind that
they are bankrupt now. Maybe you can garner some sympathy and support
by telling victims that insurers more often than not are spending far more to
deny a claim than the cost of the treatments and rehab that are requested
and they needed a „break‟ and we should feel sorry for them.

Maybe you can come up with a better explanation for the backlog in the
court systems. Something other than the reality that biased and bogus
medical information that their insurance company bought and paid for in
order to deflate and then derail their legitimate claims is at the core of the
problem that no one wants to fix, including MPPs.

Maybe there‟s a reason why medical practitioners who do a bad job
evaluating accident victims‟ injuries or who write biased or poor quality
reports are allowed to continue to abuse and bully victims. Why are you
allowing assessors to repeat their offences over and over and not
demanding that the Colleges in Ontario do the job they‟ve promised to do
and stop harming the public and vulnerable accident victims? Why aren‟t
you fixing that problem – the one thing that will make the system
substantially more functional and honest?

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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Ontario‟s auto insurance is an increasingly unstable and unpredictable
product that has become unmanageable or dysfunctional over the last two
decades. With every change to coverage, every threshold put in place,
there is more uncertainty and more cases in dispute. Accident victims have
taken no role in initiating or implementing these changes that cause
confusion and delays, insurers have.

Victims didn‟t break the system and they certainly have not been listened
to. You, our legislators, have done the damage each and every time the
IBC and the industry has asked you to do so.

We are asking you not to pass Bill 15 as it now stands. We ask that you
take the time to clarify what it is you are really voting for. Walk a mile in
MVA victim shoes, after all, you are only one bad driving decision away
from being one yourself.

Ontario ought to be looking at alternatives that would serve the public
better; it is after all a system with a purpose, to serve Ontario‟s accident
victims and not just about doing favours for insurance companies.

FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform

FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education

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Source: http://www.fairassociation.ca/

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